Country Report: China (June 2017)

Danielle F. S. Cohen (assisted by Dong Jiaxin)

In the spring of 2017, Chinese experts criticized China’s North Korea policy, assessed the implications of Moon Jae-in’s election, and evaluated South Korea’s middle-power diplomacy in the G20. They analyzed ASEAN relations with China and Japan. They also examined the persistence of the US–Japan alliance and the deterioration of Sino–Japanese security relations.

China’s North Korea Policy

In an article in Fenghuang Guoji Zhihui (March 15, 2017), Zhang Liangui emphasized the danger posed to China by North Korean possession of nuclear capabilities. (Zhang is a close friend of Shen Zhihua, whose March 19 speech at Dalian University of Foreign Languages drew widespread attention in the United States for its sharp criticism of China’s North Korea policy and its blunt assertion that North Korea is China’s enemy, not its friend. (Translated excerpts from Shen’s speech are available here.) Perhaps reflecting the sensitivity of the topic, Zhang frames his main criticisms—the mistaken tendency of Chinese analysts to see North Korean nuclearization as a US–North Korea issue that does not concern China, and the belief that more active measures to push North Korea to eliminate its nuclear program are unnecessary because they would mainly benefit the United States—in an extended discussion of the risks posed by a possible nuclear accident.

Zhang begins by raising the “Hecker question,” named after the US nuclear scientist Siegfried Hecker who first posed it. Given North Korea’s isolation and observations during his visits to North Korean nuclear sites, Hecker worries that North Korea lacks the safety and oversight protocols necessary to prevent an accident. He asks whether nuclear scientists should stand by in the event of a nuclear accident that would cause widespread pollution and kill many people, or whether they should instead help North Korea to avoid such a catastrophe through technical means. Faced with this question, Zhang argues that China has no satisfactory answer. Chinese analysts tend to argue that the United States should address this problem, even though it is China who, as a neighbor, would be more immediately affected by such an event.

Building on the “Hecker problem,” Zhang argues that the threat to China extends beyond a possible nuclear accident. First, North Korean nuclear tests threaten China’s environmental security because the tests are not sufficiently isolated. Second, North Korea’s nuclear policy increases the likelihood of regional conflict, whether through “military reunification” of the peninsula or because of the risk that the United States will preemptively strike North Korean nuclear facilities. Finally, peninsular tensions increase the risk of irrational behavior, particularly if North Korea misjudges its relative power and loses control of its brinkmanship policy or if its actions reflect the extremism of its discourse.

In this context, China has no choice but to be concerned. Geopolitics means that instability on the Korean Peninsula has an enormous, unparalleled impact on Chinese security. Given the concentration of Chinese population and economic development on the eastern seaboard, Zhang argues, China must be wary that foreign powers might again enter Chinese territory through the Korean Peninsula. Furthermore, Zhang asserts that nuclearization gives North Korea the capability to threaten Chinese security should it choose to do so. If China cannot prevent North Korean nuclearization, it will be forced to adopt a conciliatory policy to prevent North Korea from developing bad intentions toward China. Yet, even such a policy would not ensure that North Korea would always maintain friendly intentions toward China because intentions are subjective and can change. Meanwhile, Zhang criticizes those Chinese observers who argue that a nuclear North Korea will serve as a “protective screen” for China, arguing that they fail to consider North Korea’s willingness to act as a screen and China’s willingness to pay, indefinitely, the costs associated with protecting North Korea’s nuclear policy from countries like the United States. Finally, Zhang criticizes Chinese observers who accept the inevitability of a nuclear North Korea and argue that Chinese policy should shift from preventing nuclearization to managing it well, claiming the belief that China can “manage” a nuclear North Korea is a “fantasy.” China’s only choice is to prevent North Korea from becoming a nuclear power.

