"Our generation is not wise enough to find common language on this question," Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping said in 1978 about his country's territorial dispute with Japan. "Our next generation will certainly be wiser. They will certainly find a solution acceptable to all."

In the meantime, Deng proposed, the two sides should jointly develop the area's rich economic resources.

Thirty-four years later, there is still no common language on the disputed Diaoyu — or Senkaku — islands. In fact, the situation has reached critical proportions, with protests breaking out in dozens of cities across China over the Japanese government's decision to nationalize the islands.