The deepening confrontational postures among countries in East Asia presents a significant risk not just to the short-term stability of the region, where miscalculations can lead to violent conflict, but also to the medium to long-term cooperative efforts that are needed to ensure that the evolution of regional order is locked into a peaceful and stable trajectory.
The regional policies of China and the United States (including US-Japan alliance coordination) will have long-term ramifications for the way in which competition is managed and cooperation is deepened around shared interests. For the past two decades, the strategy espoused by Deng Xiaoping — for China to keep a low profile (tao guang yang hui) in international affairs — has been a key principle in Chinese foreign policy.
However, around 2010, just before it overtook Japan as the world’s second largest economy in nominal terms, China appeared to disregard Deng’s dictate in favour of a more confident, assertive approach. This was prominently displayed at the ASEAN Regional Forum meeting in Hanoi that year as China attempted to keep territorial disputes in the South China Sea off the agenda.
Ongoing tensions with Japan over the Senkaku Islands, the banning of fish imports from Norway in 2010 as retribution for awarding Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo the Nobel Peace Prize, the blocking of banana imports from the Philippines in 2012 as punishment over the Scarborough Shoal dispute, and most recently China’s abrupt declaration of an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea, which overlaps with Japan’s own ADIZ and covers the Senkaku Islands, are indicative of this trend
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The risks of posturing in East Asia
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