Future Generator: Why media is negative on the Senkaku Islands

Future Generator: Why media is negative on the Senkaku Islands

The ‘Future Generator’ is a highly unique and cutting-edge approach to forecasting ‘media sentiment’, developed by a partnership between Global Risk Insights (GRI) and Ethnographic Edge (EE). The aim of the forecast is to determine how media sentiment towards a country’s political environment might develop in the future. Considering the impact of media sentiment on trading and investments, our forecasts will give readers more time and context to maximize on market opportunities.

The following is a Future Generator assessment of the Senkaku Islands (also known as the Diaoyu Islands).

Senkaku Future Generator

To view the full interactive graph on the Ethnographic Edge website, click here.

The EE signal suggests negative media sentiment towards the Senkaku Islands political climate

On February 14th, EE’s data analytics platform projected that media sentiment towards the Senkaku Islands will remain negative over the next two weeks. Considering the strong correlation between media sentiment and political events, EE concludes that the political environment surrounding the Senkaku Islands will remain particularly unstable until at least the end of March.

GRI Assessment of the EE Signal

GRI’s team of directors and our regional expert have assessed this signal provided by EE. Based on local expertise and political risk training, we agree with the data analytics produced that the Senkaku Islands will continue to experience negative media coverage for the next two weeks. This is likely due to the following reasons:

US involvement over Senkaku/Diaoyu will inflame China-Japan tensions

During Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the US, President Donald Trump reiterated Washington’s commitment to defending Japan’s claims to the resource-rich Senkaku Islands (to which China also lays claim, as Diaoyu Dao). This has alleviated fears over a US military withdrawal – expressed in Trump’s campaign pledges – and instead suggests growing involvement.

It may be that Washington’s existing defence arrangement is maintained, but more aggressively pursued. Although some journalists have postulated that Trump’s bark is worse than his bite, his brash, unpredictable, bull-in-a-china-shop approach will make spectators uneasy – particularly over this volatile dispute.

Trump’s unequivocal backing will encourage Japan to be aggressive on this front, perhaps more so than usual, reflected in its recent school curriculum ‘revisions’. Japan will push its luck, to test the resolve of this latest Washington-Tokyo alliance. And China will continue to respond in kind. Animosity between both countries is reaching an all-time high, and the media will highlight how tit-for-tat negative political rhetoric risks re-manifesting as something more serious – especially when combined with the error-prone Trump administration.

Destined for conflict?

All this is set against the backdrop that confrontation is inevitable, with both ‘sides’ preparing for a showdown. Although this narrative has persisted for years now, under Trump’s administration this vision is perceivably closer to realisation than at any other time since the Cold War.

This narrative is one which both sides seem to want to indulge: Team Trump, defined by uncompromising characters such as US Defence Secretary ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who spoke about sending China a ‘clear signal’; and China, projecting its economic might via its ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative, to gain unfettered access to resources and strategic waterways.

Media will emphasise this narrative, while connecting these tensions to Trump’s uncompromising ‘America First’ approach that is alienating key Southeast Asian allies and upsetting the regional status quo. Emphasis will also be placed on the ever-increasing chances of miscalculation that could lead to conflict; Chinese naval patrols in the contested waters have increased markedly over the last year.


Although Trump’s stance regarding Senkaku signals ‘business as usual’, over the next two weeks the media will explore at-length the potential for a real political conflict. This negative media coverage reflects the assumption that China will exploit uncertainties and inexperience in the US administration while it matures as a political unit, as well as test the commitment of Trump to his Asian allies.

The Senkaku Islands expertise in this report was provided by Alexander MacLeod.

Alexander is a doctoral researcher at Newcastle University with a focus on Southeast Asian politics and geography. He has recently completed his PhD thesis, which critically assesses the role that online media play in promoting and sustaining Malaysia’s racialized political landscape during general elections.

The Future Generator is intended to offer an opinion of future of events. These estimates are merely predications and are not a guarantee and should not be exclusively relied upon when making business, economic, political, or other decisions. By accessing this content you agree to Global Risk Insight’s disclaimer of all liability and warranties, express or implied, for events arising out of or related to this article. Our full Terms of Use found here also apply to articles in this series. 

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