In December 2022, Japan released its first national security strategy in nearly ten years. The document committed Tokyo to strengthening the U.S.-Japanese alliance “in all areas.” And Japan is not alone. Over the last half decade, almost all U.S. allies across the Indo-Pacific have deepened their partnerships with Washington and formed new networks with one another.
At first blush, this might seem puzzling. Chinese President Xi Jinping has voiced his desire for the United States to withdraw from the Indo-Pacific, and his government has upheld China’s long tradition of expressing hostility toward Washington’s alliances, which form the foundation of the U.S. presence in the region. Many analysts, including Rush Doshi and Elizabeth Economy, have argued that Beijing has a disciplined and coherent strategy to drive a wedge between the United States and its Indo-Pacific allies. But far from a well-executed campaign, Beijing’s effort to erode U.S. alliances has been incoherent and undisciplined, strengthening, rather than weakening, U.S. alliances in the region and producing an energized U.S.-led coalition poised to constrain Beijing for years to come.
Beijing’s ambition to isolate Washington from its Asian allies has been derailed in large part by its desire to redress more immediate grievances—namely, to reclaim what it sees as lost territory and punish countries that offend its sensibilities. Instead of staying focused on its long-term strategic objectives, China has grown preoccupied with achieving near-term tactical gains in both its territorial disputes with its neighbors and its quest for deference from other countries. These impulses have resulted in major strategic errors and suggest that Beijing is not nearly as adept at planning and executing long-term strategy as many believe.
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Andrew D. Taffer is a Research Fellow at the Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs at the National Defense University and an Associate with the Harvard Kennedy School’s International Security Program at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
David Wallsh is a Research Scientist in the Strategy, Policy, Plans, and Programs Division at the Center for Naval Analyses.
The views expressed are the authors own and do not reflect those of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.