China and Japan


China and Japan possess the two largest economies and militaries in East Asia. While these two regional powers have coexisted at peace for decades, there are growing concerns about the prospects for conflict between them. A primary reason for these concerns has to do with China’s growing military might and Japan’s response to these changes. Over the last two decades, Chinese annual military spending has increased by nearly 1,500 percent as it has built powerful naval and air capabilities. Despite this, China has repeatedly assured the region that its “rise” is peaceful and that it has the right to a more powerful military as its economy and population expands. In recent years, Japan—which cut military spending during the 1990s and 2000s—has been increasing its military budget as well. Moreover, Japan recently amended its constitution to allow its military to take an offensive role in a foreign military conflict. To make matters worse, both China and Japan claim sovereignty over a set of islands in the East China Sea, the body of water that separates the two powers. Any effort by either side to assert control over these islands could be used as a pretext for war.

Prompt: Use the security dilemma to explain the behavior of China and Japan and assess the likelihood of conflict between these two states.

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