The Perils of Proximity

The Perils of Proximity: China-Japan Security Relations

Richard C. Bush
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 421
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  • Book Info
    The Perils of Proximity
    Book Description:

    The rivalry between Japan and China has a long and sometimes brutal history, and they continue to eye each other warily as the balance of power tips toward Beijing. They cooperate and compete at the same time, but if competition deteriorates into military conflict, the entire world has much to lose.The Perils of Proximityevaluates the chances of armed conflict between China and Japan, presenting in stark relief the dangers it would pose and revealing the steps that could head off such a disastrous turn of events.

    Richard Bush focuses his on the problematic East China Sea region. Although Japan's military capabilities are more considerable than some in the West realize, its defense budget has remained basically flat in recent years. Meanwhile, Chinese military expenditures have grown by double digits annually. Moreover, that the emphasis of China's military modernization is on power projection -the ability of its air and naval forces to stretch their reach to the east, thus encroaching on its island neighbor.

    Tokyo regards the growth of Chinese power and its focus on the East China Sea with deep anxiety. How should they respond? The balance of power is changing, and Japan must account for that uncomfortable fact in crafting its strategy. It is incumbent on China, Japan, and the United States to take steps to reduce the odds of clash and conflict in the East China Sea, and veteran Asia analyst Bush presents recommendations to that end. The steps he suggests won't be easy, and effective political leadership will be absolutely critical. If implemented fully and correctly, however, they have the potential of reducing the perils of proximity in Asia.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-0477-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-5)

    In U.S. security policy, as would be expected, adversaries pose the greatest challenge. Whether with respect to the Soviet Union during the cold war or Iran, North Korea, or nonstate actors today, the relative paucity of information and absence of open channels of communication make it difficult to gauge the other side’s intentions and underlying motivations. The temptation to read the worst into an adversary’s capabilities and how it uses them is strong.

    But there is a lesser though still significant challenge. It involves groups of countries with which the United States seeks to maintain good relations but that cannot...

  5. 2 Prologue: Japan-China Military Conflict in the 1930s
    (pp. 6-11)

    The Chinese believe without question that Japan committed acts of aggression against China during the twentieth century. But different Chinese address that history in different ways. Formal, somewhat stern, official statements convey the views of the Chinese leadership.¹ Scholars’ dry statistical inventories of losses sustained are compelling in their cumulative impact.² Museums and historic sites, which remind visitors of the horrors inflicted by Japan’s Imperial Army, introduced a narrative of victimization that Chinese had not heard before.³ The same is true of textbooks that seek to inculcate patriotic values in China’s youth and fictional accounts that refract the past through...

  6. 3 China-Japan Relations: A Brief Review
    (pp. 12-22)

    The early 1970s was a time of hope for relations between China and Japan. Animated by their shared suspicion of Soviet expansionism, the two countries removed the cold war barriers that had divided them. Diplomatic relations were established in September 1972. The prospects for economic cooperation were good, even though Japan had a mercantilist capitalist economy and China a command system. There was hope that Chinese memories of past Japanese aggression would not fray the new ties. There seemed to be a tacit understanding that leaders in Beijing would raise history only at the right time and in the right...

  7. 4 Explaining the Downturn
    (pp. 23-40)

    Identifying the negative trend in relations between China and Japan from 1995 to 2006 and the issues involved is relatively easy, but explaining why it occurred is difficult. Possible reasons are leaders’ decisions, public nationalism, domestic politics, and failure to communicate effectively. The prospects for the future hinge on the explanation.

    Complicating the task of explaining the downturn are the many ways in which the two countries can and do cooperate. There is no question that they complement each other economically. Japanese companies bring investment and technology to their production and assembly operations in China, and China brings relatively inexpensive...

  8. 5 Navies, Air Forces, Coast Guards, and Cyber Warriors
    (pp. 41-62)

    Since the 1970s, Japan’s Self-Defense Forces have acquired naval and air capabilities that can not only mount a more robust defense of Japan but also patrol sea lanes of communication (SLOCs) far from the home islands. Recently Japan has added missile defense and its coast guard has been beefed up. Since the 1990s, China’s People’s Liberation Army has been securing naval, air, and missile assets to deter a separatist challenge by Taiwan and to prevent the United States from coming to the island’s defense. China’s Marine Surveillance Force also plays a role.

    Both countries’ military forces seek, in similar ways,...

  9. 6 Points of Proximity and Friction
    (pp. 63-86)

    On March 8, 2009, Chinese vessels associated with China’s Bureau of Fisheries harassed the USNSImpeccablein the South China Sea, engaging in dangerous acts such as trying to snag and presumably seize a towed sonar buoy. The clash became public knowledge and complicated China’s effort to get off to a good start with the new Obama administration.

