The second point of contention is ownership. As the Senkaku Islands article developed, competing Japanese and Chinese/Taiwanese historical claims to the territory were outlined in long, excessively detailed sections that soon took up the bulk of the article. One editor wisely created a new "Senkaku Islands dispute" page in October 2010 to accommodate new additions and outline the dispute's chronology. But deciding what evidence was admissible even as a "claim" remained contentious. For example, a classified PRC government map identifying the islands as Japanese territory was added as a graphic after it was referenced in a 2010 Washington Times column. But some editors questioned the map's authenticity, and others wondered whether the Times could really be considered a "reliable" source of information on the subject. A 2012 New York Times column by Taiwanese academic Han-yi Shaw received similar scrutiny. Han-yi revealed Japanese government documents from the Meiji era that seemed to acknowledge Chinese ownership of the islands, but this evidence was dismissed by one editor because the piece featured an introduction by Nicholas Kristof, a "pro-China journalist" with a "Chinese wife."
Third and finally, editorial neutrality has been a regular area of dispute. As the previous examples make clear, charges of bias are the most common sticking point during article development. Editing from a neutral point of view (NPOV in Wiki-speak) is a fundamental principle of Wikipedia, and any new content that appears less-than-objective is likely to be removed by another editor. But recent charges of subjectivity have had less to do with wording or sourcing, and more to do with a nationality. Editors using Japanese or Chinese words in their user handles have been frequent targets for this line of attack. A "Suggested Rules of Engagement" tag has been placed on the top of both articles' talk pages to encourage civility, and parts of the main article were "locked" throughout 2012 to prevent editors from attempting to change the name.
Regular editing dust-ups might suggest that the Senkaku Islands article and its "dispute" offshoot are dubious resources of little value. In fact, both articles nicely summarize the controversy and provide a long list of citations and references that can advance further research. While news accounts of the islands focus on recent diplomatic incidents and their international implications, these Wikipedia articles provide historical context and a more detailed explanation of the arguments underlying each side's claims to the territory. The vitriol exchanged by editors might be ugly, but it's also evidence of a transparent and ongoing screening process. Wikipedia has a strict policy against "original research" -- all claims and assertions must be supported by reliable, published sources, not personal interpretation -- but editors are encouraged to vet sources and use their language skills to translate foreign documents.
Furthermore, while the Senkaku pages are particularly "active" right now, Wikipedia articles related to other territorial disputes have experienced similar disputes and edit wars. A recently proposed change to a single sentence on the Falkland Islands article produced multiple rounds of recriminations between two editors, each asserting the NPOV high ground. A suggestion to split the Cyprus article into a "Republic of Cyprus" page and "Cyprus (island)" page dissolved into a month-long debate that was 5,000 words longer than the existing article. And the Northern Ireland page -- as you might suspect -- is currently subject to active arbitration by administrators.
As the standoff over the Senkaku Islands escalates, Wikipedia will continue to be a kinetic diplomatic front. The pages' high profile and the subject's newsworthiness forces embattled editors to revisit and relitigate the same name and legal status battles again and again against new challengers. Whether voluntary cooperation and third-party mediation is enough to contain the crisis -- editing or otherwise -- remains to be seen. What is clear, however, is that a large Web audience increasingly perceives Wikipedia as the encyclopedia of record where history is documented and judged.