Brent Scowcroft Center Resident Senior Fellow Robert Manning cowrites for Nikkei Magazine’s Asian Review on the regional conflicts in the Sino-Japanese relationship:

The trilateral Japan-South Korea-China summit in Seoul, the first since 2012, is an important bellwether, signaling a new and positive, if still tentative, trajectory for Northeast Asia and Sino-Japanese relations, which have been rife with tension.

With all three economies slumping, renewing trilateral cooperation was an important stabilizing move. Bilateral side meetings suggested that while concerns about the past still need to be better addressed, concern for the future loomed larger.

History strongly suggests the character of relations among major powers is a key determinant of regional stability. Europe was convulsed in continual warfare until France and Germany came to terms after World War II. Only afterward did the continent enjoy the prospect of integration leading to the European Union.

Similarly, in the Asia-Pacific, the regional order will be significantly defined by Sino-Japanese relations. Since Tokyo and Beijing normalized diplomatic relations in 1972, there have been ups and downs, but from 2000 onward, in large measure reflecting China’s rise and the evolution of the U.S.-Japan alliance, Sino-Japanese ties have been on a downhill slide. Whether Tokyo and Beijing can transcend the burdens of history and their respective nationalisms to achieve a more mature coexistence remains uncertain.

Chinese views of the U.S.-Japan alliance have evolved since the end of the Cold War, and anti-Japanese nationalism has been in ascendance. In the 1990s, Chinese analysts regarded the U.S.-Japan alliance as a net good, one that constrained Japan militarily and underpinned regional stability. By the mid-2000s, however, as Wu Xinbo, a leading Chinese analyst, noted, views among Chinese experts had shifted from an appreciation of the alliance as a “useful constraint on Japan’s remilitarization” toward a view that “enhanced security cooperation between Washington and Tokyo compromises China’s security interest.”

Read the full article here.

Related Experts: Robert A. Manning