Japan's Reflection on a Rising China: The Domestic Politics of Japan's China Policy

Wednesday, February 29, 2012
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Philippines Conference Room
  • Sheila Smith

Japan's experience with China's rise thus far suggests an increasingly tumultuous Northeast Asia. For a decade or more, the Sino-Japanese relationship has been punctuated with a series of political crises, and while the two governments in Beijing and Tokyo have sought to define a new forward looking agenda for their nations, it is the management of these crises that have shaped Japanese attitudes towards a rising China. Sheila Smith will present her analysis of Japan's domestic response to China's rise, and how it has affected the constellations of interests that shape Japan's policy response. She argues that these various moments of contention in Japan's relations with China, from Koizumi's Yasukuni Shrine visits, to resource development in the East China Sea, to the Gyoza "war," and the Senkaku "shock," could have provided the opportunity for building cooperative more effective conflict resolution mechanisms in the Sino-Japanese relationship. Yet within Japan, these various issues of contention have hardened Japanese attitudes rather than produced support for greater diplomatic compromise. As Chinese influence grows, Japan's postwar institutions and policy preferences are being sorely tested not only in the diplomatic realm, but from deeply within Japan's own society. Postwar beliefs about Japan's past, its security and its ability to cope with an increasingly volatile Northeast Asia are all being challenged.

Sheila A. Smith, an expert on Japanese politics and foreign policy, is senior fellow for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Smith directed the Council on Foreign Relation’s New Regional Security Architecture for Asia Program and currently leads a project on China and India as Emerging Powers: Challenge or Opportunity for the United States and Japan? She joined CFR from the East-West Center in 2007, where she directed a multinational research team in a cross-national study of the domestic politics of the U.S. military presence in Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines. Smith was on the faculty of the Department of International Relations at Boston University (1994–2000), and on the staff of the Social Science Research Council (1992–1993). She has been a visiting researcher at two leading Japanese foreign and security policy think tanks, the Japan Institute of International Affairs and the Research Institute for Peace and Security, and at the University of Tokyo and the University of the Ryukyus. Smith earned her PhD and MA degrees from the Department of Political Science at Columbia University. She regularly contributes to CFR’s Asia Unbound blog.