WHAT JAPAN SHOULD LEARN FROM AMERICA’S HARDLINE POSTURE TOWARD CHINA
One of the most crucial challenges facing Japan’s new prime minister, who will succeed Shinzo Abe on September 16, is to make no mistake in implementing a solid China policy. Simultaneously, he will be expected to strive—harder than any of his predecessors—to substantially enhance Tokyo’s ties with Washington.
In dealing with the Chinese, we must demand that they meet the common standards of behavior expected of all civilized countries. China has brutally oppressed its Uyghur population. It has also violated its 1984 agreement with Britain over Hong Kong’s reversion, depriving Hongkongers of their freedom, democracy, and human rights. In Japan, where we nurture a gentle culture and cherish each and every citizen, such outrages are absolutely unacceptable. Japan’s new leader will be called on to tell China unambiguously that Japan objects to its authoritarian behavior.
Let us ponder the meaning of a scoop run on the front page of the conservative daily Sankei Shimbun in its September 8 edition. A Chinese fishing boat violating Japanese waters off the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea rammed two Japan Coast Guard patrol boats on September 7, 2010. At the time, the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), headed by Prime Minister Naoto Kan, was in power (2009-2012), The Chinese captain was detained, but the Sankei quoted former foreign minister Seiji Maehara as disclosing that Kan himself ordered the captain released on September 24.
What prompted Kan to order the release? The Sankei quoted Maehara as replying that Kan told him Japan would be in trouble if then Chinese President Hu Jintao refused to attend the November 13 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Yokohama because of the incident. The Wuhan virus pandemic postponed the planned state visit to Japan by Xi Jinping originally scheduled for April. Today, many in Japanese political and business circles are still eager to see Xi’s visit come true. It will be vital for the next Japanese administration to not repeat the folly of the DPJ administration.
International affairs specialist Tadae Takubo urges government leaders to strictly bear in mind what the late prime minister Yasuhiro Nakasone (1982-86) had to say: “What a nation must fear most in the international community is isolation.” In securing its position in the world community, Japan should never fail to live up to its traditional values. With the world undergoing a sea change today, it is becoming increasingly difficult for America alone to preserve the world we desire—a world that is free, respects human rights, and honors the rule of law. As closer cooperation is in great demand among nations sharing similar values, it will definitely be in Japan’s national interests to endeavor to be a solid cornerstone of this international cooperation.
US Banning All Confucius Institutes across America
There are a number of things Japan must defend against China’s aggression, the first among the tangible being the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands. The Japanese resolve to defend the Senkakus is fundamentally similar to that of China defending the reefs in the South China Sea, but there is a difference: while the Senkakus are a legitimate Japanese territory, China is trying to defend artificial islands and military bases it has constructed on the reefs, unlawfully claiming territorial rights over them. It is incumbent on Japan to join with the US and Europe in turning world opinion against this willful violation of international law. We cannot allow the world order to be undermined by the nefarious power of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
As it takes the lead in the fight against China, the series of policies and actions being implemented by the US is truly impressive. America is known for its ability to gather all of its strength and rush forward once it formulates a strategy—as was amply demonstrated in its war against Japan in 1941-45. Remembering how meticulously America mapped out—and executed—its daring campaign against Japan, one can recognize the essence of American resolve and strength in the policies now being developed by the Trump administration to counter China’s offensive. Our new prime minister must earnestly understand the depth of America’s anger toward China.
Appearing on the Fox Business Network’s “Lou Dobs Tonight” on September 1,
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed the status of the Confucius Institutes, believed to number no fewer than 75 at universities across the US. Asked how many will be left by the end of the year, Pompeo replied: “I hope the answer’s zero, Lou.”
In just three more months, the US government will shut down every single
Confucius Institute in the US. On August 13, the State Department designated the Institutes as foreign missions set up by funds provided by the Chinese government, despite their claim that their mission is to promote the Chinese language and culture in the US. The US government has thus classified the Institutes as entities operating under the CCP’s strategic directives manipulated by its External Propaganda Department.
