Domestic politics and policy making toward China in East Asian countries

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This paper examines what kind of political, institutional arrangements and the behavior of political actors under these arrangements become the stabilizing or destabilizing factors of a country’s diplomatic balancing between the United States and China. Specifically, I describe the domestic politics of Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Singapore in terms of their responses to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) promoted by the Xi Jinping administration. The analysis reveals the following points. First, in all of these countries, the growing presence of China has increased the number of stakeholders in policymaking toward China, and domestic politics regarding policymaking toward China have become more contentious. Second, as a result, each country faces the risk of internalizing its foreign policy toward China, especially on issues related to sovereignty and domestic corruption, thereby destabilizing previously balanced diplomacy between the United States and China. Third, in dealing with such risks, countries with winner-takes-all presidential systems (e.g., South Korea and Indonesia) face difficulties in controlling the internalization of diplomacy, while countries with institutional frameworks that can control destabilizing factors, such as public opinion and corruption (e.g., Japan, Vietnam, and Singapore) are characterized by the relative ease with which they can maintain balanced diplomacy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)230-245
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Contemporary East Asia Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • East Asian countries
  • The belt and road initiative (BRI)
  • domestic politics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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