McGregor takes a fresh look at the defining triangle of East Asian power politics, which links China, Japan, and the United States. Having served as a correspondent in all three capitals, he has a sharp eye for personalities and policy factions, as well as a firm grasp of geopolitics. His fascinating narrative of the three countries’ relations over 50 years is filled with fresh anecdotes drawn from interviews and newly released archival documents. From the outside, the shape of the relationships appears fixed, with Tokyo and Washington lined up firmly against Beijing. But McGregor’s close analysis reveals a constant fluidity. Flinty realism has usually driven trilateral diplomacy, but in McGregor’s view, no factor has done more to sustain the shape of the triangle than Japan’s inability to allay Chinese resentment over the depredations of the 1930s and 1940s. At a moment when U.S. President Donald Trump is challenging the U.S. relationship with both Asian powers, McGregor warns that a breakdown in the U.S.-Japanese alliance could lead to a three-way free-for-all that would force Japan to develop nuclear weapons.
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.