Dynamic Dilemmas: China’s Evolving Northeast Asia Security Strategy
What are Chinese strategic intentions in Northeast Asia, and how have they evolved in recent years? Scholarly and policy research largely focuses on how domestic political and cultural factors influence China’s approach to regionalism, multilateralism, and trouble spots like the Korean Peninsula. But over the past decade, China’s military has also made great strides with advancements in technology, equipment, training, and mobility. How are these changes impacting China’s strategic intentions vis-à-vis South Korea, North Korea, Russia, and Japan? This paper answers that question by identifying common themes found in authoritative Chinese journals and state-sponsored media coverage and evaluating Chinese observed behavior in the form of its military exercises, bilateral military exchanges, and responses to flashpoints and other countries’ defense policies. I argue that Northeast Asia is the foundation of China’s strategy to establish its regional preeminence, keep Japan down, and eventually push the United States out. In short, China does not accept the regional order in Northeast Asia and hopes that it can leverage its relationships, specifically with South Korea, Russia and North Korea, to inspire change. This research has important implications for power transition theory as well as contemporary policy debates on managing China’s rise and defusing U.S.-China tensions.