The New Asian Rivalry

Rivals by Bill Emmott (Harcourt, 2008)

NEW YORK, June 17, 2008 – In an evening discussion of his new book Rivals: How the Power Struggle Between China, India, and Japan Will Shape Our Next Decade, Bill Emmott, former editor-in-chief of the Economist, described the competition for influence, markets, and resources that will frame the future relationship between India, China, and Japan. Emmott's overall optimism is combined with caution over potentially destabilizing "flashpoints." Adam Segal, Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow in China Studies, moderated the talk.

Emmott noted that Japan has a "naturally defensive" outlook as an established economic power facing the rise of two regional powers. A "reluctant" public and "divided" corporate support have hindered the Japanese government's preparation for future security concerns. While Japan values improved ties with India, its interaction with India beyond development assistance has been relatively weak. Meanwhile, China's desire for the freedom to advance its interests reflects its growing needs and capabilities. While admitting that uncertainty over China's ambition represents the biggest threat to India and Japan, Emmott rejected a comparison between Japan's past imperial expansion and China's future ambitions. Whereas Japan's lack of access to natural resources motivated military expansion, the openness of markets and increasing commercial cooperation make the use of force unnecessary for China. India, on the other hand, also has strong regional and global ambitions but is limited by weak infrastructure that lags "fifteen years behind" China's.

India's expansion of its navy and air force indicates preparation for expanded regional influence. While Indian and Chinese competition for resources will be a source of economic tension, Emmott saw no indication of a lapse into violence unless access to those resources becomes severely constrained in the future. Offering advice to the new US administration, he suggested that the United States continue its policy of rapprochement with India and reestablish a clear communicative relationship with China without offending Japan.

Reported by Steven Pong