What explains the commonality and variations of Asia-Paciﬁc (hereafter ‘Asian’) states’ responses to the US rebalancing strategy now under way? Each Asian state has its own tradition of foreign policy and historical relationship with the global superpower on the other side of the Paciﬁc. Acknowledging the risk of oversimpliﬁcation, this chapter oﬀers an explanation of Asian states’ adaptations to the US ‘rebalancing to Asia’ strategy by focusing on key factors that drew particular attention in the previous chapters. Although their expressions and emphases vary, the contributors to this volume have discussed how their countries balanced the risk of being abandoned by the United States with the risk of being entrapped in a conﬂict with China, while also balancing the risk of emboldening China with the risk of provoking the country. In other words, Asian states have adapted their response to the US rebalancing to cope with what Glenn Snyder (1984, 1997) called the ‘composite security dilemma’. The concept originally concerned alliance politics, but it is also useful for analysing more loosely aligned partners. The composite security dilemma concerns two closely interconnected rela-
tionships: between cooperation partners and between adversaries.1 In this volume’s context, an Asian state can support US rebalancing to reduce the risk of abandonment by the United States and to deter China, but such a move provokes China and increases the risk of entrapment into a political, economic and military conﬂict with China.2 An Asian state can alternatively withhold support for US rebalancing to reduce tension and the risk of entrapment, but the move encourages China to demand more and alienates the United States. There is a trade-oﬀ to be made, and the actual policies of Asian states have been neither a total embrace nor a complete rejection of the US strategy. A good relationship with the United States has been valuable to many
states regardless of China, but the rapid expansion of China’s military and economic power has intensiﬁed the Asian states’ fear of abandonment and entrapment by the United States. China’s increasing military power has aroused particular concern in the region and made the possibility of abandonment more consequential. The military ‘rise of China’ is exempliﬁed by the country’s defence spending. For example, China’s oﬃcial defence budget
in 2013, which is considered to be signiﬁcantly lower than its true spending level, was larger than those of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam combined (IISS 2014). While the United States still maintains an edge in military power and technologies (Beckley 2011), many perceive a shift in the relative capabilities of the United States and China. Meanwhile, the increased importance of the Chinese economy – now the
second largest in the world – has made friction with China very costly. In comparison, in 1995 and 1996, at the time of the third Taiwan Strait crisis, China’s gross domestic product was only eighth and seventh in the world, respectively (World Bank 2014). Strong economic interdependence, which one observer calls ‘mutual assured production’ (Katz 2013), has developed between China and many states, although China’s dependence on smaller economies may be minor. A military conﬂict involving China will signiﬁcantly disrupt the global economy. Moreover, given China’s suspicion of American motives, mere support for US (military) rebalancing means antagonizing China, thereby causing economic problems.