Against the backdrop of a rising China and the U.S. “rebalance,” security frictions have been on the rise in the Asia
Pacic over the last few years.
An important reason for the current tensions is that countries deviate in threat perception.
The gap between actual and
perceived threat is usually the result of underestimation, over-estimation, and/or misjudgment. Overestimation and misjudg-ment factor into China’s past perception of threats from the USSR, and in its current percep-tion of threats from the United States and Japan. Inaccurate threat perceptions can have serious consequences on state-to-state relations by either aggra-vating differences and frictions and creating hidden dangers or by pointlessly causing tension and confrontation. The basic requirement for reducing the
gap between actual threat and
perceived threat is to have an
objective and scientic method
for making judgments. This should include a comprehensive
assessment as well as qualita
-tive and quantitative analyses, and an empathy that enables one to assess the other party’s behaviors and motivations.
Stockholm China Forum
The Gap between Threat and Threat
Perception in the Asia-Pacifc
By Zhang Tuosheng
1744 R Street NW Washington, DC 20009 1 202 683 2650 F 1 202 265 1662 E email@example.com
Against the backdrop o a rising China and the U.S. “rebalance,” security ric-tions have been on the rise in the Asia Paciﬁc over the last ew years. Some analysts and policymakers liken Asia now to pre-World War I Europe. Tis is a rather specious view. oday’s Asia is hugely diﬀerent rom the Europe o 100 years ago. oday’s China-Japan relations are markedly diﬀerent rom those between Germany and France then, and today’s world is undamen-tally diﬀerent. So what is the problem? In my view, an important reason or the current tensions is that countries deviate in threat perception. I these deviations are not addressed, they may well lead to conﬂict or war.While security threats caused by diﬀerent geopolitical interests exist objectively, the perception o threat is a subjective exercise, ormed on the basis o a comprehensive assessment o the diﬀerences between sel-interest and the capabilities, motives, and will o another. When threat perception is accurate, security policies tend to be both correct and easible, and thus conducive to serving national security interests. On the other hand, when there is a gap between perceived threat and objective threat, the biased secu-rity policies that result harm national interests and external relations.Te gap between actual and perceived threat is usually the result o under-estimation, overestimation, and/or misjudgment. In today’s Asia Paciﬁc — and in East Asia in particular — over-estimation or misjudgment o threats are among the miscalculations most commonly seen. I see six reasons or this.• Te ﬁrst is serious shortage o mutual trust between the countries concerned. • Te second is the lack o adequate accurate inormation and intel-ligence about the other parties, which is related to the low level o transparency. • Tird, some countries still have a Cold War mentality and preer to over-state threats and prepare or worst scenarios in order to ensure their own security. • Fourth, some countries also exag-gerate threats in order to excuse armament expansion. • Fifh, the lack o an eﬀective crisis management mechanism leads to outbreak and escalation o crises, which uel the sense o threat.