China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Japan’s Response: from Non-participation to Conditional Engagement


China’s “Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)” has been gaining attention, but the evaluation of the scheme is still unsettled due to its multifaceted nature. This paper examines the basic characteristics of the initiative, disaggregates the initiative into separate dimensions, and traces Japan’s responses toward BRI from 2013 to 2018. From 2013 to 2015, the Japanese government and the Diets committee have discussed the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) membership issue intensively. Only after 2015, the discussion covered the BRI, wider topics. By looking at responses by the Japanese government, the initial response until 2016 was “non-participation;” however, after 2017, the government has shifted attitude to “conditional engagement” through business cooperation in the third countries especially plus-sum dimension. Such a shift has been backed by a concurrent risk-hedging approach represented by the Indo-Pacific strategy.

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Correspondence to Asei Ito.

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Ito, A. China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Japan’s Response: from Non-participation to Conditional Engagement. East Asia 36, 115–128 (2019).

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  • Belt and road initiative
  • Sino-Japanese relationship
  • Third countries business corporation
  • Indo-Pacific strategy