The Perils of Proximity: China-japan Security Relations Review

The Perils of Proximity: China-japan Security Relations
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The Perils of Proximity: China-japan Security Relations ReviewIn the most part, the book is comprehensive, ranging from analyzing the strategic and historical zeitgeist of both the Chinese and Japanese sides towards each other, an analysis of their respective military capabilities (apparently from secondary sources, but since this is not the central emphasis of the book it is OK), their governmental systems and command and control ... etc to explain where the points of friction and weaknesses are and how they may escalate into conflict or hamper de-escalation. It is certainly all very interesting, and seems detailed and generally even-handed, with criticism meted out to both sides.
Still, perhaps because it covers so many areas, there are some points where a American-centric slant and ignorance of alternate interpretations of the facts appears. For example, when responding to the business of the US military in Okinawa, he deflects understandable attempts by the Japanese to get them to move to a less intrusive location by repeating the old American lament that the Japanese don't do enough for their own defense, that the treaty places an unfair burden on America, and thus Japan shouldn't squawk so much. This might have been more acceptable had not half this book been about the Japanese political limitations that strongly restrain action towards this direction. In any case, the fact is that the treaty clearly also serves American interests, and if there is an unfair defense burden on America the Suzerain exists, Japan no doubt pays for it quietly in other areas, from the loss of sovereignty and control (national pride) to the final disposition in various other joint endeavors.
This would have been a minor point in a text that's mostly not about America, but the Americo-centrism really starts hurting when he discusses China, which has a lot more brush ups with the United States. While he notes China's concern of the West trying to break it up, the general flow of the text suggests that as far as the author is concerned, that view is basically wrong. As a non-American, permit me to view the United States less altruistically...
More tactically, for the EP-3 incident, the guy basically buys the American version hook, line and sinker. Thus the Chinese version has to be false. He uses the incident as a case study to support his conclusion that the PLA has a tendency to whitewash information, and this whitewashing would hinder the flow of accurate information in crisis ... etc. Now, no one knows exactly what went on that day, but what if, for the sake of argument, the Americans DID make an endangering move (after all, if the J-8 has the advantage in manueverability [much reduced when matching the flight path of a EP-3], the American has the advantage in size). Now, the PLA report would be much less inaccurate. How would that affect his computation?
For a final example that's not American-related, he asserts that in 2008 the JCG "rammed" a Taiwanese fishing boat. Now, I think I know which incident he's talking about and I've watched the mobile video from it. The collision actually had the JCG ship holding the Taiwanese fishing boat to port bow (and eventually it hits the starboard bow of boat and boat sinks). Which a basic Rules of the Road read would say that in the situation, it was the Taiwanese boat that was "burdened" and is responsible to evade, in common practice by turning right and aiming somewhere behind the JCG ship. You don't even see an attempt to evade at all. While of course the JCG ship is not entirely innocent in this, the situation was much more nuanced than is described. Which is another small point had the incident not been included in a computation to determine the JCG's aggressiveness and thus its contribution to a potential conflict.
A final, small regret is that it came out too early. Not the author's fault, but if the book came out a few months later, he might have been able to include the 2010 collision incident, which is probably cardinal in how Japan and China handle crises.
Despite the above flaws, it should not detract too much from the fact that it is still a high-quality work, and a valuable addition to the library of anyone interested in Sino-Japanese relations. Just that perhaps you might want to check out other viewpoints of the incidents he describes and adjust the conclusions accordingly.The Perils of Proximity: China-japan Security Relations Overview

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