JAPAN MUST BACK AMERICA IN “NEW COLD WAR” AGAINST CHINA
US Vice President Mike Pence delivered a powerful address at the Hudson Institute on October 4, demonstrating America’s determination to face up to China’s challenge. Acknowledging that the Donald Trump administration is taking the Chinese threat very seriously, Pence proclaimed to the world Washington’s resolve to stand up to Beijing.
Pence’ s remarks are a reminder of the fierce rivalry the US and China are engaged in. Professor Minxin Pei, Director of the Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies at Clairemont-McKenna College, calls it a “new cold war.” In our own national interests, all Japanese—politicians and average citizens alike—must fully come to grips with and back this resolve by our vital Pacific ally.
At the outset of his speech, Pence paid tribute to Dr. Michael Pillsbury, a respected China expert and Director of the Center on Chinese Strategy at Hudson. Three years ago, Pillsbury authored The Three Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower (St. Martin’s Griffin), which created a big sensation in Washington. It has been translated into several foreign languages, including Japanese.
In his book, Pillsbury talks about his years of experience as a US government expert on Chinese affairs who endeavored throughout his career to formulate policies aimed at extending generous aid and protection to China.
Pillsbury notes that the US has aided China believing that the communist nation would wish to become a free and democratic nation like the US as it overcame its poverty but that in fact it has remained opposed to America in its values and its way of thinking. Pillsbury concludes that it is virtually impossible to expect China to want to be like America.
Making no secret of how America, and he himself, feel betrayed by China, Pillsbury introduces vivid examples of American aid that have failed to produce the results America expected.
From the fact that Pence mentioned Pillsbury’s name very early in his address, I believe it safe to assume that he has learned much from what this China expert has to say about dealing with China and the Chinese.
I wish to mention here, as an aside, that the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals (JINF), which I founded in December 2007, was the first Japanese think tank that invited Pillsbury to Japan. He kindly agreed to be a panelist at the international symposium we sponsored in 2010: “Struggle for Hegemony in the Indian Ocean: US-Japan Alliance and Grand Strategy for the 21st Century.” Tadae Takubo, our deputy director, happens to be Pillsbury’s long-time friend.
Trump’s True Intentions
While pointing out that Trump “has forged a strong personal relationship” with Xi Jinping in less than two years, Pence stressed in his hour-long speech: “…I come before you today because the American people deserve to know…as we speak, Beijing is employing a whole-of-government approach, using political, economic, and military tools, as well as propaganda, to advance its influence and benefit its interests in the US.”
Pence emphasized that, as stipulated in the new “America First” national security framework Trump announced last December, America’s China policy today is markedly different from those of previous administrations.
The “National Defense Strategy 2018” announced by the Department of Defense explains this new security framework in terms of field tactics, harshly denouncing the Chinese and Russian threats as “predatory economic policies…continuing to intimidate peripheral nations.” This strategy identifies China and Russia, not terrorism, as America’s real adversaries, reflecting America’s wariness over China in particular.
Not a few people must have doubts about the US government’s policy towards China. Before the new security strategy was adopted, Trump had invited Xi to his Mar-a-Lago villa in Florida (April 4, 2017); he then visited Beijing on November 8, showering flowery praise on his Chinese counterpart.
Even after the new strategy had been announced, Trump continued to repeatedly compliment Xi, as he counted on Chinese assistance in getting Pyongyang to agree to a complete denuclearization. But at the same time, Trump also imposed punitive tariffs on Chinese imports. It is only natural for many to wonder what his true intentions are.
It is certainly difficult to figure out where the truth about America’s China policy lies, as Trump’s words and actions are often contradictory. From the track record of the past two years, however, it would be safe to assume that the Trump administration is now more seriously grappling squarely with China.
Pence went on to explain that in 2001 America agreed to “bring China into the World Trade Organization” and that it has invested vigorously in China over the last 17 years, with its GDP having grown nine-fold as a result.
Pence pointed out that the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) uses “an arsenal of policies inconsistent with free and fair trade, including tariffs, quotas, currency manipulation, forced technology transfer, intellectual property theft, and industrial subsidies doled out like candy, to name a few.” Through the “Made in China 2025” plan, he warned, the CPC has set its sights on “controlling 90% of the world’s most advanced industries by 2025, including robotics, biotechnology, and artificial intelligence.” Beijing’s strategy to steal American technology and intellectual property by all means necessary is absolutely unacceptable, fumed Pence.
Stealing America’s Robotics, Biotechnology, and Artificial Intelligence
Pence specifically cited robotics, biotechnology, and artificial intelligence as fields in which China is stealing American technology in an effort to grab the upper hand and establish control.
Early in his address, Pence called the audience’s attention to China’s use of its power “like never before,” pointing out that Chinese ships routinely patrol around the Senkaku Islands, which are administered by Japan. He later pointed to a blatant act of Chinese aggression in the South China Sea. On September 30, a Chinese naval vessel came within 45 yards of the Aegis-equipped destroyer USS Decatur as it conducted freedom-of-navigation operations. To avoid a collision, the American ship was forced to maneuver quickly, said Pence, declaring: “We will not be intimidated; we will not stand down.”
As regards China’s oppression of free speech and religion, Pence stated that China, having built an unparalleled surveillance state, aims to implement by 2020 “an Orwellian system premised on controlling virtually every facet of human life.”
Pence was also sharply critical of China’s “debt diplomacy,” citing a rich assortment of specific examples of needy developing nations, such as Sri Lanka and Venezuela, being caught up in debt, eventually deprived of infrastructure such as ports and railways.
Turning to the propaganda campaign China has implemented in the US, Pence said China has vowed to influence American public opinion, noting: “President Trump’s leadership is working and China wants a different American President.” Pence warned: “China is targeting US states and local governments and officials to exploit any division between federal and local levels on policy… (Beijing’s strategy against the US is) to ‘strike accurately and carefully, splitting apart different domestic groups’ in the US.”
To that end, explained Pence, China Radio International now broadcasts “Beijing-friendly programming on over 30 US outlets,” many in major American cities, while The China Global Television Network reaches more than 75 million Americans. They exert immense influence on American public opinion, Pence stressed.
While listing virtually all of the Chinese actions unacceptable to the US, Pence emphasized that the Trump administration is determined to protect American interests from predatory Chinese practices. By any stretch of the imagination, American and Chinese values do not mesh with each other. The more seriously one takes this matter to heart, the wider the differences become.
At this juncture, we Japanese must do our very best to back the government policy to support the US endeavor to cope with China on the premise that this new cold war is going to be lengthy. I believe supporting the US in its resolve to stand up to China is in our national interests. We must closely follow America’s China policy without being confused by the capricious words and deeds of its volatile president. (The End)
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 823 in the October 18, 2018 issue of The Weekly Shincho)