What Would Happen If China and Japan Went To War?

Relations between China and Japan have been strained at times due to disputed islands, the Senkaku islands, being claimed by both countries which has come to our attention in recent news as well as in news passed.

These islands are pretty much useless, until you factor in the fact that there are rich fishing reserves and more importantly potential gas and oil reserves waiting to be tapped. This makes this island dispute potentially lethal.

So could this island dispute spark off a full blown war? Well, if you take a look at how most wars begin it’s always in the wake of something small or remote happening. Such as when two people end up in a fight over an initial remark. The Balkan countries after all acted as the stage to spark the last world wars.

So, in a nuclear age when nuclear war has disappeared from popular debate and has been replaced with debates on global warming, with a lot of ideas, but not much action. China will burn it’s massive coal reserves and Western countries will continue to turn up with a big ‘democracy’ sign and a side order of military might for unstable oil bearing countries – never mind the countries without oil being ruled by dictatorships who don’t even count half the time 😉 To where even supermarkets are putting in a lot more effort with paper bags instead of plastic ones for the environment, in stark contrast to most governments holding oil and coal reserves over environmental concerns. The threat of nuclear war will give people a poke to wake up to a more urgent realisation hopefully, that we will probably blow ourselves up before we see the knock on results of greed damaging the environment.

So, let’s look at the strength of the two countries . . .


Japan: 126,500,000 – China: 1,350,000,000

As you can see the population of China far exceeds that of Japan. This could be a positive thing for drafting soldiers but also would spell more casualties.

Military Manpower Available

Japan: 53,600,000 – China: 750,500,000

The manpower available clearly tips in China’s direction here.

Active Military Personnel

Japan: 240,000 – China: 2,300,000

Trained military personnel in China clearly outweighs Japan’s trained and active military personnel.

Total Naval Units

Japan: 110 – China: 972

Without allies coming to bolster the amount of ships available to Japan, China would have the upper hand. China also has more submarines, an aircraft carrier and more frigates and destroyers.

Defence Budget/Expenditure

Japan: $70,500,000,000 – China: $100,000,000,000

Here the two countries are not far off each other. Japan is a more developed nation with a stronger economy when it comes to nation size comparison of course.

China Japan Island Dispute

Economy and Allies

Here’s where Japan excels economy wise, as it has the second largest economy for it’s size. Japan’s major weakness however is that Japan separates itself from the world in many ways which has always been in the Japanese culture. Apart from ties with other countries in a political and economic way, Japan is quite insular in nature. Some spas for example will not accept Westerners because people fear they will catch a disease. Japan has always been an isolationist nation in many small ways. However, Japan has one enormous ally and that is the USA.

China has the fastest growing economy in the world after opening up to the rest of the world after centuries of separatism. China has more obvious allies than Japan, but one of their allies, oddly, is the USA who they view as their ally and their greatest enemy at times. This could be make or break on the USA deciding to team up with Japan in a war. As relations between the USA and China are strained at times, to say the least.

China is not an isolationist country but it is quite nationalistic. Their allies include, Russia, which is a big super power, Pakistan and Iran as well as North Korea. They have more allies than Japan, although most relations have been built on economic strategies, being a money-centric nation.

Countries potentially hostile toward China in the event of a Japan vs. China war include Germany, Britain, Australia and South Korea. So even though Japan does not outwardly build relationships with allies, Japan would have allies rallying around them if China were to attack Japan.

The island dispute would not play out as it did in the UK vs. Argentina island dispute, as both sides could cause massive damage to each other, whereas the UK was far superior in firepower compared to Argentina.


Even though China outweighs Japan in numbers, the likelihood that a war would develop into a nuclear war means that numbers don’t really mean anything anymore. The nuclear capabilities of Japan and China would mean that each country could destroy each other many times over. The island dispute would then escalate to  possible mass extinction for the human race.

The nuclear fall out would affect most of Asia and to a certain extent the West. If the allies were then to turn on each other it would spell the end of the human race. Bear in mind that it will take an estimated 10,000 years for Chernobyl to become safe to walk around and you’ll get an idea of what state land masses will be in after a war of such magnitude. I say ‘land masses’ as countries and nations would cease to exist then and it would be a case of ‘if’ and ‘where’ could human beings, plant life and animals could exist, if at all possible, which is very doubtful. Even with underground bunkers, just how long could people survive down there? With plant and animal life eradicated above? I would say maybe 20 years at best, if there are ample supplies of course.

So what is the positive side to all this? Well, nuclear war would happen pretty fast and if you were to live in a targeted city your exit from this planet would be pretty immediate. The world would heal itself after tens of thousands of years and hopefully new animals and plant life would evolve without humans trapping them in zoos, chopping down forests and causing global warming. So, there’s a positive side to everything I guess;)

Article by Kevin Baker

Click here to find out what would happen if Europe and America went to war.

Video of Island Dispute Activities 2012

Images courtesy of Wikipedia

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  1. Interesting topic, though we also have to consider the social implications of this as well. In general most Chinese in the contemporary times would honestly hate to go to war, most don’t share the same hatred older generations had against Japanese to moralize the conflict. In addition if China used its nuclear arsonel, the entire communist party that controls the country would lose its legitimacy not only in the international community in being a recognized power, but also legitimacy domestically. Do you honestly believe a country of 1.2 billion people would want nuclear fallout appear in lands geographically close to the area where more than 60% of the population lives (China) absolutely not! No communist/democratic/socialist/facist/nationalist politician can convince an entire population that it is fine to destroy their enemies for the sake of their families/homes/lives, without the population to erupt into an all out revolt.
    China’s economy isn’t doing so well, if you check their economy as a whole aside from their (once and starting to slow) booming international market, their actually running tremendous deficits locally and basically its all being paid off by their central goverment.

    Though with all my beliefs and bla bla bla, I can’t be for certain what I say is true because of my bias as a Chinese, American, Liberal Social believer, Fiscal Conservative, and Educational background…

    to be honest (if you believe i was not above), anything can really happen, and we can forecast practical things to possibly occur, but I honestly don’t believe that statistics, opinions, historical info, or culture all together is enough to predict nor tell the future 🙂

  2. Unstable isn’t good… Hopefully I don’t live through WWIII. That’s not something I’d want to imagine or see!

    Japan vs China. Russia vs US. Iran and Afghanistan going nuts. Syria, etc.

    India vs China…

    I wouldn’t want to see any of this play out.

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