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Leadership and Japan’s China Policy: From Diplomacy to Grand Strategy

Prof. Dr. Giulio Pugliese, Oxford University

17.07.2024 12:30 Uhr – 14:00 Uhr

The rise of China has fueled the hopes and kindled the insecurities of many of its neighbors. This project engages with the wider implications of such a rise by examining Japan’s China policy, because Japan’s approach to China is symptomatic of region-wide trends, if not global ones. Understanding it offers a unique window into the complex interplay and links among economic, political, and security dynamics of the Asia-Pacific region. The Japanese government has responded to the structural change of the regional system -- centered on China’s re-emergence and US relative decline -- with strategies in line with the preferences of sitting premiers and their foreign policy entourage.

Through the adoption and enrichment of Neo-Classical Realism theory, this study marks the evolution of political leadership, or lack thereof, in post-war Japan’s China policy to find that the US and domestic veto players have traditionally constrained Tokyo’s diplomatic outlook. 21st Century Japan’s harsher security predicament and domestic transformations have instead empowered the prime minister. Upon Abe Shinzō’s comeback to power in 2012, the prime ministerial executive neutralized domestic and international veto players and towered over the decision-making machine. It did so to overhaul Japan’s security regime and to churn out a Grand Strategy across the diplomatic, information, military and economic domains (DIME) that allowed for strategic balance with China. In the process, Japan would turn into a quiet leader in world politics. From Tokyo’s creation of the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” strategic narrative to its embrace of economic security, the Japanese government has enlisted the United States and major liberal democracies in its China balancing agenda.

Dr. Giulio Pugliese is a Departmental Lecturer in Japanese Politics at the University of Oxford, a Part-time Professor on EU-Asia Studies at the European University Institute, and a Senior Fellow (Asia-Pacific) at the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI). An Italian citizen, he specializes in great power politics in the Asia-Pacific, focusing on Japan, China, and the United States. He has presented his work at numerous academic and Track 1.5 venues and has published articles and book chapters on academic, policy-oriented, and commercial themes in Europe, the US, and Japan. Dr. Pugliese earned his PhD from the University of Cambridge. He has held visiting scholar positions at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) in Tokyo, Oxford University (St. Antony’s College), George Washington University in Washington DC, and the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University, where he also completed his MA in International Economics and East Asian Studies (with Honors and Distinction). He serves on the editorial and advisory boards of The International Spectator, Asia Major, Japan Review, and the book series Sicurezza e Politica Internazionale.

The event will take place in hybrid form

Location: LMU Japan-Center, Oettingenstraße 67, Room L155

Participation in the lecture on the Zoom meeting (no registration required):


Meeting-ID: 627 3042 1828, Kenncode: 329722