Special Forum

Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has lately appeared to want it both ways: to tighten the alliance with the United States to the point of joining the “five eyes” in intelligence sharing, and to boost relations with China by insisting on going forward with a state visit by Xi Jinping as the key to upgrading ties despite growing opposition at home due to China’s assertive and growing illiberal behavior at home and abroad. How can Japan proceed with this balancing act given the sharp downturn in Sino-US relations in 2020, as seen in both heated mutual accusations over the pandemic and signs of decoupling? Japan’s dilemma is similar to what numerous states in Asia are facing. There are economic reasons to show pragmatism toward China and security imperatives to draw the US closer. To combine these into a grand strategy requires explaining why and how to walk this tightrope—something Japan has yet to attempt. 

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