In “Racing toward Tragedy? China's Rise, Military Competition in the Asia Pacific, and the Security Dilemma,” Adam Liff and John Ikenberry claim that “a number of recent developments suggest that the region is ripe for, or may already be experiencing, severe security dilemma-driven dynamics, even arms races.”1 They portray China's rise as the main cause of this dilemma and assert that states must adopt measures to reduce military competition in the region while they still can.

I applaud Liff and Ikenberry for the policy relevance of their research, but their fundamental claim about the prevalence of severe military competition in the Asia Pacific region does not match the empirical reality. The real puzzle is why over the last thirty years Asian countries have shown a surprising lack of interest in boosting their...

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