Under the guise of asking why China has not addressed the “Hecker question,” given that the consequences of a nuclear accident would have a far more negative effect on China than on the United States, Zhang concludes with a wide-ranging critique of existing Chinese policy toward North Korea. Some say that Chinese experts have not had the access to North Korean nuclear facilities that Americans have had and therefore do not know enough to raise concerns, but Zhang asserts that this begs the question of why North Korea has been willing to show off its progress to the United States but not to China. He contends that North Korea must keep its capabilities secret from its neighbors, who are its real targets. In his view, North Korea’s assertion that nuclear weapons are a means for self-defense against the United States is just a way to increase its bargaining leverage. Although the Western and South Korean media have reported on North Korea’s nuclear intentions, many in China dismiss these reports as US attempts to fracture Sino–North Korean relations and ignore the assessments of Chinese nuclear analysts and international relations experts. Zhang sharply criticizes the mainstream Chinese view that the North Korean nuclear problem only concerns North Korea and the United States, not China, or that it might be a card for China to play against the United States. Furthermore, the sensitivity of the issue and the Chinese media’s inability to report fully on current Sino–North Korean relations leave many Chinese in the dark about the true nature of the relationship. Without better information, they cling to Cold War formulations of protecting a socialist ally against the imperialist United States, which prioritize ideology over Chinese national interests. Finally, Zhang laments the ineffectiveness of Chinese think tanks on this issue.

Zhang Liangui is well known for long-espousing a harsher Chinese policy toward North Korea and seizing opportunities when some openness was possible to make his case. As Xi Jinping was preparing his first meeting with Donald Trump, knowing the priority Trump was putting on the North Korean issue, an article of this sort could serve a useful purpose in encouraging the US side to anticipate a shift in China’s posture and prepare to “deal” in order to help materialize that prospect. Convenient as Zhang’s article was, there is no reason to consider it an indicator of prevalent thinking in circles with more influence on the policy-making process.

The Election of Moon Jae-in

On Huanqiu.com (May 17, 2017), Zheng Jiyong expresses optimism that Moon’s election will bring about improved Sino–South Korean relations. Zheng praises Moon’s opposition to THAAD, which China vehemently opposes (a few weeks after this piece was published, Moon temporarily suspended the deployment of four THAAD launchers, leaving two in place), and speaks in glowing terms of the team Moon has put in place to manage his China policy, led by special envoy Lee Hae-chan. Zheng believes that Moon seeks to rejuvenate Sino–South Korean relations for both international and domestic reasons. At the international level, Zheng argues, South Korea’s foreign policy has been hampered by its THAAD deployment and by four “obstructions,” namely its poor relations with China and Japan, its unsteady relations with the United States, and its longstanding tensions with North Korea. Zheng argues that improving relations with China will help South Korea to overcome these obstructions and seize a leading role in Korean Peninsula affairs. At the domestic level, Moon was elected on a promise to improve South Korea’s economic situation and will need China’s help to deliver. His decision to dispatch a delegation to the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation demonstrates the significance of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) for South Korea’s economic strategy. Furthermore, stronger relations with China are a direct repudiation of Park’s conservatism, Zheng contends, although Park had spent most of her presidency claiming to have strengthened ties to China, which Chinese had praised.

Although Zheng is encouraged by Moon’s enthusiasm for stronger relations with China, he cautions that the bilateral relationship still faces many challenges. Moon’s domestic opponents will try to block his policies. Meanwhile, a friendlier China policy may further destabilize the North Korean nuclear situation by upsetting Chinese and US discussions on how to respond or feeding North Korean delusions. Zheng concludes that Moon’s China policy must pay particular attention to three elements: First, it must address the weakness of Sino–South Korean security relations, especially as they relate to the Korean Peninsula and THAAD. Second, Moon must carefully position South Korea with regard to China and the United States, and learn from Park’s disastrous decision to veer toward the United States. Finally, Moon must figure out how to better manage relations with North Korea without resorting to “extreme measures.” Zheng does not note how difficult these conditions are to meet, given both US and North Korean policy.

Meanwhile, on Huanqiu.com (May 11, 2017), Da Zhigang writes soberly about the domestic and international challenges Moon faces. Because Moon’s Democratic Party holds only 119 of the National Assembly’s 300 seats, he must coordinate with opposition parties to govern effectively. Despite his efforts to unify the country, his anti-corruption agenda and emphasis on dialogue with North Korea may be unpopular with some conservative and centrist voters. At the same time, Moon must try to fulfill the election promises he made to improve South Korea’s economic malaise, including chaebol reform, increased youth employment, and lower taxes. Da describes a South Korea torn apart by class and age divisions, with rising household debt and the highest elderly suicide rate in the OECD. The failure of previous administrations to resolve these issues has eroded trust in government.

