How the U.S. marked contemporary China and post-WWII Japan as its rivals
Threat perception and construction
Before the rise of China, there was the rise of Japan. Taking the long view, this Stanford Next Asia Policy Lab project provides a descriptive analysis of public perception and reality in the American rival-making of Japan in the 1980s and China in the 2010s.
The urgency of U.S. rhetoric on China implies an unprecedented attempt to challenge the decades-long unipolar order. Experts, caught up in debates about whether we are entering a new Cold War, often compare the U.S.-China rivalry with the past U.S.-USSR rivalry. However, before the rise of China, there was the rise of Japan. Only a generation ago, the United States perceived Japan as an up-and-coming superpower rival. The tense relationship fueled homicides, vandalisms, and demonstrations.
The "U.S. Rivals: Construct or Reality?" research project redresses that hasty conclusion-in-the-making regarding the U.S.-China rivalry by comparing American rhetoric on China’s rise today with past rhetoric on Japan's ascent. The United States sees in China today what it saw then in Japan: trade deficit, freeloading, and aggressive public diplomacy, among many other affronts.
This project aims to identify and contrast core frames in U.S. rhetoric on Japan and China, providing not only a descriptive analysis of threat perception by U.S. politicians and the public but also a causal analysis of perception and policy outcomes during Japan's rise in the 1980s and China's rise in the 2010s. Through these comparisons, it hopes to contextualize the escalating tension between the United States and China, offer theoretical insights into threat perception and construction, advance methodological rigor in measuring threats and perceptions, and ultimately facilitate informed policy-making on how to effectively engage with rising powers.
This research is part of the Stanford Next Asia Policy Lab (SNAPL).