In point of fact, the moneys provided by this department are “laundered” through the Chinese Ministry of Education—according to Clive Hamilton, author of Silent Invasion (Hardie Grant Books, Australia; 2018).
The Trump administration had each professor in charge of a research project at every university submit a report on how much he depends on the funds made available from the Chinese government. Using information disclosure as a precious means of sustaining a democratic society, the administration will put an end to Beijing’s covert infiltration into America’s institutions of higher learning by means of money.
There is a total of 15 universities across Japan that have Confucius Institutes operating on campus today, including the prestigious Waseda University in Tokyo. Each of these universities can no longer afford to remain indifferent to what extent it depends on Chinese moneys. The government should expeditiously work out measures to make mandatory the disclosure of funds coming from the Chinese government.
Washington’s countermeasures against China are being reinforced virtually daily amid the ongoing clash of values between the world’s two largest economies. Should it fail to amply recognize the intense nature of the clash between the US and China, the coming Japanese administration could make irretrievable mistakes in determining the future course for Japan.
Let’s take a look at Trump’s anti-Chinese actions. In May, when China’s National People’s Congress decided to introduce a national security law in Hong Kong, Trump announced the following day, May 29, that the financial returns of Chinese corporations listed on US stock exchanges would be audited, making their delisting possible. He also announced that Hong Kong’s special trade status would be revoked. On July 14, Trump issued an Executive Order entitled The President’s Executive Order on Hong Kong Normalization to begin the process of eliminating Hong Kong’s special status. It was effective immediately.
China Has No Cards to Play against America
It is generally well known that Hong Kong’s financial market means a great deal to the Chinese economy. Roughly 70% of foreign currency investment in China was made through Hong Kong between January and August of 2020, according to reliable statistics covering that period. In 2018, Chinese corporations reportedly raised US$100 billion in Hong Kong. Squeezing the Hong Kong financial market will hurt American corporations as well, but the US government has dared to take the hardline approach. Obviously, it values America’s national interests from a long-range viewpoint over short-terms gains from trading with China. Unless Japanese corporations in the US market take this American policy fully into consideration, they will have a difficult time sustaining themselves.
On July 8, Pompeo declared that “the world shouldn’t allow this bullying (by China) to take place, nor should it permit it to continue,” as he referred to the Senkaku Islands while condemning China “instigating territorial disputes” in the East and the South China Seas, and elsewhere. It marked the first time that an influential US government official openly condemned Chinese territorial claims. Maintaining that the Chinese claims lack the basis of international law and are factually wrong, Pompeo sided with the nations that are threatened by China’s territorial ambitions.
On July 24, the US government closed the Chinese Consulate General in Houston, Texas. Then on August 6, Trump banned Americans and US companies from making any transaction with ByteDance, the Chinese owner of TikTok, a popular video-sharing app, starting in 45 days. On August 13, companies using services and equipment provided by five Chinese high-tech corporations, including Huawei, were barred from doing business with the US government.
These Chinese companies themselves had already been barred from doing business with the US government in 2019. This time, the US government urged private American companies to exclude Chinese parts and products, effectively demanding that they make a choice between the US government and Chinese corporations.
On August 9, US Health Secretary Alex Azar paid an official four-day visit to Taiwan, calling on President Tsai Wei-in, whom he cordially addressed as “Madam President,” treating Taiwan as an independent nation, much to the chagrin of Beijing. The US appears determined to back Taiwan all the way. Meanwhile, there has not been a semblance of retaliation from China against America’s overtures to Taiwan. The only discernible reaction from Beijing has been a series of meek calls for a dialogue with the US. Clearly, China has no cards to play against the US for the moment.
In tandem with the US, Japan should strive to be a central pillar of the free world confronting China, doing its very best to pressure China until it accepts the shared values of the democratic camp.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 917 in the September 17, 2020 issue of The Weekly Shincho)