Intimate Rivals

Japanese Domestic Politics and a Rising China

Sheila A. Smith

Columbia University Press

Intimate Rivals

Google Preview

Pub Date: June 2016

ISBN: 9780231167895

384 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $28.00£24.00

Pub Date: April 2015

ISBN: 9780231167888

384 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $45.00£38.00

Pub Date: April 2015

ISBN: 9780231538022

384 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $27.99£24.00

Intimate Rivals

Japanese Domestic Politics and a Rising China

Sheila A. Smith

Columbia University Press

No country feels China's rise more deeply than Japan. Through intricate case studies of visits by Japanese politicians to the Yasukuni Shrine, conflicts over the boundaries of economic zones in the East China Sea, concerns about food safety, and strategies of island defense, Sheila A. Smith explores the policy issues testing the Japanese government as it tries to navigate its relationship with an advancing China.

Smith finds that Japan's interactions with China extend far beyond the negotiations between diplomats and include a broad array of social actors intent on influencing the Sino-Japanese relationship. Some of the tensions complicating Japan's encounters with China, such as those surrounding the Yasukuni Shrine or territorial disputes, have deep roots in the postwar era, and political advocates seeking a stronger Japanese state organize themselves around these causes. Other tensions manifest themselves during the institutional and regulatory reform of maritime boundary and food safety issues.

Smith scrutinizes the role of the Japanese government in coping with contention as China's influence grows and Japanese citizens demand more protection. Underlying the government's efforts is Japan's insecurity about its own capacity for change and its waning status as the leading economy in Asia. For many, China's rise means Japan's decline, and Smith suggests how Japan can maintain its regional and global clout as confidence in its postwar diplomatic and security approach diminishes.

Authoritative and comprehensive. In an era of preoccupation with China's rise, scholars and policymakers are paying insufficient attention to the strategic decisions of those on China's periphery—decisions that will determine the nature of power transitions and whether they are peaceful or not. None is more important than China's historic maritime rival in Asia: Japan.

Michael J. Green, Georgetown University

This book by one of America's leading analysts of Japan's foreign relations is essential reading for anyone interested in Sino-Japanese relations and the impact of domestic political forces on foreign policy.

Thomas J. Christensen, Princeton University

In this study, Sheila A. Smith has availed herself of a massive number of documents and interview surveys and has traced concisely and persuasively the course whereby Japan has been compelled toward the reform of its conservative political system and its security arrangements, which were established with a view to maintaining Japan's position as a leader in Asia. This work suggests that the Japanese experience with China might serve as a lesson for other countries, the United States included, and is an essential read for those interested in the reconstitution of the East Asian order in light of the rise of China.

Ryosei Kokubun, president, National Defense Academy of Japan

Beautifully written and saturated with insights, Intimate Rivals is a scholarly and policy-relevant study of one of the most complex relationships in international relations today.

Victor D. Cha, Georgetown University, and former director for Asian affairs, National Security Council

This well-informed study explains, with admirable clarity, the increasingly involved and complex attitudes in Japanese domestic politics regarding China... A fine-grained analysis...Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly

Intimate Rivals gives needed context to Japan and China's volatile relationship.

Japan Times

A strong academic work that's accessible to the lay person... This book is essential reading for anyone interested in Sino-Japanese relations and their impact on Japan.

South China Morning Post


South China Morning Post Opinion

Intimate Rivals contains much sophisticated analysis and wisdom.


Impressively erudite and scrupulously researched... For those interested in the future of the region, U.S. foreign policy, or a deep examination of the power and limits of diplomacy, this book won't disappoint. A thorough account of a political dynamic that reverberates globally.

Kirkus Reviews

Among books on Japan's national security, Smith's Intimate Rivals stands out in its case selection, rich and vivid case description, a keen insight into Sino-Japan relations, and Japan's national security policy with a focus on the nexus between diplomacy and domestic interests.

International Relations of the Asia Pacific

Authoritative and comprehensive.

Foreign Policy Interrupted

A definitive book on how Japan's contemporary domestic politics affects its China policy, which is also indispensable for understanding East Asian international relations at a critical historical moment.

Ming Wan, Political Science Quarterly

A rich vein of information that will interest students, policymakers and the general public. Intimate Rivals is a timely volume and a welcome addition to the expanding literature on Sino-Japanese relations.

China Information

Carefully researched.... A valuable contribution.

Pacific Affairs
1. Contending with China
2. Diplomacy and Domestic Interests
3. Japan's Imperial Veterans
4. A Shared Maritime Boundary
5. Food Safety
6. Island Defense

Read the chapter, "Contending with China":

Sheila Smith -- Japan-China Relations: Three Things to Know:

One of Foreign Policy Interrupted's Best Books of 2015

About the Author

Sheila A. Smith is senior fellow for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). She lives in Washington, D.C.