Over the Horizon: The Pitfalls of the Emerging Anti-China Axis

Over the Horizon: The Pitfalls of the Emerging Anti-China Axis

Concern about China's emerging economic and military capabilities now drives the U.S. strategic debate. The development of anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs) by the PRC has even led some to argue that the balance of power in the Western Pacific has now shifted in China's direction. At the very least, ASBMs give China another tool with which to threaten U.S. naval predominance in Asia. In response to the perceived growth of Chinese military power, analysts at the Center for New American Security and elsewhere have suggested (.pdf) closer alignment with Japan and India, two of China's regional rivals.

On the surface, this strategy appears similar to that employed by Washington during the Cold War, when the U.S. created circles of regional allies to attempt to hem in the Soviet Union. However, the dynamics of a potential India-U.S.-Japan relationship differ greatly from those that allowed the emergence of NATO. Whereas the United States played the lead military and political role in NATO, it will act more as the connective tissue in the relationship with India and Japan. Also in contrast to the Cold War, the United States might face great difficulty in managing and restraining its regional partners.

On the northern flank of this notional alliance is Japan, which is pursuing an increasingly assertive set of national security policies. Japan's grievances with China include Beijing's continued support for North Korea, as well as territorial disputes over several island chains. The most recent indication of Japan's shifting defense priorities are reports this week that Tokyo will refocus its attention in a southerly direction, developing new mobile units capable of defeating a Chinese incursion onto the disputed islands. Japan's large navy now specializes in missile defense, in part to defend the archipelago from North Korea, but also from China's arsenal of conventional ballistic missiles. Japan is also building several small aircraft carriers -- officially designated "helicopter-carrying destroyers" -- that could become potent force-projection platforms with the addition of the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter. Japan trails China militarily only in the size of its ground forces, in nuclear weapons, and in ballistic missiles. A close relationship with the United States helps to alleviate all of these vulnerabilities.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review