The Contrasting Trajectories of China’s East Asia Policy

The Contrasting Trajectories of China’s East Asia Policy

Nowhere else in Asia has the region’s ongoing tectonic realignment been more evident than in the China-Japan-South Korea triangle. The People’s Republic of China is emerging as a new center of geopolitical gravity within the region; South Korea is rising as an influential middle power; and Japan is experiencing relative decline. The three sets of bilateral relationships, the undisputed pillars of prosperity and stability in the region, are branching in different directions. Within this triangle, China’s strategic approach to both Japan and South Korea is driven by intrinsic factors, the most significant of which are historical grievances, economic interdependence and geostrategic dynamics.

A Low Point in China-Japan Relations

Of the bilateral relationships in this East Asian triangle, China-Japan relations are the most complex. It is unsurprising that Japan occupies a prominent position in China’s strategic calculus regarding its immediate neighborhood. A long shared history, increasing economic integration and rising geopolitical competition have strongly intertwined the past and future of Northeast Asia’s two behemoths. Leaders on both sides have come to accept the complex and often contradictory nature of the relationship—choosing, for the most part, to adopt a pragmatic approach with the relationship often described as “cold politics, hot economics.” However, as recent tensions have flared over historical grievances and contested territories in the East China Sea, politics have become frosty, and the once “hot” economic relations between the two have chilled.

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