Japan’s Middle Power Diplomacy in an Era of U.S.-China Rivalry

As the U.S.-China strategic competition intensifies and the international order in Asia becomes more uncertain, Japan confronts the task of refashioning its diplomatic and security strategy. Is Japan’s “National Security Strategy” adopted in December 2022 adequate to navigate the difficult challenges facing the region and to promote a more stable and prosperous Asia? A new report entitled “Asia’s Future at a Crossroads: A Japanese Strategy for Peace and Sustainable Prosperity” presents a more realistic alternative strategy for Japan. It reflects the culmination of over four years of study and debate among eleven prominent scholars and former practitioners of Japanese foreign policy and international relations. The report argues that Japan should pursue a more proactive middle power diplomacy to mitigate U.S.-China rivalry, avoid a sharp division in Asia, and prevent great power conflict. The report in both English and Japanese can be accessed through this link: https://sigur.elliott.gwu.edu/project/asias-future-at-a-crossroads-a-japanese-strategy-for-peace-and-sustainable-prosperity/. A discussion was held with Professors Yoshihide Soeya and Mike Mochizuki, co-leaders of the project, Hitoshi Tanaka, Former Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister and Kuniko Ashizawa, Adjunct Professor at American University. Michael Swaine, Senior Research Fellow at the Quincy Institute, moderated.


Mike Mochizuki

Mike Mochizuki is the Japan-US Relations Chair in Memory of Gaston Sigur at the George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs and a Non-Resident Fellow at the Quincy Institute. He co-directs the “Memory and Reconciliation in the Asia-Pacific” project of the Sigur Center. Professor Mochizuki was Associate Dean for Academic Programs at the Elliott School from 2010 to 2014 and Director of the Sigur Center for Asian Studies from 2001 to 2005. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Harvard University. His recent books include Memory, Identity, and "Commemorations of World War II: Anniversary Politics in Asia Pacific" (co-editor and co-author, 2018) and "Energy Security in Asia and Eurasia"(co-editor and co-author, 2017).

Yoshihide Soeya

Yoshihide Soeya is Professor Emeritus of Keio University, from which he retired in March 2020 after serving as professor of political science at the Faculty of Law for 32 years. He received a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1987, majoring in world politics. Previously, Dr. Soeya served the Korea-Japan Joint Research Project for the New Era (MOFA), the Council on Security and Defense Capabilities in the New Era (Prime Minister’s Office), the Advisory Group on Ministerial Evaluations (MOFA), and the “Central Council on Defense Facilities” (Agency/Ministry of Defense). His areas of interest are politics and security in East Asia, and Japanese diplomacy and its external relations. His recent publications in English include "The Strategic Options of Middle Powers in the Asia-Pacific "(London: Routledge, 2022), and "The Abe Legacy" (MD: Lexington Books, 2021).

Hitoshi Tanaka

Hitoshi Tanaka is the Special Advisor of the Institute for International Strategy at the Japan Research Institute, Ltd. (JRI—Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group), previously serving as chairman of the institute from 2010 to November 2022. He is also a senior fellow at the Japan Center for International Exchange (JCIE), a nongovernmental organization. Prior to joining JCIE in September 2005, he served for three years as Japan’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs where he was a top advisor to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on a broad range of issues, including relations with North Korea, China, Russia and the United States. As one of the main intellectual architects of Japan’s foreign policy, he has been a key actor in shaping Japan’s approach to East Asia.

Kuniko Ashizawa

Kuniko Ashizawa teaches international relations at the School of International Service, American University, and at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University. Her research interests include Japan’s foreign policy, regional institution-building in Asia, and global governance. Her book, "Japan, the U.S. and Regional Institution-Building in the New Asia: When Identity Matters" (Palgrave McMillan, 2013), received the 2015 Masayoshi Ohira Memorial Prize. She received her PhD in international relations at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.

Michael Swaine (Moderator)

Michael D. Swaine, a Senior Research Fellow at QI’s East Asia program, is one of the most prominent American scholars of Chinese security studies. He comes to QI from Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where he worked for nearly twenty years as a senior fellow specializing in Chinese defense and foreign policy, U.S.-China relations, and East Asian international relations. Swaine served as a senior policy analyst at the RAND Corporation. Swaine has authored and edited more than a dozen books and monographs, including "Remaining Aligned on the Challenges Facing Taiwan" (with Ryo Sahashi; 2019), "Conflict and Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region: A Strategic Net Assessment"(with Nicholas Eberstadt et al; 2015), and many journal articles and book chapters.