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The Japan Factor in U.S.—China Relations

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Abstract

For more than a century and a half, the U.S.—China—Japan triangle has been a constant, if frequently changing, feature of international politics in the Asia-Pacific region. Presently, the rise of China and the reinvigoration of Japan at a time when the United States is bogged down in another neocolonial war make this an appropriate time to look, once again, at the interactions of these three powers.1 This chapter attempts two tasks. The first is to briefly review and assess the role that Japan plays in the U.S.—China relationship against the background of the past. The second, and necessarily much more speculative, undertaking, is to consider how Japan might respond in the event of a future global power transition from an international system marked by U.S. dominance to one marked by China’s dominance.

Keywords

Foreign Policy Soft Power Missile Defense Japan Time Nuclear Weapon State 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Richard Armitage, a former Deputy Secretary of State in the George W. Bush administration, excoriated his former colleagues in that administration for “ignoring Asia totally.” The Australian, September 3, 2007.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    For an insightful analysis of U.S.-Japan relations during the administration of President George H. W. Bush, see the memoir by the U.S. ambassador to Japan from 1989 to 1993, Michael H. Armacost, Friends or Rivals: The Insider’s Account of U.S.-Japan Relations (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    For a balanced and generally positive Chinese view of Japanese foreign policy and its prospects in the post—cold war era, see Zhou Jihua, “Japan’s Foreign Policy Choices for the Twenty-first Century: A Chinese Perspective,” in Japan in the Post-Hegemonic World, ed. Tsuneo Akaha and Frank Langdon (Boulder and London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1993), 185–99.Google Scholar
  4. For a somewhat more skeptical, if still balanced, view of this transitional period, see Hwei-ling Huo, “Japan and China: Collaborators or Rivals,” in Japan’s Quest: The Search for International Role, Recognition, and Respect, ed. Warren Hunsberger (Armonk, NY and London: M. E. Sharpe, 1997), 150–66.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    Cited in Peter Y. Sato, “The View from Tokyo: Melting Ice and Building Bridges,” The Jamestown Foundation, China Brief 7, no. 9 (May 2, 2007): 3.Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    Horizon Research Consultancy, Eyes on the World, Future in Hand: The World in ChineseMind, 8. December 14, 2006. http://www.mansfieldfnd.org/polls/poll-06–19-.htm.Google Scholar
  7. 10.
    Ibid., 25–26.Google Scholar
  8. 11.
    See Susan Shirk, China Fragile Superpower (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 141–45.Google Scholar
  9. For an authoritative treatment of Sino-Japanese relations in the 1970s and 1980s, see Allen S. Whiting, China Eyes Japan (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1989).Google Scholar
  10. 13.
    Ian Buruma refers to these in his review article, “Why They Hate Japan” The New York Review, September 21, 2006, 79.Google Scholar
  11. I have perused the manga “Introduction to China” that he references, and can confirm that it is filled with vile, insulting, sexist, and racist images and text. See also Tsuneo Watanabe, “Changing Japanese Views of China: A New Generation Moves toward Realism and Nationalism,” in The Rise of China in Asia: Security Implications, ed. Carolyn W. Pumphrey (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, 2002), 165.Google Scholar
  12. 14.
    Cited in Kenneth B. Pyle, Japan Rising (New York: Public Affairs, 2007), 3.Google Scholar
  13. 15.
    “And now to trilateralism,” Japan Times, May 10, 2007.Google Scholar
  14. 19.
    “Japan to Vote on Modifying Pacific Charter Written by U.S.,” The New York Times, May 15, 2007.Google Scholar
  15. 21.
    See Tsuneo Watanbe, Op. cit., 165, 176.Google Scholar
  16. 26.
    Takeshi Matsuda, Soft Power and Its Perils: U.S. Cultural Policy in Early Postwar Japan and Permanent Dependency (Woodrow Wilson Center Press and Stanford University Press, 2007), 254. Commenting on Sino-American-Japanese relations following Nixon’s opening to China in 1972, Pyle discerns an “implicit entente of the three powers … the United States enjoyed close ties with both Japan and China and did not have to choose between them” (Japan Rising, 323). However, Washington was clearly the dominant power in both relationships, although the Chinese gave the Americans a much harder time than did the Japanese when it came to negotiations; see Robert S. Ross, Negotiating Cooperation (Stanford: Stanford University Press), 1995.Google Scholar
  17. 26.
    Commenting on Sino-American-Japanese relations following Nixon’s opening to China in 1972, Pyle discerns an “implicit entente of the three powers … the United States enjoyed close ties with both Japan and China and did not have to choose between them” (Japan Rising, 323). However, Washington was clearly the dominant power in both relationships, although the Chinese gave the Americans a much harder time than did the Japanese when it came to negotiations; see Robert S. Ross, Negotiating Cooperation (Stanford: Stanford University Press), 1995.Google Scholar
  18. 27.
    See, for example, Robert J. Samuelson, “China’s Trade Bomb,” Washington Post, May 9, 2007, p. A17, which accuses China of pursuing a mercantilist trade policy that is “designed to benefit China even if it harms its trading partners.”Google Scholar
  19. 29.
    Zhu Zhiqun, U.S.-China Relations in the 21st Century: Power Transition and Peace (London and New York, Routledge, 2006).Google Scholar
  20. 30.
    A. F. K. Organski, World Politics (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1958);Google Scholar
  21. Robert Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. T. L. Knutsen, The Rise and Fall of World Orders (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999).Google Scholar
  23. 31.
    I do not here enter into the question of whether the PRC is inherently fragile and likely to implode or, alternatively, that its current economic and military growth will proceed in a straight line. I do generally subscribe to what Jim Mann in his recent polemic against China Watchers refers to as “The Third Scenario,” namely, that an increasingly powerful China will likely remain a repressive and authoritarian state; Jim Man, The China Fantasy (New York: Viking Press, 2007), 1–27.Google Scholar
  24. 32.
    Kurt Campbell, “Hegemonic Prophecy and Modern Asia: Lessons for Dealing with the Rise of China,” in Carolyn Pumphrey, ed. Op. cit., 49–62. In a short but pithy essay, Kurt Campbell reminds us of the pitfalls of predicting that one or another currently rising power will attain hegemony.Google Scholar
  25. 33.
    Ibid., 60. Kurt Campbell notes that China’s rise “will affect us in what we might call a psychic and philosophic way. Long before it affects us, however, it will affect our friends in Japan and in a much more direct and significant fashion.”Google Scholar
  26. 34.
    Ibid., 53. Kurt Campbell further observes: “When you think and talk about hegemonic transitions, it is generally not good to think in such short periods of time. When we look back at the predictions made during the last 25 years, what is most striking is just how wrong many of the pundits and thinkers were when making judgments and assessments of great power.” Is it wrong to aspire to join this distinguished fraternity of near-sighted visionaries?Google Scholar
  27. 37.
    Pyle, Japan Rising, 41–65. On the United States, see Michael H. Hunt, The American Ascendancy (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007).Google Scholar

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© Suisheng Zhao 2008

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