This article questions why Japan has taken a neutral position in the Sino-American trade tensions in 2018, despite its political rivalry with Beijing. It claims that the Japanese strategy towards China between 2012 and 2018 has moved from confrontational competition to competitive cooperation over third-country markets; this is because of their shared beliefs and methodology regarding regional development. The paper undertakes three major tasks. Firstly, it compares Chinese and Japanese academic discussions regarding East Asia. It finds that experts on both sides admit the significant implications of the politico-economic divide in the regional system. However, the realistic Chinese tend to consider the divide as a problem to be solved through power, whereas the more liberal Japanese expect it to provide a coordinating function for the regional order as a whole. Secondly, the article reviews the shifts in the Japanese government's behaviours toward China in recent years. It argues that Japan has moved for collaboration with China to maintain the liberal rule-based order in the region. Finally, founded on the estimate of China's economic leverage over its neighbours, the paper claims that Japan will expand its responsibility in order formation in East Asia in future, becoming more independent from American influences.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Political Science and International Relations