International Relations of the Asia-Pacific

February 2004 (Volume 4, No. 1)


China views the revised US-Japan Defense Guidelines: popping the cork?
by Paul Midford


This paper considers whether an alliance can have a reassurance effect on a third-party. It uses hypotheses derived from balance-of-power realism and a revised version of balance-of-threat theory called balance-of-malevolence theory. Using the revised 1997 US-Japan Defense Guidelines as a primary case, Chinese reactions are found to provide greater support for balance-of-malevolence theory. Side-evidence from Japan's decision in the early 1990s to begin deploying troops overseas to participate in humanitarian and UN peacekeeping operations, and its dispatch of naval ships to the Indian Ocean in the wake of 9-11, confirm the centrality of Chinese concerns about Japan's disposition as a military power and the reassurance value of the US alliance and other 'containment frameworks' such as UN peacekeeping. This also suggests that the demonstration effect of benign overseas deployments can be effective in overcoming negative attributions about a state's disposition as a military power.