Drmke- Let's say war started between Vietnam and China. It was brief like the third Indochina War. And maybe lasted 3 days, with like some ten thousands people killed. War scenario is usually not likely, but consider the amount of tension between these two countries for the past decades. How would that change the dynamic of China and Taiwan, China and Japan?
If China and Japan is such a stand alone incident, then Kaiten is right. But China simultaneously building up tensions with all the countries surrounded it, and I think the South East China Sea border conflict is way more than the Senkaku. Would that not build up even more tension between China and Japan, and the likelihood of a conflict increase at least a few percentages?
The biggest deterrence to arm conflict for a while has been the presence of Americans in Asia.
In my defense, I never thought about Japan going to war with China. Since the scenario is most likely an armed conflict in South East Asia would happen way way before that. However, I never took into the consideration of how much this Senkaku island had come into play recently. The USA had no interest over South East Asia, and most likely would never commit itself over there. It would be very unpopular if it did. But certainly that would change the dynamic of things.
Protests can only happen in China if the party approves. There is little doubt the government is organizing the protests. I am not sure how much of a "wag the dog" issue this is. Censorship is pretty widespread, even much of the internet is blocked in China. I do not know how exposed most of China is to the Xilai scandal, or the change in leadership. That information is certainly completely suppressed in rural China. I'm not certain how much information is available in urban China, where they have a little more freedom than the countryside. Hong Kong is the only part of the country likely to be fully informed. My feeling is that the stand off with China is primarily big stick politics, intended as a display of power abroad, and to fan the flames of nationalism at home.
The scandal was covered by the internal media. It naturally followed the party line but with the advent of social media and their netizens I would assume it has disseminated to the wider public more readily than it would have done so in the past.