With regard to diplomacy, Da argues that South Korea’s regional and international influence is ebbing, and that Moon will respond with a pragmatic policy toward the United States and South Korea’s neighbors. Although Moon said during the campaign that South Korea must be able to say “no” to the United States, Da argues that in the short term he will have no choice but to maintain military and trade cooperation with the United States. (Da did not expect that Moon would so quickly alter South Korea’s THAAD deployment plans, although the adjustment may fall well short of what China demands.) At the same time, Da expects that the United States would respond firmly if Moon’s friendly policy toward North Korea exceeds its comfort level.

Turning to Sino–South Korean relations, Da argues that Moon will seek to comprehensively improve the relationship by strengthening high-level communications, engaging in talks on THAAD, resuming military cooperation, and promoting trade. Despite Moon’s criticisms of Japan regarding “comfort women,” territorial claims, and textbooks, his appointment of Lee Nak-yeon, a politician with close ties to Japan, as prime minister suggests that he will pursue a pragmatic policy toward Japan. Finally, Moon promotes a softer policy toward North Korea that focuses on dialogue and eliminates sanctions and military threats. However, in light of international sanctions, North Korean intransigence on its nuclear weapons development, and domestic opposition, this approach will face many challenges.

South Korea’s Middle-Power Diplomacy in the G20

In Guoji Guancha, No. 2, 2017, Liu Hongsong explores how South Korea has shaped the G20’s agenda through the exercise of middle-power diplomacy. Liu defines a middle power as a state that occupies a middle position in the global rankings of economic, military, and political power, and that exercises significant influence over regional and global affairs. As an emerging middle power, South Korea has parlayed its rapid economic development into increasing international influence and has shifted from being a “rules-taker” to being a “rules-maker.”

In South Korea’s quest for greater influence over global governance, the G20 has been an attractive forum. Since the 2008 financial crisis, Liu argues, the G20 has become an increasingly important site for global economic governance. It comprises of great powers and rising economies, includes the most important regional actors, and provides an informal setting for leaders to discuss pressing problems. This informality is an advantage because it keeps the organization nimble; the lack of enforcement mechanisms means that leaders do not need to seek domestic ratification for their agreements. By shaping the agenda of an influential institution like the G20, a state can better advance its interests.

Drawing on John Kingdon’s classic analysis of agenda-setting in the policy process, Liu argues that agenda setting in the G20 consists of two parts. First, a state tries to shape the selection and definition of issues taken up by the G20. Since the 2010 Seoul Summit, South Korea has pushed member states to offer greater commitments to development. While continuing to support traditional global development mechanisms, South Korea also proposed the “Seoul Consensus,” which gives developing states a greater role in development projects. By linking development to issues like trade, investment, and employment, Liu asserts, South Korea was able to increase the salience of development issues and obtain more commitments to the development agenda. Furthermore, Liu contends, South Korea pushed the G20 to expand its agenda from crisis management to more sustained engagement that addresses topics such as financial system reform, food and energy security, and climate change.

Second, Liu argues that a state will use interest mobilization to increase the global salience of issues that it wishes the organization to address. South Korea has worked with non-member states, other emerging economies and middle powers, and business elites to influence the G20’s agenda. This strategy is evident in South Korea’s outreach to China and Russia to push for a financial safety net and its cooperation with middle powers like Australia for greater institutionalization of the G20. South Korea also seeks to coordinate its interests with other middle powers through the MIKTA mechanism (G20 members Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey, and Australia) and to advance its agenda through outreach to non-member African states and the business community.

Liu concludes that South Korea has been successful in using the G20 as a platform for its middle power diplomacy. Given China and South Korea’s shared interests on issues including global financial reform and oversight, anti-protectionism, and climate change, the two states should work together to shape the G20’s agenda and mobilize BRICS and MIKTA to support their efforts. One supposes that Trump’s abnegation of US leadership on various global matters such as climate change only intensifies China’s push to enlist South Korea in a multilateral agenda.

Sino–ASEAN Relations

In Guoji Guancha, No. 2, 2017, Zhou Shixin assesses the role of quiet diplomacy in Sino–ASEAN relations. Quiet diplomacy has four main characteristics. First, it is not very transparent, and seeks to avoid unwanted international attention by maintaining a great deal of secrecy. This privacy is particularly helpful when a state is unwilling to publicly yield first on a sensitive issue. Second, it seeks to prevent the escalation of a difficult situation by allowing parties the opportunity to reach a consensus before making their positions public. Third, it can be either long-term or targeted at more concrete issues. Finally, although it mainly occurs at the government level, it can also work through informal channels. Negotiations between non-official actors are particularly useful when an issue is very sensitive. Although quiet diplomacy is at odds with the global trend toward more transparent diplomacy, it has been highly effective in Southeast Asia. Quiet diplomacy is prevalent among ASEAN members, at the ASEAN level, and between ASEAN and other countries, and is widely considered to be part of the “ASEAN Way.”

