The Gap between Threat and Threat Perception in the Asia-Pacific
Against the backdrop of a rising China and the U.S. “rebalance,” security frictions have been on the rise in the Asia Pacific 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, overestimation, and/or misjudgment. Overestimation and misjudgment factor into China’s past perception of threats from the USSR, and in its current perception of threats from the United States and Japan. Inaccurate threat perceptions can have serious consequences for state-to-state relations by either aggravating 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 scientific method for making judgments. This should include a comprehensive assessment as well as qualitative and quantitative analyses, and an empathy that enables one to assess the other party’s behaviors and motivations.