IS KISSINGER’S ADVICE CAUSE OF FAILURE IN AMERICA’S CURRENT ASIAN DIPLOMACY?
Much of the world’s media has declared the recent summit in Beijing between Donald Trump and Xi Jinping to be a defeat for America. Besides noting that Trump played second fiddle to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, the common prognosis is that this will mark the beginning of a fundamental sea change in global politics.
Appearing on my weekly “Genron” Internet TV news show as a guest on November 17, Professor Tadae Takubo referred to Trump’s five-nation Asian visit Nov. 5-12 as the “suicide of a superpower.” Takubo, an international affairs specialist, serves as Deputy Director of the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, a privately financed conservative think tank that I head. Takubo explained:
“Actually, this expression was initially used in an article contributed to the Washington Post on November 13 by Richard J. Heydarian, a specialist in Asian geopolitics at La Salle University. With America steadily heading towards isolationism, he noted, China has begun to assert that it will take the initiative in forming a 21st century new regional order on the basis of ‘Asia for Asians.’
“In point of fact, Beijing has openly announced a plan to ultimately exclude America from Asia. And yet America has been unable to work out a viable strategy to cope with this Chinese initiative, its standing in Asia on a steady decline. That’s what Heydarian meant by the ‘suicide by a superpower.’”
One possible reason for the marked vacillation of America’s Asian policy during Trump’s visit can be attributable to the advice the president got from Henry Kissinger, one of his closest foreign affairs advisors, especially on China. Continued Takubo:
“After the summit, Trump praised Xi to the skies, lauding the Chinese government for the lavish welcome given him and his wife. How does one interpret Trump’s reaction? Could it be construed as a reflection of his simple-minded disposition, or a successful outcome of Kissinger’s deliberate advice? The latter was the case, I figure.
“The Chinese gave the Trumps a ‘state guest-plus’ welcome. I believe Kissinger had advised Trump to gracefully appreciate the cordial reception extended by the Chinese government as ‘face’ is extremely important in Chinese culture.”
Based on his years of research, Takubo’s analysis of Kissinger is convincing. He explained:
“In The Memoirs of Richard Nixon (Grosset & Dunlap, New York; 1978), Nixon wrote that he had a high opinion of Kissinger as a specialist on Soviet affairs, noting that few experts are as well versed in US-Soviet matters. On the other hand, Nixon apparently had a negative view of Kissinger when it came to his knowledge about China.”
Kissinger’s Amateurish Knowledge about China
Nixon dispatched Kissinger to Beijing as his secret envoy in July 1971 to smooth the path to his subsequent visit. The rapprochement between the US and China that followed completely changed the world’s balance of power almost overnight. Nixon had this to say about Kissinger in his memoirs, Takubo explained:
“Nixon explicitly issued instructions to Kissinger as to the specific details of the issues that needed to be resolved when he met with Mao Zedong in Beijing. Beyond that, wrote Nixon, Kissinger just ran errands for him while in Beijing.”
Takubo said Kissinger, Nixon’s “errand boy” while in Beijing with only amateurish knowledge about China, became active in the private sector after resigning as secretary of state in 1977. In 1982, he founded a consulting firm which attracted clients from mainland China.
“Kissinger’s business with the Chinese has been a huge success,” continued Takubo. “I think it is safe to say it has been hugely profitable. Safeguarding national interests should naturally have been his grand objective while serving as someone in charge of America’s foreign policy. But profit seeking as a businessman is completely different from securing national interests as a top diplomat. I think Kissinger’s advice to Trump is based on his success in doing business with the Chinese.
“I don’t mean to call all profit-making evil. However, success in business differs from that in diplomacy. I suspect that Kissinger, who has achieved great success in his China business, may have advised Trump from an angle quite alien to diplomacy. To attract such a suspicion in itself is not good for an American president.”
What Trump asked of Xi while in Beijing was effective cooperation in realizing a denuclearization of North Korea and implementing workable measures to reduce America’s trade deficits with China. From remarks made by Kissinger and articles he has written, however, one is reminded of his repeated assertions that the most critical element in resolving the North Korean issue is a better “mutual understanding between the US and China.”
America’s policy toward North Korea has been a failure over the years. In an essay contributed to the Wall Street Journal (August 11, 2017) titled “How to Resolve the North Korean Crisis,” Kissinger attributed this failure primarily to an inability on the part of the US and China to “merge their objectives into an operational consensus.”
Kissinger further contended that China would not condone unilateral preemptive military action against North Korea by the US and that North Korea’s abandoning or substantially curtailing its long-running nuclear weapons program would produce a major political upheaval, “perhaps even a regime change.”
Although China in its heart desires North Korea’s denuclearization, stressed Kissinger, Beijing’s most serious concern is the political and social effects a denuclearized North Korea would have on China itself, and the likely chaos that would result in Northeast Asia.
In a nutshell, Kissinger has repeatedly stated that the whole situation on the Korean Peninsula comes down to how much attention China pays to it. Consider matters more from the Chinese point of view. This is what Kissinger is emphasizing.
Propaganda War against Japan
“As regards its approach to the North Korean issue, is it proper for Washington to treat China as its subcontractor to achieve its objectives? To be blunt, America is not putting up any cash, nor shedding any blood in trying to get China to talk North Korea out of its nuclear program, and leaving the task entirely to Beijing. The Chinese likely will get upset sooner or later with such treatment. Kissinger has repeatedly warned Trump that America’s policy toward North Korea will not work unless the US takes care to treat Beijing on a par with Washington. This time, Kissinger can be said to have managed to achieve his objectives through Trump.”
Takubo said that he felt “rather sorry for Trump” in his encounter with Xi in Beijing. It is appalling that the Trump camp lacks a workable policy toward China, with the strategy proposed by Kissinger having proved fundamentally misleading.
Heydarian had this to say about Trump’s Asian trip:
“In short, (America’s) allies have shown their willingness to move past America and actively construct a post-American world.”
Heydarian’s observations demonstrate how rapidly America’s influence is waning as a superpower. But America is not the only nation capable of losing out against China’s long-term strategy. Japan is in the same boat.
In its August 19 digital edition, the China Daily noted that 2,300 pages of records of germ warfare atrocities allegedly committed by Unit 731 of the Imperial Japanese Army have been discovered at various institutions in the US.
The records, including those found at the National Archives in Maryland, claim that 300,000 Chinese were killed by Japanese biological weapons. Coincidentally, the Chinese claim the total number of the “Nanjing Massacre” victims of December 1937 to have been 300,000. They also use the same figure for their claims of “comfort women” allegedly forced into sexual servitude for the Japanese military.
Mr. Xi obviously considers it mandatory to make every single Chinese fully aware of how ferocious and wily the Japanese are as a race in his effort to realize a revival of “the great Chinese people”—his favorite slogan.
Specifically for that purpose, the Chinese have been stepping up a propaganda war against Japan based on a grossly fabricated wartime history which portrays the Japanese as devils. China is out to break the national spirit of Japan with every intention of turning it into a nation incapable of resisting China. We Japanese must come to grips with this fact without further delay and start rebuilding our spiritual foundation.
As I have repeatedly emphasized over the years in this column and elsewhere, we must move quickly to revise our pacifist postwar constitution in order to make Japan a nation capable of protecting its territory and its people on its own.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” in the November 30, 2017 issue of The Weekly Shincho)