Japan Chair Platform: China: Japan’s Rising Power Conundrum
August 14, 2009
China’s reemergence as the preeminent power in East Asia poses a seminal challenge to Japan. In navigating this challenge, Tokyo has pursued two complementary strategies: binding—enmeshing Beijing in international institutions—and hedging—consolidating alliance ties with the United States and developing new indigenous military capabilities.
Why Japan has settled on this bifurcated approach to China is an understudied topic. To shed light on Japan’s China policy, the author conducted 29 interviews in Tokyo from March to June 2009. The findings of this research trip are striking: China’s regime type plays a key role in Japan’s strategic calculus. Indeed, Beijing’s decisionmaking process— opaque and unconstrained by checks and balances—has generated a host of negative perceptions in Tokyo. These perceptions have impelled Japan to bind and hedge. They will endure regardless of whether the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) takes power in the upcoming elections. As such, Japan’s China policy will remain unmoved by political developments in Tokyo.