Japanese are debating foreign policy — in The American Interest, a conservative magazine (and website) that explores U.S. foreign policy and international affairs. “YA,” an anonymous “Japanese government official,” and Toshihiro Nakayama, a professor at Keio University and one of Japan’s best America watchers, are assessing the Trump administration’s China policy. It is an important conversation, with potentially real consequences — although not necessarily the ones the authors intended.

The debate over “the virtue of a confrontational China policy” boils down to the proposition that “Asian elites increasingly calculate that Trump’s unpredictable and transactional approach is a lesser evil compared to the danger of the United States going back to cajoling China to be a ‘responsible stakeholder.’” YA argues that most of Japan’s China experts think the belief that their country should be the dominant power in Asia is embedded in Chinese DNA and there is no deterring the nation from that ambition. If true, then the Obama administration was deluded when it sought to shape China “into a more liberal actor that would share the U.S. burden of underwriting the existing international order.”

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