Lost in Translation? Why Japan and Great Power Rivalry remain key to the International Politics of East Asia

Yee-Kuang Heng
2007 Irish Studies in International Affairs  
Discussions about East Asia are in need of a reality check. An 'Asian or China century' has been couched in terms of globalisation, trade, political economy and, of course, the rise of China. However, an age-old Realist issue lurks as a spanner in the works: security and defence concerns, what one might otherwise term traditional Great Power rivalry between Japan and China. While China might indeed become the pivotal power sometime down the road, this article contends that in the short-tomedium
more » ... the short-tomedium term, Japan remains the pre-eminent power, with Tokyo taking additional steps to safeguard that status. To inject more circumspection into debates on East Asia, this essay examines the continuing theoretical relevance of structural-realist perspectives on understanding Sino-Japanese competition. It then presents various empirical measures of how Japanese power continues to outstrip Chinese, and highlights recent policy changes indicating that Japan is itself becoming a more 'normal' Great Power in response to China's emergence. As an old Cold Warrior, one of yesterday's speeches almost filled me with nostalgia for a less complex time. Almost. 1 When I was coming up, it was a dangerous world and we knew exactly who the 'they' were. It was us versus them and it was clear who them was. Today we're not so sure who the 'they' are but we know they're out there somewhere. 2
doi:10.3318/isia.2007.18.45 fatcat:vbklkc4ipzdy5mreeq3vbsfs6i