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Taylor & Francis
H. D. P. Envall, ‘What Kind of Japan? Tokyo’s Strategic Options in a Contested Asia’, Survival: Global Politics and Strategy, 61(4) 2019: 117-30.
Japan faces significant strategic uncertainty. China’s growing assertiveness and the unpredictability introduced into Asian affairs by US President Donald Trump could leave Japan isolated. Unsurprisingly, therefore, analysts of Japanese security have sought to understand how Japan might respond to these challenges so as to retain a central place in the Asian security order.
The Australian discussion about this issue has focused on two possible Japanese trajectories, depending on whether Tokyo chooses a ‘hard’ or ‘comfortable’ future. This article argues that Japan is likely to steer a path somewhere between these two scenarios. Japan’s policy shifts in recent years, along with current strategic uncertainties, point towards a national strategy designed to present a counterweight to China without necessarily contesting Beijing’s regional primacy. It will likely mix deterrence with engagement in a more complex, and possibly riskier, strategy, so as to hedge against the challenges presented by both partners and adversaries. This is the strategy of a regional power.