At a recent conference organized by the Policy Alternatives Research Unit of the University of Tokyo, most participants shared the view that the state of relations in East Asia is unsettled and somewhat tense. This has many causes.

The most important is the shift of wealth, power and influence from the West to key players among the rest. The China-U.S. relationship is the most important geopolitical dynamic of our time. Its primary characteristic is strategic distrust based on competing long-term intentions, albeit alongside many shared interests such as maintaining the health of the global climate. Can Washington be persuaded to cede reasonable strategic space to Beijing?

China will vigorously contest any U.S. effort to assert indefinite dominance in East Asia, with potentially grave risks involved in such a clash of wills between the relatively rising and declining powers.