Abstract: Tensions between China and Japan continue to increase. Japan’s proactive diplomacy has expanded the number and quality of its relationships in the region to respond to China’s rise. China has more assertively pressed various territorial claims in response to a more proactive Japan. However, both China and Japan claim to be defending the status quo while depicting the other as challenging it. These two positions are reviewed and compared using evidence regarding Japan’s unilateral “nationalization” of the disputed islands, newly-adopted security legislation and attempts to amend its constitution. Chinese military modernization and its hardline gestures in its territorial disputes are also evaluated as attempts to “change the status quo by force”. Both countries are taking proactive action while claiming to be maintaining the status quo. Both countries’ self-perceived national interests are shown to lie behind their rhetorical use of “the status quo” in their diplomacy.