HIDDEN RISKS BEHIND TIE-UP BETWEEN COMMUNISTS AND CDP
Kazuo Shii, Chairman of the minority Japan Communist Party (JCP), contended last Sunday that Japan should address its problems with China by not implementing a military buildup but pursuing dialogue with Beijing. He further asserted that the government should slash its defense budget by as much as \1 trillion (US$8.85 billion, or slightly less than 20% of Japan’s 2020 national defense budget). Shii made these remarks as a guest on BS Fuji’s “Prime News” show.
The JCP is wide of the mark. As its leader, Shii must correctly recognize the hard reality that Japan faces in dealing with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). After China occupied the Philippines-administered Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in 1995, Manila brought the case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. In July 2016, the five-judge court rendered a unanimous verdict in favor of the Philippines, ruling that China’s claims to certain islands and territory in the South China Sea have no validity historically or under international law.
An indignant China immediately rejected the ruling, ridiculing it as “only a scrap of paper.” It has since kept up its domineering behavior across a vast stretch of the South China and East China Seas. Shii’s contention that Japan should resolve crucial issues through dialogue with an intractable neighbor like China simply doesn’t make sense. What is more, the JCP has a platform that advocates the abrogation of the US-Japan Security Treaty, the effective disbanding of the Japan Self-Defense Force, and the abolition of the Imperial Household.
And yet, the JCP has agreed to collaborate electorally with the leading opposition Constitutional Democratic Party (CDP) in the October 31 Lower House election on condition that it would cooperate with a possible CDP-led government “from outside the cabinet.” The two parties are reportedly leading at this point in the campaign in a number of constituencies. Voters would be wise to not to be taken in by Shii, the JCP, or the CDP.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Defense Ministry announced on October 23 that a fleet of ten Chinese and Russian warships conducted joint maneuvers over the previous six days. The Joint Staff Office of the Japanese Ministry of Defense simultaneously issued an announcement on the cruise with photos of the vessels. In the joint operation, Chinese and Russian vessels circled around much of the Japanese archipelago, engaging in training involving anti-submarine missile launches and takeoff-and-landing of shipboard helicopters. Undoubtedly, it was a demonstration of Chinese and Russia military might aimed at Japan.
The fleet passed through the Strait of Tsugaru on October 18, engaged in anti-submarine missile launch exercises on October 19, and came to within 130 kilometers (some 80 miles) of the Inubosaki Peninsula in Chiba Prefecture on October 20. The following day, on October 21, shipboard helicopters engaged in takeoff-and-landing exercises off the Izu Peninsula. Then on October 22, the fleet cruised off Kochi Prefecture on Shikoku Island, with shipboard helicopters aboard Chinese missile destroyers engaging in takeoff-and-landing drills off Danjo Islands, Nagasaki Prefecture, en route to the East China Sea via the Osumi Strait.
The joint fleet consisted of five Chinese Navy vessels, including the destroyer guided-missile destroyer Nanchang, and five vessels from the Russian Pacific Fleet, including the Admiral Tributs, a large anti-submarine warfare ship. A total of six shipboard helicopters also participated. Immediately before circling around Japan, the joint fleet conducted maneuvers in the Japan Sea off Vladivostok Oct. 14-17. After parting from the Chinese Navy on October 23, the Russian flotilla passed through the Strait of Tsugaru and headed north in the Japan Sea en route to its home port.
China and Russia are making special efforts to show off their military power in an attempt to defy the US and warn Japan. Back in August 2015, the two nations conducted their first massive joint amphibious exercise, with some 10,000 troops from China and Russia taking part in drills in the Sea of Japan off Vladivostok. What drew the greatest attention with the maneuvers, which were proposed by China, was a three-day drill conducted on the Shandong Peninsula. The Chinese and Russian forces sent their troops inland from the coast while carrying out air strikes. The Shandong exercises were clearly being used as training for an attack on Taiwan.
