BEIJING (AP) -- Last year it was submarines and shrines. Now it's textbooks and a seat on the U.N. Security Council.
Violent weekend protests in which Chinese stoned the Japanese Embassy are just the latest eruption in a decades-old series of disputes rooted in wartime history but fueled by modern rivalry, as the two sides jostle for Asian dominance.
On Monday, Tokyo called on Beijing to protect Japanese citizens in China and appealed for dialogue to put an end to the violence.
The countries are bound together by tens of billions of dollars in trade, aid and investment, but political relations are often strained and never warm.
The latest sources of displeasure: New Japanese textbooks that critics say gloss over wartime atrocities, and Tokyo's bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council -- a goal China is in a position to block.
The outcome could influence the course of Japanese-Chinese relations at a time of surging Chinese growth and influence -- and mounting unease at Tokyo's diplomatic and military ambitions.
"Japan-China ties have entered a stage at which improving relations will be very difficult," said Hidenori Ijiri, a professor at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.
"There are several very intricately intertwined reasons why relations have deteriorated," he said.