Zhou argues that quiet diplomacy has been a particularly useful tool for maintaining cooperative Sino–ASEAN relations on several key issues. With regard to sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea, China has emphasized direct talks with the various claimants. Quiet diplomacy has allowed China, Vietnam, and the Philippines to balance the firm positions they must take to satisfy domestic demands with their desire to avoid crisis escalation. Through frequent meetings and negotiations on a Code of Conduct, China has worked with ASEAN to minimize conflict in the South China Sea. (The continued secrecy regarding the contents of the long-awaited draft framework for a Code of Conduct further illustrates Zhou’s point.) Quiet diplomacy occurs on the sidelines of formal regional meetings and increases mutual trust. Furthermore, quiet diplomacy has been especially helpful for addressing non-traditional security issues, such as infectious diseases. Zhou contends that quiet diplomacy has been effective because it builds on ASEAN traditions and has helped China to maintain close relations with ASEAN despite the pressure imposed by the US pivot.

ASEAN and China’s mutual commitment to quiet diplomacy arises from their shared values. Both ASEAN and China value “face” and prestige, and are reluctant to engage in public disputes that could result in the loss of face. They also share a strong commitment to territorial integrity and sovereignty, and therefore prefer for negotiations that might impinge on their core national interests to occur privately to prevent the loss of domestic legitimacy. Furthermore, both ASEAN and China seek to promote regional integration and believe that building mutual trust is essential to achieving this goal. ASEAN and China’s commitment to quiet diplomacy is particularly evident in the priority they place on non-interference in the domestic affairs of a state, particularly regarding traditional security issues, their tendency to openly cooperate on non-traditional security issues, and Chinese support for ASEAN as an institution.

Zhou expects that quiet diplomacy will continue to be an important aspect of Sino–ASEAN relations. Aside from the persistence of their shared values, both China and ASEAN value a close, cooperative relationship. ASEAN wants to take advantage of China’s economic growth to accelerate its own development, while China wants ASEAN to accept the existence of a stronger Chinese military. In addition, both ASEAN and China must respond to pressure from third parties, such as Japan and the United States. Quiet diplomacy is also effective in handling chronic issues, such as the South China Sea disputes.

Zhou concludes that quiet diplomacy is an especially useful tactic for small, weak states because it encourages consensus rather than coercion and conflict. Although quiet diplomacy is less essential for great powers, it is still helpful for breaking a deadlock and improving relations. By adopting quiet diplomacy in its relations with ASEAN, China can promote cooperative relations and a more stable regional security environment.

Japanese –ASEAN Relations

In Xiandai Guoji Guanxi, No. 3, 2017, Zhang Jiye argues that recent Japanese efforts to promote ASEAN connectivity have coalesced into a clear policy framework, which poses a challenge to China’s BRI strategy. From a functional perspective, Japan believes that it can support regional economic integration and decrease the development gap between ASEAN member states by promoting industrialization and infrastructure development. Japan seeks to promote both intra-regional and extra-regional connectivity, while also helping to link major cities and develop urban infrastructure. From a geographical perspective, Japan is focused on both the Mekong sub-region and maritime ASEAN. Within the region, it seeks to promote three economic corridors, the East–West and Southern Economic Corridors (both land-based) and the Maritime ASEAN Economic Corridor. Furthermore, it hopes to link the Mekong sub-region with the Indian subcontinent. From a conceptual perspective, Japan promotes a multi-dimensional understanding of connectivity that comprises infrastructure as well as compatible systems, environmental protection, and human connections, among other factors. In this way, Japan hopes to move far beyond building bridges and roads to a much deeper level of connectivity.

Zhang then surveys the concrete policy actions Japan has taken over the past decade to advance ASEAN connectivity. Its efforts at trans-regional and extra-regional connectivity have focused on the two land-based corridors in the Mekong sub-region, while its maritime policy is less developed. It has pursed major urban infrastructure projects in places like Jakarta, Manila, and Hanoi. Its promotion of a multidimensional conception of connectivity has manifested itself in efforts to integrate systems (for example, by pursuing legal reform in Myanmar and Vietnam); to create educational, cultural, and scientific exchange programs; and to build a better environment for connectivity. Finally, Japan has established the Partnership for Quality Infrastructure, which offers increased funding opportunities, quicker approval processes, and more innovative terms to Asian recipients.

