Pacific Currents: The Responses of U.S. Allies and Security Partners in East Asia to China's Rise

Pacific Currents: The Responses of U.S. Allies and Security Partners in East Asia to China's Rise

Pacific Currents: The Responses of U.S. Allies and Security Partners in East Asia to China's Rise

Pacific Currents: The Responses of U.S. Allies and Security Partners in East Asia to China's Rise


China&'s economic, military, and diplomatic power has been on the rise, and many worry that it is nudging aside U.S. influence in the Asia-Pacific region. To explore this issue, the authors examined six specific U.S. allies and partners—Australia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand. From extensive in-country interviews, trade and poll data, etc., they examined the responses in each nation to China&'s rise and assessed the implications for U.S. regional security interests. The six nations see China primarily as a source of economic opportunity, but many have concerns about China&'s regional goals. They want China to be engaged regionally in productive ways yet do not want it to become dominant. They find U.S. security commitments reassuring, bolstering their ability to engage China with confidence. The six nations clearly want U.S. involvement in the region to continue—but sometimes only in certain ways, at certain times, and on particular issues. Thus, the six nations are pulling China closer for the economic opportunities it offers and the United States closer for the general reassurance its long-standing power and influence provide.


The rise of the People’s Republic of China in Asian economic and security affairs is one of the most consequential developments in the 21st century. China’s regional power and influence are growing at the very time that U.S. strategic equities in Asia are increasing. China’s rise raises the prospect of intensifying security competition in East Asia both between the United States and China and between China and Japan. These developments have prompted some American and Asian commentators to question whether China will eventually displace the United States as the predominant power in East Asia by gradually chipping away at the foundation of the U.S. network of defense alliances and security partnerships in the region.

To address these potential challenges, this book analyzes how U.S. allies and major security partners have responded to the rise of China in the last decade in their domestic political, economic, diplomatic, and military policymaking. This book assesses the reactions of the five U.S. defense allies in Asia plus Singapore. Documenting and assessing these responses are critical for U.S. policymakers and military planners for several reasons. First, China is the big, new, and uncertain variable affecting the foreign policies and, in some cases, the domestic affairs of countries throughout East Asia. Second, understanding whether and how China’s rise will alter the content or operation of U.S. relationships in the region will help the United States maintain a robust network of alliances and security partnerships. Third, limited systematic research on East Asian responses to China has been done to date.

This document is directly relevant to policymakers and military planners who are focused on ensuring that the United States maintains maximum access to the region and maximum freedom of maneuver in conducting U.S. diplomacy and military affairs. This book’s results will help policymakers and defense planners calibrate the tone and substance of U.S. regional diplomacy and military policies to ensure that U.S. alliances and security partnerships remain highly effective in shaping the strategic landscape in East Asia as China’s regional power and influence grow.

This book is part of a substantial and growing body of rand Corporation research—now spanning a decade—that examines the changing regional security environment in Asia and, specifically, China’s improving diplomatic and military capabilities. Recent rand Project air force work on Asia includes the following:

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