CJS Research Webinar – Asia-Pacific Tensions: Japan, China and the Taiwan flashpoint, military capabilities, deterrence – Ways to conceptualize and measure them

Thursday 27 October
13:00-14:00 BST
SCVA 01.10, UEA and online via Zoom (in-person and online attendance available)

About the Talk

Can East Asian flashpoints lead towards a major international conflict? “Predictions are hard, especially about the future”, at least according to the preeminent sage Yogi Berra. However, understanding past and present patterns of escalation and deterrence might help us conceptualize escalation potentials of current antagonisms.

We might accomplish that by looking at an ongoing issue that has yet to escalate to the level of military conflict: the Senkaku/Diaoyu island dispute between the People’s Republic of China and Japan. Starting from a basic assumption that the PRC has incentives, and at least theoretically sufficient military capabilities to take the islands, one might ponder why Beijing has refrained from the use of military power. A first-hand set of responses would either point towards the US security guarantee, or the disincentivizing factor of international trade and potential sanction regimes. However, by a closer look at available strategic discourse, we can identify multiple competing hypotheses. Using the method of “Explicit Bayesian Process Tracing”, we can express the probability ratio of competing hypotheses and through a more careful case study of the issue, we might be able to update our prior beliefs to a posterior set of probabilities. If we take into account the relevant tactical and theatre level naval power projection capabilities of Chinese, Japanese and forward deployed US forces, we might come to the conclusion, that “deterrence by denial” based on Japanese and allied defence capabilities might have played a more significant role, than economic interdependence, or “deterrence-by-punishment” by the US security guarantee.

While there are important differences between a small island dispute and the issue of Taiwan unification, understanding the role of “limited deterrence” based on operational, theatre level deterrence-by-denial, we can better conceptualize probable cost-benefit calculations for a theoretical Taiwan invasion contingency. This lecture argues that a measurement of the balance of power expressed in the ratios of naval firepower can tell us a lot about the escalation potential of such flashpoints

About the Speaker

András Bartók is assistant lecturer at the University of Public Service (Hungary), Faculty of Public Governance and International Studies, Department of International Relations and Diplomacy and a PhD Candidate of the University’s Doctoral School of Military Studies.

He has a BA East Asian Studies and MA in Japanese Studies from Károli University (Hungary). He is also a Sasakawa Young Leaders Fund Fellow at the Hungarian Institute of World Economics, Centre for Economic and Regional Studies. His research interests cover East Asian Studies, Security and Strategic Studies, National Security and Defense Policies of Northeast Asian countries. Previous and ongoing research projects have aimed to outline the role of maritime territorial disputes in the region, changing military capabilities of regional and extra-regional actors as well as evolving strategic perceptions and concepts of Japan, China, and Taiwan.

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