    The incident occurred on the high seas, but under special circumstances. TheImpeccable,a submarine surveillance vessel, was operating about seventy-five miles away from a new People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) base for nuclear attack and ballistic missile submarines, at Yulin on...

  10. 7 Features of China’s and Japan’s Military Institutions
    (pp. 87-123)

    The armed forces of both Japan and China are significant in their own way, and they have strategic reasons for increasingly operating in the same geographic space. How they interact in that space is shaped by several features of the two countries’ defense institutions, including civil-military relations, command and control, and strategic culture. On balance, those institutional factors make a clash more likely to occur than not and they are likely to exacerbate any clash that does occur.

    Civil-military relations concern the extent to which civilian leaders restrict the actions of their armed forces, for whatever reason. Scholars have differentiated...

  11. 8 Decisionmaking in China
    (pp. 124-159)

    As discussed, China and Japan have significant military capabilities that they exercise in the same geographic space, a space that each regards as important to its national security. There are specific points of friction in that space that draw the two powers together and create the risk of clashes. Some institutional features of the People’s Liberation Army and the Japan Self-Defense Forces would exacerbate the clash rather than contain it.

    Accidental clashes between military forces occur occasionally but generally do not become foreign policy crises. Governments find ways to manage the dispute and avoid escalation. But sometimes they don’t. Witness...

  12. 9 Decisionmaking in Japan
    (pp. 160-190)

    Power among Japan’s institutions has shifted over time. Prior to 1990, for the most part, civilian agencies and the LDP constrained both the prime minister and the Self-Defense Forces (SDF). From late in that decade, the core executive gained power vis-à-vis line agencies and the Liberal Democratic Party to enhance the government’s capacity to respond to crises. The SDF gained autonomy vis-à-vis civilian agencies. Today the balance of power is changing again, the result of the victory of the Democratic Party of Japan in elections for the lower house of the Diet in August 2009. The DPJ, which already had...

  13. 10 The Chinese Politics of PRC-Japan Relations
    (pp. 191-210)

    While institutional phenomena in both the defense establishments and civilian hierarchies of Japan and China do more than enough to complicate the challenges that leaders face, politics makes them worse. Strong public reactions to incidents in bilateral relations limit options, strengthen hard-liners in each country, and create incentives for the governments to take a tough approach to their mutual problems. Domestic politics is the focus of this chapter, on China, and the next one, on Japan.

    Clearly, the PRC lacks the more open, competitive character of Japan’s democratic system. Through the mid-1980s, the central leaders and executive agencies pretty much...

  14. 11 The Japanese Politics of PRC-Japan Relations
    (pp. 211-222)

    Japan has a democratic political system, but it is one that has unique characteristics. Some regard Japan’s democracy as an enigma.¹ Chapter 9 notes the “un-Westminster” character of its parliamentary system.² Gerald Curtis looks behind the labels and finds an activist state that interacts with strong social institutions. It is not necessarily a strong state, and it does not speak with one voice, but its managers seek to reconcile the multiple and conflicting demands and policy preferences of those institutions.³ Not all social forces have effective access to the political process (for example, labor), but many of those who are...

  15. 12 The Chinese and Japanese Systems under Stress
    (pp. 223-258)

    Previous chapters examine a variety of factors that bear on the interaction between Japan and China. Combining those perspectives can produce a variety of security scenarios, some benign and some not so benign. Among the negative scenarios is a clash of some kind between the law enforcement units or armed forces of the two countries. Indeed, a group of American specialists who reviewed Japan-China security relations in 2005 and 2006 concluded that

    the prospect of incidents between Chinese and Japanese commercial and military vessels in the East China Sea has risen for the first time since World War II. If...

  16. 13 Implications for the United States
    (pp. 259-274)

    Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan mutual security treaty states the following:

    Each Party recognizes that an armed attack against either Party in the territories under the administration of Japan would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional provisions and processes.¹

    Note that the geographic scope of the treaty is “territories under the administration of Japan.” The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands are under Japan’s administrative control, even though Washington takes no position on whether China or Japan has sovereignty over them under international law. In February...

  17. 14 What to Do?
    (pp. 275-318)

    The previous chapters identify a mix of factors that, taken together, create a policy problem for China, Japan, and the United States. The problem may move under the radar of the officials in those countries who make foreign and national security policy, but it is present all the same. And it is likely to get worse as China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), Marine Surveillance Force (MSF), and People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) expand their areas of operation in the service of China’s strategic goal of widening the nation’s eastern strategic buffer.

    That being the case, it is in...

  18. Notes
    (pp. 319-408)
  19. Index
    (pp. 409-421)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 422-424)