In times of lowered tensions or when it so wishes, Beijing could announce it is easing restrictions in its ADIZ, all in an effort to show it is pursuing a so-called “restrained” approach. Or it could offer to ease restrictions as part of a bilateral negotiation with Japan — say limiting its ADIZ to just military and not civilian aircraft. But as time passes, and as China’s military prowess increases, it can slowly (if it so chooses), enforce the zone with greater confidence — if accurate, a very smart strategy indeed. In fact, China loses nothing with declaring an ADIZ it may have difficulty enforcing and looks strong, while Japan, South Korea and the United States all scramble to react and look weak — as many perceived was as the case in late 2013.
And this would all have repercussions in the South China Sea. Beijing could take this same approach, declaring an ADIZ in the months or years to come, using the same playbook as described above. Indeed, with China building islands in the South China Sea — with new airfields being a big part of this approach along with radar sites and anti-aircraft batteries — Beijing may already be on its way towards implementing such an approach.