Japan’s ASEAN connectivity policy is motivated by both economic and geopolitical factors. Japan sees ODA and private trade and investment as promoting its long-term economic interests and its access to the Southeast Asian marketplace. Japan’s connectivity policy is also part of a more recent effort to strengthen its great power status by shifting its foreign policy to emphasize technical, capital-intensive exports like infrastructure and by expanding its overseas investments. By building stronger production networks in Southeast Asia, this policy also allows Japanese companies to shift production capacity to the region. Geostrategic motives also drive Japan’s policy. In light of regional changes such as the emergence of China’s BRI strategy, maritime sovereignty disputes, and the rise of China, Southeast Asia now holds more strategic importance for Japan. Japan fears that BRI will enable China to become the regional leader, and therefore pursues closer ties with Southeast Asian states to diminish their reliance on China. At the same time, Japan sees itself as a protector of a free and open Pacific Ocean and seeks closer relations with ASEAN members to increase its capabilities and check Chinese maritime ambitions. Japan’s efforts to create a stronger and more cohesive ASEAN by supporting industrialization and regional integration also serve as a check on China.

Zhang concludes with several policy recommendations for China. First, China must pursue a targeted policy that addresses areas in which Japan has been historically stronger. China should promote multidimensional infrastructure projects that emphasize quality and are cognizant of both the environment and human welfare. It must combat the impression in Southeast Asia that its projects are inferior on these metrics to those of Japan. China should also focus on developing key cities along the BRI route, such as Chiang Mai, Phnom Penh, and Vientiane (Japan has already built strong relations with cities like Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, and Hanoi). China should strengthen its strategic relationship with India, in light of Japanese efforts to link India and the Mekong sub-region. At the same time, China should increase its economic influence in Southeast Asia through stronger trade relations and greater investment (Chinese investment, though growing, still lags far behind Japanese investment). China should also provide more public goods in the security arena, which increases ASEAN members’ reliance on China.

The US–Japan Alliance

In Guoji Guancha, No. 2, 2017, Yang Luhui and Niu Jian assess the evolution of the US–Japan alliance. They ask why the alliance persisted even after the fall of the USSR, why the United States has supported Japan’s efforts to take a stronger position within the alliance, and how the two countries coordinate their interests. Their analysis is grounded in the literature on the autonomy–security trade-off first developed by Michael Altfeld, and extended by James Morrow, which posits that a state may trade some of its policy autonomy for security provided by another state. Yang and Niu emphasize that states form bilateral alliances because they believe that cooperative relations enable them to maximize their national interests, but that these alliances, in turn, influence states’ future choices and behavior. As the relative strengths of the two countries shift, each party’s security and autonomy demands will change, necessitating a recalibration of the autonomy–security trade-off.

Yang and Niu elucidate the logic of the autonomy–security trade-off model by evaluating three hypotheses about the US–Japan alliance. First, they argue that Japan’s increasing demand for autonomy poses a challenge to the existing bargain agreed to by the two states. In an asymmetrical alliance, in which one state is weaker and the other is stronger, they expect that an increase in the strength of the “dependent” country will lead it to demand greater autonomy, but also to develop increased fears that it may be abandoned by the leading state. In order to demonstrate how greatly it values the alliance, the dependent country will agree to greater burden-sharing. At the same time, its concerns about the durability of the alliance will lead it to develop a greater ability to protect itself. In this light, Japan is trying to become a more equal partner in the US–Japan alliance, and is therefore willing to trade some of the security benefits it previously received from the United States for a more autonomous role.

Second, Yang and Niu argue that the United States has acquiesced to Japan’s desire for more autonomy and agreed to alter the bargain. As the relative power of the leading state declines, it will encourage the dependent state to increase its share of the collective burden and its autonomy. The leading state’s fear of being “dragged” into a conflict affecting the dependent state will lead it to encourage the dependent state to strengthen its own capabilities. In this context, the United States has supported Japan’s demands in order to preserve the alliance, which continues to advance US interests. Consequently, the alliance has shifted from a regional, security-oriented, hierarchical cooperation mechanism to a global, comprehensive, and more equal model.

