Japan's Response to a Rising China

Project Expert

Sheila A. Smith

Senior Fellow for Japan Studies

About the Project

Since World War II, Japan has embraced pacifism, depending on close ties with the United States to guarantee its security. But as a more powerful and assertive China begins to challenge Japanese interests, Tokyo today faces a fundamentally different security environment, causing it to reconsider its postwar strategy. Armed conflict between these two neighbors has suddenly become a real possibility and could test the U.S. commitment to defend Japan. In 2013, I examined Washington's options in dealing with the Chinese-Japanese dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in a Contingency Planning Memorandum entitled A Sino-Japanese Clash in the East China Sea. My new book, Intimate Rivals: Japanese Domestic Politics and a Rising China, examines the growing influence of Chinese decisions over Japan's domestic policy. Going forward, the main question I will address is whether Japan will change its strategic orientation as China further develops its military capability and continues to challenge its neighbors. Will Tokyo look to the U.S.-Japan alliance to cope with this growing strategic challenge, or will it reorient its strategy to act independently of U.S. security priorities? Will it balance with other Asian powers or bandwagon with Beijing?