Call it the Georgia lesson. In 2008, Russia informed the United States and the rest of the West that the former Soviet Caucasus and Central Asia were no longer their playland, but rather Moscow's sovereign sphere of influence. How did it do so? By going to war with Georgia.
Now we have China informing Japan -- and the rest of Asia -- that the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea are its territory in which to fish and whatever else it wishes. Like Russia, Beijing did so by demonstrating that it was prepared to go to almost any extreme -- in this case short of war, but including the crippling of several Japanese industries -- to press its territorial claim. This includes rights over the big oil and gas reserves in the islands. Today Japan blinked. After this, will Japan continue the presumption that it is in charge of what it calls the Senkaku islands? Not if it wishes to continue to manufacture the Prius, as Andrew Leonard notes at Salon.