For the Japanese? It is one factor. But WWII started with Germany invading Poland. Japan had re-invented itself from a feudal country without any real punch to its power into a force to be reckoned with. Unlike China, which got a later start in converting from swords, bows & arrows, and other such items - Japan embraced western technology once they saw just how effective it really was. China was playing catch-up to Japan when Hitler began WWII. Japan saw this as a way to justify their extermination of the people of China, and began an all-out war against China. Germany, for its part, pleaded with Japan not to attack America (the so-called Sleeping Giant) but Japan wanted the Hawaiian islands because they felt the islands belonged to them. Thus Pearl Harbor. The irony of it all is that Russia and China were actually thinking about joining Hitler in his bid to take over the world. However, Hitler (or the Nazis) knew that there were huge Jewish sects in Russia and the Chinese - Japan hatred made Hitler have to choose between the two. He chose Japan but regretted it later when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor because it brought America into the war. Since America had been fed a diet of rapist, murders, druggies, and insane people for years by the Europeans (and everyone else in the world) - we were feared not only because of how powerful we were as a nation, but because they had no idea exactly what we were like except that we were brutal or barbaric in battle. We were (and still are) the crazy nation of the world. Further, since the "Wild West" was still pretty young, America enlisted the aid of American Indians. My father was grouped with some commanches in WWII and they were under direct orders to teach the rest of the guys commanche war cries. The blood curdling cries would, on their own, cause the Germans to run away (or become demoralized) because according to the movies - the Indians scalped everyone and the Germans were very much afraid that they would be scalped. Further, once things got to going it was the American Indians who would talk over the walkie-talkies because they were talking in their own language and no one except the other American Indians knew what they were saying. This is because it wasn't like code breaking. The entire language would have to be learned in order to know what was being said.
That may be - but you noticed that Japan did release the captain and his ship. I think you will shortly see China reduce or remove the export restrictions.
This has a lot to do with loosing face. Whoever backs down first looses not only face but the integrity to demand certain things as well. Like the island Japan is claiming. If they back down on the fishing captain they will probably lose the island because China's next move is to demand that Japan recognize China's right to the island. Most likely China would use the same tactics it is employing now.
Here are some other things to think about in this conflict:
1. While it is true Japan does not have a large land mass with extensive resources, Japan is a master at trading with other countries. Japan also has extensive investments in other countries (such as the US) and they own and operate companies in those other countries. Thus, by doing what China has done, it could backfire on China because other countries (such as the US) will be prodded by the Japanese to intervene.
2. Japan has a very large extension to their land into the ocean on the eastern side of the island. As far as I know, Japan has never tried to harvest minerals from the ocean. This is because it is harder to do this than to buy the minerals from a country that can mine it readily. However, if the Japanese are driven to it - I believe they will begin making investments in mining minerals directly from the ocean's floor.
3. Africa holds many exotic minerals in its land and within the past few years, Japan has been buying in to the mineral rights in Africa (as has China). So I believe that although China's blockade will hurt Japan, I do not think it will hurt it as much as many think it will.
As for the "Nukem til they glow!" mentality - A chinese friend of mine told me, back in the 1970s, that one of the major the Chinese prophecies states that the US (the eagle from the west) attacks China and there is a tremendous war that ensues which decimates the US. Whether or not this is true (as the Bible also states that the great nations are all at war [bear, eagle, and many headed dragon]) remains to be seen.
The truth, as far as I can see it, is that China and Japan need to sit down, at a table, across from each other, and talk things out. China itself is a massive country and a few small islands really are not worth their time or effort. The life of the fishing captain is. Japan should also have released the fishing captain and his boat. Possibly after taking all of the fish (since they would spoil anyway) and giving the captain a percentage of the money gained through their sale. China is still lving with World War II in mind where the Japanese killed millions of Chinese. The Chinese need to remember that they have killed millions of Japanese in the past also. Like the countries in the Middle East, where hatreds go all the way back to when the Egyptians were building their pyramids, the world needs to grow up, become adults, and stop acting like bratty children. But then - you'd also have to stop some of those brats from continuing to push the other children's buttons. Like the Iraelis continuing to build on land that was never given to them in the original treaty. Of course, then you'd have to also recognize that Israel was founded without the consent of the people who were living in the Middle East at the time it was created. The land was just taken away from them and given to the Israelis. But enough of that. The mantra should be "Grow-up, play-nice, and stop acting like you are SO offended." We only have one sandbox to play in - let's try to get along.
Link to Original Source