Just as Japan and China dissolve into a childish crisis over the arrest of a Chinese fishing boat captain near the Diaoyu (or Senkaku in Japanese) islands, here comes news of Nissan vowing to double its capacity in China.
Nissan’s plan, which would have its three Chinese plants build 1.2 million vehicles a year, is 20% ahead of the company’s former target. Nissan eventually wants to sell one in every ten cars on the mainland, it says, having now overtaken Toyota.
It is pieces of news like this that underscore how silly the political battle going on between the two countries is. With Japan holding onto the Chinese captain for another ten days, China has decided to sever top-level diplomatic contacts and state-owned companies are apparently blocking travel to Japan for their employees.
The Global Times is screeching about economic sanctions and both sides are now threatening "countermeasures", whatever they may be. No wonder the US feels it has to maintain a presence in Asia if the world’s second and third-largest economies still have such a frail relationship that they rattle their sabres at each other at the slightest provocation.
The Nissan announcement cuts through a lot of the bloviation. In the back channels, Japan and China, for all their posturing, are closely linked together by trade, and are probably secretly working out how to diffuse the current clash without too much loss of face on either side. Meanwhile, Japanese factories in China have not had any reported problems and the anti-Japanese protests at the weekend were restrained.
Whatever the politicians shout at each other, the economic relationship remains secure.