July 23, 2019

This article examines whether the Asia-Pacific region’s geopolitical vicissitudes are causing Japan to ‘hedge’ against deepening uncertainty and risk through major strategic realignments or diversification of security and economic ties, as the original hedging literature would expect. It examines trends since 2009 in three domains fundamental to identifying whether shifts are underway in Japan’s strategic orientation vis-à-vis China: security policy (primary), trade/investment, and public opinion. Despite deepening uncertainty (and volatility), especially in ‘the Trump era’, this study finds negligible evidence of hedging behavior: e.g., realigning toward Beijing or adopting a ‘middle position’, much less developing any meaningful security ties with China. Rather, contemporary trends point in the opposite direction: Japan’s China strategy primarily centers on strengthening indigenous deterrence capabilities, bolstering the US–Japan alliance, and diversifying regional security ties beyond Beijing. Even the latter, somewhat paradoxically, aims to deepen ties with Washington and to keep it actively engaged in regional affairs.

International Relations of the Asia-Pacific, lcz015,https://doi.org/10.1093/irap/lcz015

Published: 13 July 2019 -  https://academic.oup.com/irap/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/irap/lcz015/5532180


Professor Adam P. Liff is Assistant Professor of East Asian International Relations at IU SGIS (EALC), and Director of its 21st Century Japan Politics and Society Initiative ("21JPSI"). Beyond IU, he is a Nonresident Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution, as well as an Associate-in-Research at Harvard University's Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies and Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies.

Liff's areas of specialty are international relations, security studies, and East Asian politics—with a particular focus on contemporary security affairs in the Asia-Pacific region. His main research interests include the foreign relations of Japan and China; U.S. Asia-Pacific strategy; the U.S.-Japan alliance, and the rise of China and its impact on its region and the world.

Liff's academic scholarship has been published in Asia Policy, International Security, Journal of Contemporary China, Japanese Studies, Journal of Strategic Studies, Security Studies, Texas National Security Review, The China Quarterly, and The Washington Quarterly. And he has previously been affiliated with the Harvard Kennedy School of Government's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, the Princeton-Harvard China and the World Program, the University of Virginia's Miller Center, the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Social Science, Peking University's School of International Studies, the Stanford Center at PKU, the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Law and Politics, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Liff holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in Politics from Princeton University, and a B.A. from Stanford University (with Distinction; with Honors; and Phi Beta Kappa).