Finally, Yang and Niu assert that the compatibility of the two states’ interests underpins the alliance and allows the states to agree on a new autonomy–security trade-off. The United States and Japan have long perceived a common threat—originally the USSR, but now China. They also share complementary grand strategies. In Yang and Niu’s view, the United States seeks to eliminate challenges to its pursuit of global hegemony, while Japan seeks to move past its World War II history and become a “normal” state. Furthermore, the two states share similar value systems. As the authors note, alliances are not just military agreements designed to protect territory from physical threats; they can also function to defend values and ideas. They conclude that the two states will continue to renegotiate the autonomy–security trade-off to maintain the stability of the alliance.

Sino–Japanese Security Relations

In Xiandai Guoji Guanxi, No. 3, 2017, Meng Xiaoxu evaluates the poor state of Sino–Japanese security relations, which have yet to recover from the 2010 Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands boat collision and Japan’s 2012 nationalization of three of the islands. The situation regarding the islands remains tense, with a heightened risk of conflict. Meanwhile, Japan’s new security laws and its efforts to multilateralize its sovereignty disputes with China exacerbate the situation. China is particularly concerned by what it sees as efforts to encircle China by strengthening security cooperation with India, Australia, and the United States. Meanwhile, efforts to establish a bilateral Maritime and Aerial Communication Mechanism have proceeded in fits and starts.

Meng argues that bilateral security relations would improve if Japan were to set aside the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands dispute, but that it prefers a complicated bilateral relationship. Meng asserts that some in Japan deliberately portray China as a threat to increase domestic support for normalization and reform of postwar limits on Japanese military and defense policy. Furthermore, in Japanese security circles, China’s rise is seen as a threat to the regional order. Some observers believe China wants to seize the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. Many link the island dispute to sovereignty issues in the South China Sea, and argue that China’s maritime policy is a threat to Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs) and to Japan’s security. In addition, the United States has encouraged Japan to take on a more active role to support its Asia-Pacific rebalance. At the same time, Japan tries to provoke more alarm because it wants the United States to remain involved in the region and because it does not want to face China alone.

Despite some recent positive signs, Meng is pessimistic about the future of Sino–Japanese security relations. Although Trump’s China policy remains unclear, Meng believes he will continue to support Japan’s provocative stance toward China. In contrast to Obama’s Asia-Pacific pivot, Meng expects Trump to focus more narrowly on Northeast Asia and to rely more heavily on Japan. Meanwhile, Japan has continued its attempts to encircle China by providing military assistance to its neighbors and overall aid to ASEAN. Meng is particularly concerned about Japanese interest in THAAD (it now seems to prefer the Aegis Ashore system) and the possibility of a Japan–South Korea–US alliance. Continued Japanese progress on constitutional revision is likely to exacerbate Sino–Japanese security tensions. Given Japan’s conservative government and the orientation of the US–Japan alliance against China, Meng is pessimistic that Sino–Japanese relations will improve, even over the long-term.

Meng concludes with several policy recommendations for China. First, Meng urges the two countries to stabilize the framework for their security relations; China should encourage Japan to abide by the “four basic documents” and by the 2014 four-point consensus. Second, China should maintain substantial pressure on Japan. It should strengthen its patrols around the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands and check Japan’s sovereign claims. Furthermore, Meng ominously suggests that at an “appropriate time,” China should “adopt…military measures” to convince Japan that intervening in the South China Sea would be harmful to its security. Meng sees two paths by which it is possible to prevent Japan from becoming a military threat. The first is if Japan stops itself. A Chinese military action in the South China Sea could support the domestic Japanese opposition that wants to maintain a pacifist policy. The other option is to coordinate with other states to stop Japan. While China might be able to convince some of Japan’s neighbors, as Meng suggests, his recommendation that China reach out to the United States is unlikely to prevent Washington from encouraging Japan to take on more responsibility for its own defense.

Third, Meng recommends that China compete with Japan for the support of neighboring countries to prevent Japan from encircling China. As the South China Sea disputes ease, China will have better relations with its neighbors, and it will be harder for Japan and the United States to unite them against China. Finally, Meng suggests that China strengthen its unofficial exchanges with Japanese citizens. These relationships were vital in the postwar years, but have been neglected since normalization. Survey data showing that the Japanese public remains uncertain about the status of the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands dispute and continued domestic support for pacifism suggest to Meng that China might successfully influence Japan’s policy through closer ties with its citizens, though he believes that Japanese citizens have only weak influence over their government’s policies.

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