- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Conference Focuses on U.S., Japan, and Rise of China 

| Summer 2017

A group of top-level American and Japanese academics and officials gathered for a Belfer Center conference in March to discuss the U.S.-Japan alliance and the rise of China. Moderated by Center Executive Director for Research Gary Samore, the event included participating scholars from Harvard and other area universities, the U.S. Naval War College, Consul General Rokuichiro Michii, and other members of the Japanese Consulate in Boston.

Belfer Center Director Graham Allison discussed the rise of China and the danger of “Thucydides’s Trap,” a concept that describes the inevitable structural stress that occurs in international relations when a rising power challenges a ruling power.

Keynote speaker Seiichiro Takagi, Senior Research Advisor at The Japan Institute of International Affairs, provided the core of the discussion. He expressed confidence that Thucydides’s Trap can be avoided, but warned that Japan must help maintain the global rules -based order in the face of China’s rise.

Takagi argued that today’s negative China-Japan relations are primarily the result of increasingly assertive foreign policy behavior and protectionist attitudes by the Chinese government.

“A U.S.-China war can be avoided. But is avoiding war enough?...As far as I’m concerned the real question is not whether a power transition takes place, but what kind of international order will result,” Takagi said.

Panelists Joseph Nye, Taylor Fravel, and Toshi Yoshihara provided a lively discussion of how the rise of China can be managed with the help of the U.S.-Japan alliance.

Nye discussed the importance of managing fear, perception, and misperception in handling China’s rise. Fravel described the U.S.-Japan alliance as a strong deterrent to Chinese aggression, and suggested helping Japan build its own defenses, especially coast guard forces.

Yoshihara noted that geography makes Japan central to U.S. strategic interests, and suggested the U.S. do more to enable Japan’s self-defense capabilities.

For more information on this publication: Please contact the Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:

"Conference Focuses on U.S., Japan, and Rise of China." Belfer Center Newsletter, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School (Summer 2017).


Gary Samore

Graham Allison

Joseph S. Nye