July 12: The New Imperial China: A US-Japanese Strategic Response

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July 12, 2011: Masako Ikegami

(Click to enlarge) Dr. Masako Ikegami, a Japanese Abe Fellow from Stockholm University, gives her views on a new Chinese imperialism at the East-West Center in Washington.

The New Imperial China: A US-Japanese Strategic Response

WASHINGTON, DC (July 20, 2011) -- Asia is volatile; an epicenter of insecurity in terms of risks of armed conflicts, failing states possessing weapons of mass destruction, proliferation of WMD technology, clandestine arms transfers, and human and drug trafficking. Understanding the nature of a rising China in this volatile environment is critical. Dr. Masako Ikegami argues that China’s strategy toward strategically important countries with rich natural resources, such as North Korea and Myanmar/Burma, parallels Imperial Japan’s strategy toward Manchuria in the 1930s.

To understand how China is pursuing its strategic interests Dr. Ikegami introduced what she called the ‘quasi-Manchukuo model’ which consists of three phases. The first is characterized by China’s large-scale economic investment in a country. The second is the deployment of forces to protect its vast economic interests. And the final phase is the political absorption and annexation of that country through a puppet government. In Dr. Ikegami’s view, such acts make China a new imperial power, which inevitably challenges the hegemony of the United States. Using this model, she compared China’s engagement with various Asian countries including Pakistan, Mongolia, Myanmar/Burma, and North Korea.

Remarkably, China today shows many similarities to Japan in the 1930s. For example, Dr. Ikegami cited the coercive authoritarian nature of the two governments, the periods of high economic growth and militarization, as well as economies dominated by government-related business entities. Finally, to characterize China’s imperialism, Dr. Ikegami stated that China’s military espoused the concept of a “strategic frontier” which allowed for the expanding of China’s influence past its borders. She explained that this made the Asian region even more conflict-prone, and against this background, the significance of the U.S.-Japan alliance is greater than ever. She argued for a paradigm shift in the alliance, the deepening of strategic planning, and the reallocation of defense resources.

Masako Ikegamiwas an Abe Fellow at the East-West Center in Washington DC in the summer of 2011. She is a professor at the Department of Political Science, and formerly Director (2001-08) of the Center for Pacific Asia Studies (CPAS), Stockholm University. She holds Doctor of Sociology from the University of Tokyo (1996), and Ph.D. in peace and conflict research from Uppsala University (1998). Her research has focused on a variety of issues, ranging from empirical analysis of defence R&D and production, defence policy-making process, arms control & disarmament to East Asian regional security and confidence building measures. She has published two monographs, e.g. Military Technology and US-Japan Security Relations, and dozens of books chapters and articles such as ‘Japan’ in R. Singh (ed.) Arms Procurement Decision Making, Vol. 1, SIPRI (Oxford University Press 1998), and ‘China’s grand strategy of ‘peaceful rise’: a prelude to a new Cold War?’ in Hsiao & Lin (eds) The Rise of China (Routledge 2009). She is a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), London, a board member of the Swedish group of the Pugwash Conferences (Nobel Peace Prize 1995) on arms control & disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation, and was POSCO Fellow at the East-West Center in Honolulu in 2005. ###