Relations among China, the United States, and Japan constitute some of the most complicated and dynamic relations in the contemporary era. Since the end of the second half of the twentieth century, all three nations, which were not in favor of regional multilateralism, have changed their strategy and have actively engaged in regional Asia-Pacific institutions. This research attempts to integrate realist discourse on the balance of power and liberal analysis of institutions to look at the China–U.S.–Japan interactions within regional institutions. This study explores why China, the United States, and Japan have increased their cooperative interaction in regional institutions in the Asia-Pacific region, despite having divergent interests and different visions of the future regional power structure.
By searching and analyzing archives documenting China–U.S.–Japan regional policies and policies directed at regional institutions and observing in detail China– U.S.–Japan interactions within Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), this dissertation argues that institutional balancing provides a framework that helps identify countries’ overlooked intention to check and balance targeted powers in regional institutions. Regional institutions not only provide an opportunity for participant countries to discover and address common interests but also provide an opportunity for participant countries to lobby for their own interests and to balance the gains and influences of the other powers. This dissertation explores conditions under which institutional balancing is an optimal choice for countries and notes key methods: controlling membership; shaping institutional norms, rules, and mechanisms; and pursuing balanced alliances that have been practiced by China, the United States, and Japan in regional institutions in the Asia-Pacific region.