What's happening at the
Wednesday 23 Aug 2017 | 16:44 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 23 Aug 2017 | 16:44 | SYDNEY

Japan-China relations

11 Oct 2013 15:36

Robert Ayson is a Visiting Fellow with the ANU's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, on research leave from the Centre for Strategic Studies at Victoria University of Wellington.

It's highly unsurprising that China has reacted negatively to the statement coming out of the recent Trilateral Strategic Dialogue (TSD) in Bali. Venturing where foreign policy angels should fear to tread, Australia (via Julie Bishop) and the US (via John Kerry) had earlier joined an obviously thrilled Japan in opposing 'any coercive or unilateral actions that could change the the status quo in the East China Sea.'

This unnecessarily provocative piece of security diplomacy made me wonder whether I was right in thinking that earlier TSD statements had been mild and unexciting by comparison. A quick review tells me that my recollection was accurate.


15 Oct 2013 13:55

The FT's Gideon Rachman on Japan's security fears (emphasis mine): 

Abe’s radicalism is not driven solely by domestic economics. Japan has also been jolted into action by the perception of a growing threat from China. The Chinese economy surpassed Japan’s in size in 2011; the gap is widening with each passing year. China will soon have its own problem with ageing, as a result of its one-child policy. But Japanese strategists point out that China’s annual military spending is now three to four times that of Japan. The two countries are engaged in dangerous military jostling, as they pursue a territorial dispute over some barren rocks in the East China Sea. While the west still debates whether the rise of China is threatening, there is no longer a debate in Japan, where national alarm is palpable.


15 Oct 2013 16:52

Having been to Tokyo twice in the last two weeks* for interviews and workshops on Japan-China-Korea relations and Japan-Australia relations, my answer to Sam’s query (Is Japan Alarmed by China's Rise?) is YES.

Japan is alarmed, and so it should be.

Any country facing a neighbour that has a defence budget increasing at the speed of China’s, has a growing nuclear weapons program focused on short and medium-range missile delivery, is providing steadfast backing for a nuclear-armed rogue state that threatens you, is becoming more assertive in territories that both states claim, and has a leadership team that refuses bilateral summitry should be worried.

The troubled history of modern Japan and China, the size and trajectory differences between them and their very different political systems simply add to Tokyo's worries.


16 Oct 2013 11:29

William Hobart is Lowy Institute International Security intern and an AIIA NSW Councillor.

Japanese policy-makers are alarmed about China, but they still struggle to channel this concern into support for constitutional reform. Concern over Japanese PM Shinzo Abe’s ‘hawkish’ designs for the nation’s Self Defense Force may be premature, as he faces significant obstacles within the Diet, his own party and in rallying public opinion.

Abe’s aspirations to reform the constitution (both Article 9 to allow collective self-defence and Article 96 to lower the threshold for constitutional reform from two-thirds to a simple parliamentary majority) is driven by a rising China. But the initial security jolt occurred over 20 years ago with the first Gulf War, when Japan was accused of using chequebook diplomacy to compensate for its strategic weakness.


16 Oct 2013 15:20

Rikki Kersten is Professor of Modern Japanese Political History in the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.

Malcolm Cook is right – the Japanese are indeed worried about the China threat. But we need to delve a little deeper to make sense of it.

Politically, magnifying the China threat has great utility for Abe’s conservative government. It helps underline the need for Japan to ‘normalise’ its defence capabilities and primes the electorate nicely for the referendum on constitutional revision that will have to occur if defence policy is to be comprehensively overhauled instead of merely tinkered with.

Socially, the China threat has salience as something that directly assaults Japaneseness. The media profile given to Chinese protesters who attack Japanese businesses in China resonates among the wider public in Japan. This is a visceral element rather than a rational policy position, and it has multiple historical precedents in 20th century history.


17 Oct 2013 09:49

Robert Ayson is a Visiting Fellow with the ANU's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, on research leave from the Centre for Strategic Studies at Victoria University of Wellington.

Malcolm Cook has offered thoughtful criticism of my argument that the Abbott Government went too far in a statement with Japan and the US opposing unilateral action in the East China Sea. And I have to say I agree with his initial observation that Japan is definitely alarmed about China. 


22 Oct 2013 14:04

My thanks Rob Ayson for responding promptly to my post on Japan and Japan-China relations. Rob says my post reaffirmed his worries about Australia’s management of the relationships with Japan and China. But in turn, Rob’s piece reaffirmed the worries I expressed about his original post.

I have called these concerns the 'Three Overshoots':

1. The concern about 'annoying China' and the consequent judgments about necessary (not one example mentioned) versus unnecessary (Rob's focus) annoyances would help China set the terms for Australian foreign policy. It would provide China much greater influence than other powers whom Rob Ayson does not worry about annoying.


31 Oct 2013 08:11

Robert Ayson is a Visiting Fellow with the ANU's Strategic & Defence Studies Centre, on research leave from the Centre for Strategic Studies at Victoria University of Wellington.

I have strenuously resisted the temptation to write again on Australia, the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue (TSD), and Japan-China relations. But my hand has been forced by Prime Minister Abe’s comment in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that ‘There are concerns that China is attempting to change the status quo by force, rather than by rule of law’.


31 Oct 2013 13:51

Michael Green is Senior Vice President for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, a Professor at Georgetown University and a non-resident fellow at the Lowy Institute.

As Tokyo and Beijing exchange warnings over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyutai Islands, commentators are increasingly evoking August 1914 and urging action from the international community to defuse the situation.

To be sure, the chances of an accidental confrontation in the troubled East China Sea have gone up rather than down, and crisis avoidance should be one of the highest priorities for US policy. But it is not the only priority. 

The current Sino-Japanese stand-off touches on two other important US interests: maintaining the integrity of the offshore island chain in the western Pacific and ensuring that Beijing sees decreasing utility in the use of coercion to resolve regional disputes. A poorly conceived rush to de-escalate the stand-off between Tokyo and Beijing could actually be counterproductive in this larger geostrategic context.


1 Nov 2013 16:01

So China is accusing Japan of ‘dangerous provocation’ over its alleged monitoring of Chinese naval exercises in the Western Pacific. 

Amid the prolonged tensions between the two North Asian powers, this is a new twist. In the past, it has typically been Japan accusing China of perilous maritime surveillance or targeting activities, such as helicopters ‘buzzing’ Japanese ships at close range or locking-on with fire-control radar

Asian security-watchers have warned of the risks of unintended conflict arising from incidents at sea. After years of finger-pointing at China on this score, it looks like the Chinese are trying to turn the tables and blame Tokyo for whatever may ensue.

But there’s some context to this latest episode that undermines China’s supposed moral high ground.