IRAP: “Unambivalent alignment: Japan’s China strategy, the US alliance, and the ‘hedging’ fallacy”

My latest peer-reviewed article … an analysis of Japan’s strategy for dealing with China’s rise and critique of the idea that Japan is seeking a middle ground between the U.S. and China… has just been published by International Relations of the Asia-Pacific.

  • Abstract: This article examines whether the Asia-Pacific region’s geopolitical vicissitudes are causing Japan to ‘hedge’ against deepening uncertainty and risk through major strategic realignments or diversification of security and economic ties, as the original hedging literature would expect. It examines trends since 2009 in three domains fundamental to identifying whether shifts are underway in Japan’s strategic orientation vis-à-vis China: security policy (primary), trade/investment, and public opinion. Despite deepening uncertainty (and volatility), especially in ‘the Trump era’, this study finds negligible evidence of hedging behavior: e.g., realigning toward Beijing or adopting a ‘middle position’, much less developing any meaningful security ties with China. Rather, contemporary trends point in the opposite direction: Japan’s China strategy primarily centers on strengthening indigenous deterrence capabilities, bolstering the US–Japan alliance, and diversifying regional security ties beyond Beijing. Even the latter, somewhat paradoxically, aims to deepen ties with Washington and to keep it actively engaged in regional affairs.