Journal of Northeast Asian Studies

, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 61–84 | Cite as

Power transition in Northeast Asia: U.S.-China security perceptions and the challenges of systemic adjustment and stability

  • William J. Murphy


This article argues that the rise of China and the changing North-east Asian balance of power are creating the classical adjustment problems of Great Power international relations historically associated with power transitions and that three types of misperceptions across five important issues in the Sino-American security relationship are interfering with the prospects of achieving the systemic adjustments required for long-term stability. Power transition and the rise of China are seen as potentially undermining stability in four ways: (1) by generating security dilemmas and arms races, (2) by contributing to increased incidence of conflicting security interests, (3) by aggravating South china Sea maritime disputes, and (4) by undermining Chinese domestic stability in a manner which potentially results in a hostile regime that adopts an aggressive foreign policy coming to power at some point in the future. Systemic adjustment is defined as the process by which major powers peacefully reconcile their opposing interests and is viewed as being an essential feature of stability over the long term. The article argues that three types of misperceptions concerning: (1) salient issues, (2) security interests, and (3) the influence of domestic politics on foreign policy are manifesting themselves in misunderstandings of five security issues that are impeding the systemic adjustment process. These five issues are: (1) the nature of post-cold war Sino-American security relations and international politics, (2) the role of democracy and U.S. human rights in foreign policy, (3) the significance of China’s South China Sea policy, (4) Middle East diplomacy and arms sales, and (5) nuclear weapons and arms control policy. The article concludes with a discussion of policy implications that stresses the importance of consultation and dialogue to reduce misperceptions.


Foreign Policy Power Transition Northeast Asian Study Major Power Systemic Adjustment 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • William J. Murphy
    • 1
  1. 1.the University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphia

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