Asian Nations Reaffirm Basic Recognition of China As the “Villain”
The 13th annual Asia Security Conference in Singapore May 30-June 1 was epoch-making in that Japan got strong support while harsh criticism and opposition focused on China over its recent behavior in the East and South China Seas.
The conference, also known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, warmly applauded Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who, in a keynote address, referred to “the rule of law” a dozen times in explaining his “active pacifism” policy. Noting that the Japanese government is solidifying the legal foundation required for the exercise of its right to collective self-defense, Abe stated Japan’s intent to more dynamically implement cooperation with the international community in such areas as United Nations peace-keeping operations.
Abe was also met with applause when he answered a question following his address from a member of the Chinese armed forces, notes Abe’s Special Advisor Koichi Hagyuda, who quoted the questioner as asking: “You visited Yasukuni Shrine at the end of last year. What is your posture towards the Chinese and Koreans killed by the Japanese army during the war?”
Hagyuda says Abe replied he has sincerely reflected on the last world war, and that he believes it is “a common posture among world leaders to hold their hands in prayer for the repose of the souls of those who fought and died to defend their own countries. Japan will continue to follow the path of a peaceful country. This I wish to declare as my pledge in front of you all today.”
Isn’t the unexpected applause given Abe’s answer an indication that China, South Korea, and North Korea may be the only countries that regard his visit to Yasukuni as unquestionable proof of Japan’s pursuit of militarism and hegemony? It would be correct to assume that the rest of the world knows it is China that is disrupting relations between Tokyo and Beijing, and that Japan’s perception of history that Beijing takes issue with largely reflects its own deliberate political considerations.
In point of fact, the atmosphere of the three-day conference sponsored by London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) was very harsh towards China. In contrast to Abe, who avoided any direct criticism of China, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, who spoke one day after Abe, was pointed in his condemnation. Speaking of China’s blatant acts of brutality in the East and South East China Seas, including its unilateral establishment of an air defense identification zone, Hagel strongly chided Beijing, stressing that the US “firmly opposes any nation’s use of intimidation, coercion, or the threat of force (to assert territorial claims)” and “will not look the other way” when fundamental principles of the international order are being challenged.
China Must Abide By International Law
At this juncture, China is in the process of taking control of the Paracel Islands, the Macclesfield Bank and other banks and shoals in the Zhongsha Islands, and the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. It is drilling oil in the waters of the Paracel Islands, which it wrested from Vietnam in 1977, and has in the past two years been in effective control over Scarborough Shoal—the only shoal where construction of military facilities is deemed possible on the Zhongsha Islands. It is also forging ahead with a reclamation project on the Johnson South Reef of the Spratly Islands. When China completes these outposts in one fell swoop, the military balance of the region will change significantly, the South China Sea virtually falling into China’s hands.
It is a stark recognition of this reality that compels the ASEAN nations, as well as the US, to take urgent measures to enforce the rule of law and create a deterrence—the very reason why Abe’s active pacifism is welcomed as a factor contributing to regional peace and order.
China’s reaction to Abe and Hagel’s remarks was intriguing. This was particularly true of what the Chinese had to say about Abe, who had indicated Japan’s readiness to actively contribute to regional security—this in sharp contrast to Japan’s past foreign policy. Lieutenant General Wang Guanzhong, Deputy Chief of the General Staff Department of People’s Liberation Army (PLA), spoke on the last day, launching a denunciation of the US and Japan by putting aside a prepared statement in the middle of his presentation as if to say his patience was running short.
Wang’s prepared statement had included a reasonable proposal that Asia-Pacific nations, including Japan, agree to set basic rules aimed at safeguarding the security of the Asia-Pacific region. But his impromptu denunciations of Abe and Hagel were highly emotional. After hearing Abe and Hagel criticize Beijing, Wang must have had close consultations with—and been given authorization by—Beijing to go ahead with the denunciations of the two.
Wang accused Abe and Hagel of having “pre-coordinated” their speeches in order to pick off China, angrily declaring: “No matter whether or not he (Abe) named China, or how he tried to whitewash his speech, I believe the entire audience understood that he was targeting China.” A curious statement indeed—why doesn’t China simply honor international law if it detests being criticized that much? Next, comparing Abe and Hagel, Wang had this to say: “As for their different approaches and attitude, I would say I prefer those of Mr. Hagel. If you have something to say, say it directly…” However, I feel quite confident that China would have denounced practically everything Abe had to say, regardless of whether or not he might have referred to China directly.
Wang’s remarks were full of lies. Repeatedly stating that the US and Japan are pursuing dominance in the region through coercion and intimidation and that their rhetoric would usher in a period of destabilization, Wang brazenly declared: “China has never initiated disputes over territorial sovereignty or maritime boundaries.”
Among the many false assertions made by Wang, I must set the record straight by pointing out that the need for basic rules to prevent unintended conflicts was actually a proposal Japan made to China, to which it has failed to respond. One such crisis resulting from the lack of these rules was the May 24 incident in international air space over the East China Sea, in which Chinese fighters flew to within 30 meters of a Japan Air Self—Defense Force reconnaissance aircraft. Among Wang’s other lies, here are some of the most significant:
—China pursues the path of peaceful development, contributing to regional and world peace;
—China upholds the banner of fairness and justice;
—China advocates dialogue and cooperation;
—China stands for coordinated progress of security and development, pursuing a neighborhood diplomacy that aims at bringing harmony, security, and prosperity to its neighbors;
—China actively conducts friendly military exchanges and cooperation with countries in the Asia-Pacific; and,
—China is committed to properly handling disputes over territory, sovereignty, and maritime rights and interests.
How can China—and Wang—dare tell these blatant lies so shamelessly? The answer lies in The Art of War by China’s legendary strategist Sun Tze, asserts Fumio Ota in his Japan’s Survival Depends on Sun Tzu (Chichi-sha, Tokyo; 2014). Ota is former Director of the Defense Intelligence Headquarters of the former Defense Agency (now Ministry).
“To Lie Is the Way of The Wise”
“All war is deception” is one of Sun Tzu’s famous teachings. He preached the importance of winning without fighting, advocating intrigue and cheating. By intrigue and cheating, Sun Tzu means deceiving one’s adversary by resorting to every conceivable means, including an adroit manipulation of information. For Chinese who have for generations been thoroughly inculcated with the idea that deception and intrigue are the best methods, to lie is nothing to be ashamed of but rather the way of the wise.
Keeping this in mind, one can understand why Wang came up with one lie after another. Ota, who until 2000 was professor at the Defense Academy, warns that Japanese must study Sun Tzu’s teachings. The scope of Japan’s public relations activities in no way approaches the scale of those of China. However, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera did say that in Singapore this time he did have three opportunities to present to his counterparts Japan’s side of the case involving the Chinese fighter plane. Onodera also remarked he got the impression that the importance of refusing to allow a change in the existing order by use of force has come to be much more generally accepted by the international community. These are the values Japan has been advocating for years. The efforts by the Abe administration to disseminate pertinent information appear to be showing results.
What China fears most is the world knowing the truth about its various acts of barbarism—acts unbecoming a big power of the 21st century. We must aggressively wage a protracted global public relations war in order to keep the world abreast of these transgressions. Our efforts may be long overdue, but it is certainly never too late to start.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 610 in the June 12, 2014 issue of The Weekly Shincho)