20 May 2020

Dragon Against the Sun: Chinese Views of Japanese Seapower

As one might expect from Dr. Yoshihara, this is a superb analysis of a vital yet under-researched topic. Its compelling arguments are well supported with a panoply of important Chinese publications, together with references to landmark Japanese works. In an era in which Chinese-language sources are increasingly prized but not always contextualized and curated effectively for a non-specialist audience, Dr. Yoshihara explicates and follows transparently a rigorous methodology that correctly acknowledges the respective provenance and related biases and limitations of sources. In doing so, he generously recognizes the pioneering efforts of the Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute, which in fact include his own previous contributions as an affiliated member of the faculty. A carefully-chosen set of illuminating figures offers useful supplementation. If you weren’t able to read Dr. Yoshihara’s analysis last night, as I did, allow me to suggest that it deserves a place at the top of your reading list!

Toshi Yoshihara, Dragon Against the Sun: Chinese Views of Japanese Seapower (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic & Budgetary Assessments, 19 May 2020).

Over the past decade, the Chinese navy overtook Japan’s maritime service in critical measures of power, including fleet size, aggregate tonnage, and firepower. China eclipsing Japan in naval power could introduce unwelcome strategic trends. It may well fuel an even more intense competition between Tokyo and Beijing, two seafaring rivals that already regard each other with deep suspicion. Japan’s displacement at sea could increase the probability of deterrence failure in the next crisis. It threatens to undercut U.S. confidence in Japan’s capacity to fulfill its allied responsibilities, sowing acrimony within the security partnership.

In Dragon Against the Sun: Chinese Views of Japanese Seapower, Senior Fellow Toshi Yoshihara assesses how Chinese strategists perceive the shift in the Sino-Japanese naval balance. The study finds that Beijing anticipates an intensifying naval rivalry with Tokyo in the coming years. The report further finds that the prospects of naval superiority will persuade Chinese statesmen and commanders to adopt an offensive strategy in a local maritime conflict against Japan. Yoshihara shows that the local naval imbalance, if left unaddressed, will strain the U.S.-Japan alliance and destabilize Asia. The study urges Washington and Tokyo to recognize the Chinese challenge, act swiftly, and restore the naval balance.


CSBA is an independent, nonpartisan policy research institute established to promote innovative thinking and debate about national security strategy and investment options. CSBA’s assessments focus on key questions related to existing and emerging threats to U.S. national security, and its goal is to enable policymakers to make informed decisions on matters of strategy, security policy, and resource allocation.

Media Contact: William Bodie, 202-719-1358


In addition to being deeply missed by his many friends and colleagues in Newport… Toshi has a very impressive bio–

Toshi Yoshihara, Senior Fellow, CSBA

Before joining CSBA, Toshi Yoshihara held the John A. van Beuren Chair of Asia-Pacific Studies at the U.S. Naval War College where he taught strategy for over a decade. He was also an affiliate member of the China Maritime Studies Institute at the war college. Dr. Yoshihara has been a visiting professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University since 2012. He has also taught as a visiting professor at the School of Global Policy and Strategy, University of California, San Diego and as a visiting professor in the Strategy Department at the U.S. Air War College. He has served as a research analyst at the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, RAND, and the American Enterprise Institute.

Dr. Yoshihara has testified before the Defense Policy Board, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. He is the recipient of the Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award in recognition of his scholarship on maritime and strategic affairs at the Naval War College.

He is co-author of Red Star over the Pacific: China’s Rise and the Challenge to U.S. Maritime Strategy (Naval Institute Press, 2010), which has been listed on the Chief of Naval Operation’s Professional Reading Program since 2012. Translations of Red Star over the Pacific have been published in China, Germany, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.

He has also co-authored Indian Naval Strategy in the Twenty-first Century (Routledge, 2009) and Chinese Naval Strategy in the Twenty-first Century: The Turn to Mahan (Routledge, 2008). He is co-editor of Strategy in the Second Nuclear Age: Power, Ambition, and the Ultimate Weapon (Georgetown University Press, 2012) and Asia Looks Seaward: Power and Maritime Strategy (Praeger, 2008). His articles on Chinese seapower, maritime strategy, and Asian security issues have appeared in Journal of Strategic StudiesAsian SecurityWashington QuarterlyOrbisWorld AffairsComparative StrategyStrategic AnalysisJournal of the Indian Ocean Region, and Naval War College Review. The Naval War College Review awarded him the Hugh G. Nott Prize for best article of 2010.

He holds a Ph.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, an M.A. from the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, and a B.S.F.S. from the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University.


Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University

School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University

School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University