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By Gilbert Rozman, Senior Fellow, foreign Policy Research Institute
Reviewed by David T. Jones

In a recent speech at a conference on disputes in the South China Sea and East China Sea, FPRI Senior Fellow Gilbert Rozman  examined in depth the parameters of Sino-Japanese foreign policy interaction.  He discussed the contrasting realism, liberalism, and constructivist, i.e., nationalistic, interpretations of the clash, and concluded that “realism” does not explain the intensity of the ongoing Tokyo-Beijing face-off.

He opined that compromise on territorial disputes is “problematic,” and noted that each national leader is gaining more political strength domestically from continued confrontation than from considering compromise.  In April, Japanese Prime Minister Abe denied that World War II was a “war of aggression,” suggesting that it depended on who was viewing it (he later backtracked under U.S. pressure).  Rozman noted that “Since he became party secretary, Xi Jinping and China’s media have framed disputes, especially with Japan, in constructivist [nationalistic] terms.”

Rozman identified four U.S. priorities:  

— Impress on both China and Japan the need for calm. Avoid movesthat might lead to a military confrontation in the East China Sea;
Intensify engagement with China while avoiding moves that might give Beijing opportunity to drive a wedge between Japan and the United States.  Chinese willingness to cooperate in stabilizing the region should be repeatedly tested, notably with North Korea;
Strengthen our alliance system while striving to forge an Asia-Pacific community, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  This is of rising urgency especially since Sino-U.S. talks are not going well, and China is showing little interest in calming tensions; and
— Prepare more seriously for conflict than we have previously. Pyongyang’s nuclear-related threats and China’s apparent willingness to use force when addressing territorial disputes makes this necessary.
Rozman concluded that good relations with Japan versus Chinese “demonization” of the U.S. suggest the need to calm Japanese nationalism but challenge Beijing’s attitudes.End.

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