ABE’S NEW GOVERNMENT MUST FORGE AHEAD WITH CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM FOLLOWING SWEEPING VICTORY
The October 22 lower house election has resulted in a landslide victory for the Liberal-Democratic Party-Komeito coalition government led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Despite a series of unexpected twists during a campaign lasting less than a month, a framework has emerged that will now enable the government to grapple proactively with a revision of the current pacifist constitution—clearly a critical issue Japan must urgently address.
With a number of complex domestic and international issues lying ahead, our voters have chosen lawmakers they believe are capable of resolving the unprecedented national crisis facing the nation today.
We must first take a hard look at the North Korean situation, which presents no easy solutions and calls for the government to take immediate measures to solidify our national defense structure. But we must also realize that, over the medium to long term, China is the nation not only Japan but members of the rest of the Western Bloc must truly exercise vigilance against.
As of this writing (October 22), the 19th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is in session in Beijing. Much about China’s present and future were discernible in the three-and-a-half-hour address with which President Xi Jinping kicked off the congress, held every five years. What I particularly noted in his lengthy remarks was his reference to China striving to create “a community of common destiny for mankind.”
Did he mean to imply that China plans to put not only the Chinese people but indeed all of mankind under the CCP’s control? Roughly put, Xi summarized the major accomplishments of his first five-year term as:
The implementation of strict anti-corruption measures, the reduction of the percentage of those living in poverty, spearheading of international cooperation on climate change (the Paris Accord), and the construction of man-made islands in the South China Sea. In the economic arena, Xi also boasted of China’s expansive development strategy known as the “Belt and Road Initiative” and the founding of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
Taking advantage of America’s proclamation that it would quit the Paris Accord, China has vowed to “protect” the agreement, with Xi agreeing to continue tackling global warming and curbing fossil fuel emissions—at least verbally, in a telephone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron last May.
There is virtually no guarantee that China will act on what it says, as the world knows. Xi was referring to China’s determination to take the initiative in creating “a community of the common destiny for mankind” by citing the above examples of its “achievements.” This expression has important implications as we view China’s future plans, but we should never forget that it is, after all, paired with Xi’s other favorite slogans—“a great revival of the Chinese people” and “the Chinese Dream.”
Autocracy with an Iron Hand
Put in political and economic terms, the phrase “great Chinese people” means a modernized socialist power. Xi has described his political philosophy as “socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era,” declaring that it is the CCP’s new guiding principle. Under this rubric, all mankind is expected to join a “community of common destiny.” Xi is in essence arbitrarily declaring that all mankind must follow his philosophy, not only the Communist Party and the Chinese people but all people, including the Japanese.
Such dogma makes one extremely uncomfortable. In point of fact, Xi’s address was
studded with extreme remarks that I hardly found acceptable. For instance, he stressed:
“We have a firm will, sufficient faith, and adequate capacity to defeat any intention of ‘Taiwan independence’ in any form.” Xi in effect demanded that President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan recognize the so-called “1992 Consensus” (One China Consensus), which does not really exist, as a precondition for a dialogue between Beijing and Taipei.
Obviously with nations like Tibet in mind, Xi also said he would “Sinize religion” in China, meaning that he would make religions “more Chinese” in order to “guide religions to adapt to socialist society.” Presumably, he was hinting at such possible measures as banning the Tibetans from practicing traditional Tibetan Buddhism and compelled to study Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong.
Xi promised to make China a “modern socialist power” by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic, transforming the country into “a great society in which China will reach new heights…” To achieve that goal, Xi pledged to completely modernize “national defense and the military by 2035,” making the Chinese military “a world class power” by mid-century.
In order to achieve these objectives, the CCP must be able to thoroughly educate and guide its party members as well as the rest of its citizens. Xi boasted that he would put in place a system to accomplish exactly this mission.
The characteristics of the new Xi regime are clearly marked by a persistent craving for autocracy with a stronger hand. His ambition is aimed at invoking the power of the state at will, utilizing the growing influence of the military as a means of incorporating all mankind into the Chinese sphere. This can appropriately be termed Xi’s “declaration of world conquest.”
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson criticized this Chinese posture with unusual candor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington on October 18. Answering questions following his address titled Defining Our Relations With India in the Next Century, Tillerson was surprisingly to the point.
Comparing India and China, he had this to say:
“We need to collaborate with India to ensure that the Indo-Pacific is increasingly a
place of peace, stability and growing prosperity so that it does not become a region of disorder, conflict, and predatory economics.”
Asked by CSIC president John H. Hamre what he meant by his remarks, Tillerson replied roughly as follows:
The financing mechanisms China brings to emerging democracies and economies for infrastructure projects “result in saddling them with enormous levels of debt…They don’t often create the jobs, which (these) projects should.” Tillerson was referring to the fact that too often Chinese workers are brought in to execute these infrastructure projects. This is not a structure that supports the future growth of Asian nations.
Tillerson noted that during the East Asian ministerial summit in Manila last August, he started “a quiet conversation with others about what they were experiencing, what they need,” adding that the nations concerned have begun searching for a “multilateral way” to create “alternative financing mechanisms.”
To manage sound economics and finance, emerging economies should logically follow the Western, not Chinese, way. Tillerson stressed that in order to safeguard their sovereignty and continue to hold their future in their own hands, Asian nations must think hard and choose the right path, as well as the right partners.
It is true, however, that poorer and weaker nations badly want the absurdly low-interest loans and grants that China offers. Even if they may know they will come quickly under China’s control the minute they receive the financing, they find these offers extremely difficult to refuse.
As has frequently happened when developing economies turn to China for help, they are forced to give up their land in return, ultimately risking the danger of having the whole nation incorporated into the Chinese empire. That is what China has historically done to peripheral nations.
Tillerson is said to have harped on the same message to smaller nations in Asia: Who does a state belong to? Who controls a state? A state belongs to its people, whose government must legitimately rule it. Such remarks are a reminder that Tillerson is engaged as America’s top diplomat in a fierce battle to safeguard the stability and prosperity of the free world against China.
At this juncture, Tillerson is planning on forming a solid alliance between the US, India, Japan, and Australia to cope with the rapidly growing Chinese menace across the Asia-Pacific. For Japan, such a strategy constitutes immeasurably vital national interests. There is every reason for Japan to be an eager proponent.
The results of this week’s lower house election have opened up the way for Japan to build itself into a key nation in the camp that honors the universal values of freedom, as opposed to falling under the sway of Xi’s Chinese empire. For that purpose, Japan must strive to be a nation on a par with the US, Australia, and India in every sense of the word.
It is time for the government to forge ahead with the revision of our constitution. The people are behind our prime minister, as the recent election has shown.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 776 in the November 2, 2017 issue
Of The Weekly Shincho)