The People’s Republic of China seeks a geopolitical role in line with its already global economic influence. President Xi Jinping addressed this issue when he outlined a “New Asian Security Concept” at an international summit conference in Shanghai in May 2014: “In the final analysis, it is for the people of Asia to run the affairs of Asia, solve the problems of Asia and uphold the security of Asia.” The architecture of such a security arrangement remains unspecified, but the PRC leadership increasingly speaks and acts in ways that suggest that it envisions China becoming the unchallenged hegemonic power in Asia. China’s ambition in the early 21st century recalls the Japanese quest for regional hegemony in the early 20th century, when Japan had the most powerful Asian economy and sought to dominate its neighbors. The question is whether this Japanese experience bears comparison with words and actions currently emanating from Beijing. This course examines the rise of Japan and the rise of China, each within its contemporary global context, in order to compare China’s “New Asian Security Concept” with Japan’s earlier pursuit of regional hegemony that culminated in the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.” Such examination must go beyond the rhetoric to compare such things as (1) global conditions, (2) international relations between the would-be hegemon and other powers, (3) domestic factors, (4) military ambitions, and (5) nationalist ideologies or visions.
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J. Casey Hammond