Precision-Guided Weapons Aimed at Japan
The next joint Chinese-Russian war games that captured the world’s attention was “Vostok 2018,” involving 300,000 troops, 36,000 vehicles, 1,000 aircraft, and a fleet of 80 warships, with both the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Mongolian Army participating. The fact that the PLA participated in the exercises conducted in Russia was viewed as a significant change in the relationship between the two authoritarian states.
As American military expert Tom Shugart has pointed out, China has built three inland facilities modeled after three major American military bases in Japan—Kadena, Yokosuka, and Misawa. The PLA is using these facilities as the targets for missile flight tests. The Chinese reportedly have also reproduced American battleships in anchor at the Yokosuka Naval Base, as well as the hangars and tarmacs at Misawa and Kadena Air Bases. Putting Japan within range of its ballistic missiles, China is conducting drills aimed at blasting specific battleships and aircraft in Japan with precision-guided weapons.
Toshi Yoshihara, a Senior Fellow at the center for Strategic and Budget Assessment, is well versed in China and its military. He maintains that China has very cleverly developed itself as a major sea power. In other words, it has been careful to build up its forces without attracting too much notice from the international community.
China turned its attention to the importance of naval power during the Deng Xiaoping era. Deng took into confidence Admiral Liu Huaqing, who is revered as the “father of modern Chinese navy.” With Liu as commander-in-chief of the Chinese Navy 1982-87, China managed to implement a long-term strategy to increase its naval power. As it has developed itself into the world’s second-strongest naval power, China has learned much from the legendary American maritime theoretician Alfred Thayer Mahan.
Mahan developed the theory that sea power is the most important element in sustaining an empire. He asserts that a nation requires two crucial factors to become a major sea power—a society’s “strategic will” and the “character of the government.” Based on Mahan’s teachings, China has strived openly and fiercely to induce the Chinese to support the Navy’s adventures, notes Toshihara in Red Star over the Pacific (co-authored with James R. Homes. Naval Institute Press; Annapolis, Maryland; 2018).
In an address to the 10th CCP Naval Congress in December 2006, President Hu Jintao implored the service to “forge a powerful people’s navy that meets the demands of carrying out our military’s historic missions in the new century” and to “spur the all-round transformation of navy building in line with the demands of the revolution in military affairs with Chinese characteristics.” (Red Star over the Pacific) Hu’s policies have expressly been continued and reinforced by Xi Jinping, who has been vigorously inculcating the notion among the Chinese people that China should aspire to become a major maritime power and that it is a great nation destined to lead the world.
Clearly, thorough patriotic education is being implemented in China today. Rejecting the “soft cultures” of the US and Japan and their worship of pop idols, the government seeks to unify the values of its 1.4 billion people behind the CCP, promoting it as the only and absolute institution to be revered and followed. In the worst case, such extreme patriotic education could drive the people to support hardline policies in China’s foreign relations.
Yoshihara points out that the PLA’s military strategy, especially maritime, derives from Mao Zudong’s “active defense” concept, which calls for offensive operations and tactics to achieve strategically defensive goals. Mao left behind voluminous military writings that are “wholly offensive in character,” notes Yoshihara, adding that “passive defense, necessitated by an unfavorable balance of forces, represented to Mao ‘a spurious kind of defense’ for the purpose of counterattacking and taking the offensive.”
Yoshihara observes: “Prompted by Mao and Mahan, Chinese naval strategists today talk routinely of prying control of the waters westward of the first island chain from the US Navy’s grasp.” One must take seriously the likelihood of China becoming more aggressive under Xi, who aspires to be become the new Mao.
Faced with harsh international circumstances, Japan must exert maximum efforts to bolster its national defense now. We cannot entrust our future to the JCP with its platform irresponsibly championing to disband the JSDF and abrogate the US-Japan Security Treaty. Neither can we trust the CDP, which is teamed up with the JCP for the upcoming election. Voting for either of the parties would be nothing else but a sure step toward putting Japan at great risk.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 973 in the November 4, 2021 issue of
The Weekly Shincho)