BEWARE OF CHINA’S CRAFTY SCHEME TO CONTROL JAPAN
In the few weeks that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, I have been prompted to turn my eyes to a particular map of the world more often than before. This map shows the wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean with the nuclear states painted in red—China, North Korea, and Russia on the one hand, and the US on the other. Solitary in a remote western corner of the Pacific is the Japanese archipelago, making one realize that, geopolitically speaking, the world’s most precarious region today is not the Atlantic and Europe, but rather the Pacific and East Asia—especially the area encircling Japan.
Daily preoccupied with the news of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, most Japanese seem unable to realize how perilous Japan’s position is becoming amid the rapidly changing balance of world power. Complacency about our postwar peace has cost most Japanese the grit and determination to address national defense issues in earnest, with most of us reluctant to grapple with national security despite our insufficient self-defense framework. It is time for Japan to cooperate with the US more stringently in formulating concrete measures for a potent China strategy, including revising our “peace” constitution. But I don’t think most of us have awakened to this reality. No wonder China is looking to target Japan as Russia did Ukraine.
On April 25, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters after a visit to the Ukraine capital of Kyiv: “We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.” As Austin stated, the US is making a deeper commitment to Ukraine with every intention of wearing down Russia.
Between February 24 and April 21, the US provided Ukraine $US3.05 billion in economic aid to supplement and bolster its military equipment. Then on April 28, President Joe Biden formally asked Congress for additional $33 billion in supplemental aid for Ukraine. The combined $36.05 billion is over half of Russia’s 2021 military budget, which stood at $65.9 billion.
In the unfolding Russian invasion, one naturally is inclined to side with Ukraine, holding a grudge against Putin. The US government’s decision to support the east European nation, morally and financially, makes sense. From the Japanese standpoint, however, one also cannot but be concerned about how the war in Ukraine may affect East Asia. The map I have referred to epitomizes the crisis we are faced with.
China Wants Weakened America
America’s growing commitment to backing Ukraine with continued economic and military resources actually is pleasing China to no end, as Beijing’s ultimate goal is to replace its archenemy America as the leader of the world. With that end in mind, China has always wanted to see America weakened. During President George W.H. Bush’s Gulf War (1990-1991) and his son’s war in Afghanistan (2001-2021), the Chinese took peculiar interest in how much of America’s vast resources would be consumed in the Middle East, and how that expenditure would affect its national power and international status.
The Chinese obviously strongly longed for the two wars to drag on, hopefully evolving into a quagmire and exhausting America. Clearly, they now want the war between Ukraine and Russia to not stop anytime soon, hoping the US to make an increasingly deeper commitment. If America becomes weaker, China will be able to put Asia-Pacific under its control, as the Chinese see it.
Of course, that sort of development is extremely dangerous to both Japan and the US and runs counter to President Joe Biden’s strategy in the first place. Last year, the US took the daring step of implementing a final withdrawal from Afghanistan, with Biden declaring that the US would now be concentrating its efforts on dealing with China, which he has defined as the real threat to America. But the more deeply the US becomes involved in Ukraine, the less will it be able to focus its attention on China. That will create a critical situation for Japan. All the more reason for Japan to figure out how quickly a Russian defeat in Ukraine can be realized. That war, fought 5,700 miles away from Japan, is very much our business.
The gravest geopolitical concern for both Japan and the US would be China and Russia joining forces, with Beijing eventually controlling Eurasia in effect. What is going on now is a deliberate collaboration between the two autocracies. Would it be too much to say that the Biden administration is somewhat losing its strategic sense of direction, incapable of either concentrating its full efforts on coping with China or preventing the China-Russia collaboration?
Meanwhile, with the US and Europe fully committed to aiding Ukraine in its bitter fight to repel the Russian invaders, now provides the Chinese a welcome strategic opportunity, enabling them to wholeheartedly forge ahead with strengthening their military. Masashi Murano, Japan Chair Fellow at Hudson Institute, points out:
“Mobilizing its missile units and fleet of bombers, the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) is expected by 2030 to be capable of attacking 850 targets within 2,000 miles of the Chinese mainland—and more than 4,500 targets within 875 miles—twice on the same day.”
Keeping Japan and Taiwan within range, China’s nuclear and non-nuclear strategic missiles are believed to be capable of attacking the same targets multiple times with ease on the same day within the next few years. The areas encircling Japan on the western corner of the Pacific already have the world’s highest density of nuclear weapons and missile. As the density in this region will increase going forward, so will the risk to Japan and the rest of the free world.
China’s Scheme to Buy up Land
As the Biden administration has declared, China is a formidable adversary. I believe that by now most Japanese have a good sense of China targeting Japan sooner than later. In that vein, we must speed up implementing measures to bolster our national defense. I believe an annual defense budget comprising a mere 2% of our GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is far from sufficient in safeguarding our security.
How might China attempt to “invade” Japan? Xi Jinping will certainly not follow in Putin’s footsteps. The security cooperation agreement tacitly signed with the Solomon Islands last month may provide a cautionary hint. China in effect highjacked the center of power of the Solomons in a flash before the islands’ Parliament realized what was going on, leaving Australia and the US no time to block the move. Bribery or threat, the Chinese art of winning over their targets is inexhaustible.
Japan should not be laughing at the Solomon Islands, however. On May 7, the conservative daily Sankei Shimbun ran a column by its editorial writer Masashi Miyamoto warning against yet another Chinese ploy to control Japan. The title of the piece: “The Day Our National Border Is Lost: China’s Plot to Take over Japan’s Off-shore Wind Power Generation.” Noting that China has received orders for offshore wind power generation projects in Japan, Miyamoto warns that China is maneuvering to control this new source of Japan’s electricity supply. It would be risky to allow any foreign country, especially China, to control a source of our electricity supply, no matter how small it may be, Miyamoto emphasizes. Noting that other risks are involved, he explains:
“Let’s take for example a wind power generation project undertaken off Nyuzen Machi, Toyama Prefecture, by a Chinese corporation. By law, a power generating company is entitled to virtually unlimited research into the wind energy, sea currents, submarine topography, and the geology of the sea area in which offshore generators are located. For 30 long years, the company will retain the right to occupy the sea area and conduct unlimited surveys.”
Having covered China’s extensive scheme to buy up land in Japan over 20 years and well versed in the reality of China’s evil hand reaching for Japan, Miyamoto has this to add:
“Unless effective countermeasures are worked out now, not just our forests, water resources, and agricultural land but our oceans and seabeds, too, could fall into Chinese hands.”
A terrifying story, indeed. Let us all realize that bolstering our national defense capabilities alone is not enough to counter China. Our political leaders must keep their antennae up for threats on all fronts and work closely with our American allies. Our politicians must also come to grips with the core of this problem and dedicate themselves with all their strength to implementing laws aimed at preventing China from wresting away our land and seas.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 999 in the May 19, 2022, issue of The Weekly Shincho)