The Japanese government's "mishandling" changed the nature and status quo of the Diaoyu Islands dispute, said a British professor in a research paper published recently on the website of Britain's foreign ministry.
The nature of the dispute over the Diaoyu Islands changed in 2010, as a result of mishandling of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), said Professor Caroline Rose of the White Rose East Asia Center and the University of Leeds in the paper.
This has had implications in terms of taking the issue "off the shelf" and producing a recalibration of the positions of both sides, according to the paper, titled "Tensions in Sino-Japanese Relations in 2012 and 2013."
This also partly explains the instability of the current situation as a new status quo emerges, the professor said.
The paper noted that, as China's then prime minister Zhou Enlai and late leader Deng Xiaoping wisely foresaw in the 1970s, the territorial dispute would be better left to future generations to resolve.
Both the Chinese and Japanese governments had adhered before 2010 to the status quo put in place by the agreement to "shelve" the territorial issue and managed to prevent an escalation of tension, it said.
"The turn of events in 2010, however, when a Chinese fishing boat collided with the Japanese Coast Guard leading to the detention of the Chinese crew for an extended period (rather than immediate release as had been the case in the past) signified a change in the status quo," the paper said.
The mishandling of the dispute by the DPJ "prompted a fierce diplomatic response from a 'shocked' China and sparked anti-Japanese protests across major cities in China," it said.
However, the paper also pointed out that, compared with the 2010 incident, there were much greater dispute managements in place in 2012 through both informal and formal channels, for example, through friendship diplomacy and through Ministry of Foreign Affairs links.
Relations between China and Japan have been tense due to disputes on territorial and historical issues.
They have been further worsened since the Japanese government nationalized the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea in 2012 and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited last December the notorious war-linked Yasukuni Shrine.