ECONOMIC SECURITY IS NEW KEY TO NATIONAL SECURITY
In his latest book, China 2049: Economic Challenges of a Rising Global Power (Brookings Institution Press; 2020), Michael Pillsbury says he was taken in by China over many years. Pillsbury, a prominent American expert on China, has since fallen out of love with China completely, and so has the US government, in which he held important positions. In recent years Washington has been implementing a rapid series of measures, stringently promoting a framework aimed at putting the squeeze on China by countering its military buildup and restricting its trade with China, including technological transfers.
What about Japan, where the Diet enacted into law a bill for enhancing the nation’s economic security on May 11? Shigeru Kitamura, former Director of the National Security Bureau, has this to say about the low level of security consciousness among the Japanese in his new book Economic Security: Face up to China as An Atypical Global Power (Chuo Koron Shinsha, Inc., Tokyo: May 2022):
“We have business laws in Japan comprising a large part of the nation’s administrative law system—a series of laws designed to regulate private businesses in terms of their security and development. But these laws are completely devoid of a national security standpoint. “
Kitamura deplores the absence of a national security perspective in our legal system. Would this be because there is no mention of self-defense whatsoever at the root of our national law that the Japanese generally do not feel shame at depending almost entirely on the US for our national defense despite Japan being one of the world’s leading economic powers? Since the end of the last war, Japan has single-mindedly pursued economic recovery and growth. Isn’t that why so many of we Japanese are unable to come to grips with the important meaning of “economic security”—a crucial key to moving the world today?
Kitamura explains economic security as “a scheme intended to utilize the economy as a resource to bolster the nation’s security policy, or, putting it more simply, an active or aggressive aspect of the security policy replacing weapons with economic measures.”
By correctly understanding Kitamura’s thinking, most people ought to be able to tell what products and technologies must be barred from export or transfers to potential adversaries. In view of the present situation in Japan, one is alarmed by the stunning lack of a sense of impending crisis across the board. There is too little sense of the vigilance any nation should naturally have against nations like China, North Korea, and Russia that have missiles, nuclear weapons, and the willingness to attack.
Prominent conservative commentator Aritsune Fukuda (1912-94) once declared the state a “fiction.” By this Fukuda meant the state is a vulnerable existence destined to perish unless its people are earnestly determined—and make constant effort to—protect it. Based on Fukuda’s theory about the state, Japan will eventually perish, swallowed by nations like China with a strong hunger for expansion. To illustrate how precariously the average Japanese lacks the will to protect his nation, allow me to cite the example of a technical officer with the former Defense Agency (elevated to the Defense Ministry in 2007).
Motive for Treason
The officer retired in 2002 as head of the agency’s Institute for Technical Research and Development. During his tenure of office, he made copies of a technical report on special steel (called “high-strength steel”) used in submarine hulls and its manufacturing process, delivering them to Chinese operatives active in Japan through an intermediary. Japan then boasted, and still does, among the world’s highest level of submarine technology, especially know-how on special steel. Intelligence on special steel thus leaked not only would have revealed critical intelligence about Japanese submarines, such as their dive depths and the extent of damage sustainable from torpedo attacks but also allowed adversaries to use it in building their own submarines.
The man admitted that he had expected the copied material to eventually be delivered to the Chinese side. And yet he chose to become a spy for the Chinese, lured by wining and dining at some fancy establishment.
That fine dining was his motive for treason angers me. But Kitamura, who once was with the Foreign Affairs Section of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department charged with cracking down on spies, observes: “Eating and drinking actually is the least expensive way for spies to recruit collaborators. Sadly, that’s how human beings often behave.”
Spies used to have to put their lives on the line when handing over intelligence. But the rapid development of technology has changed all that. Take the case of a former employee of Toshiba Corporation. Between September 2004 and May 2005, he met with an officer of the SVR (Russia’s external intelligence service) who was working in the guise of a trade representative at the Russian Embassy in Tokyo. They would meet at bars or quick-service restaurants, and the Toshiba employee would hand over intelligence pertaining to Toshiba’s semi-conductors and their manufacturing process. One night, Kitamura saw the two of them come out of a drinking joint, walking next to each other with their heads high as they headed to a nearby train station. Kitamura says he was “honestly taken aback by their unsuspecting behavior.”
The rapid progress in technology may have significantly caused the way intelligence is passed on today, but I suppose such acts on the part of the spy and his collaborator Kitamura witnessed in Tokyo would not happen elsewhere in the world. Without an anti-espionage law, Japan is a notorious paradise for spies with suspects charged with only a minor offense. In point of fact, the SVR agent in the Toshiba case fled back to Russia as soon as the case was revealed, and the indictment of the Toshiba employee was suspended. The duo would have been dealt with far more severely had there been an anti-spy law in Japan.
But these and other cases Kitamura refers to are only a prelude to the core message of his book, which constitutes a detailed description of the monstrous strategies employed in China under the autocratic rule of President Xi Jinping.
Kitamura first takes particular note of the views about Xi’s Belt and Road initiative advanced by Wang Yiwei, a distinguished expert on international issues with Renmin University in Beijing. According to Wang, Xi’s initiative is aimed at transforming the civilization that has thrived through expansion on the Chinese “heartland,” i.e., the central region of the Eurasian continent, into one combining land and sea, which would cause “endogenous” changes in the Chinese civilization.
Isolation of America
Wang contends that maritime nations have previously achieved development ahead of their land-locked counterparts, with their economies and civilizations spreading from the coast to the inland. This has created the negative effects of the East having been subordinated to the West, villages to cities, and land to the ocean, leading to the theory of the international order “centering around the West.” (The Belt and Road: What Will China Offer the World in Its Rise by Wang Yiwei. New World Press, Beijing; 2016)
Wang believes Xi’s Belt and Road initiative will eventually succeed in rearranging the conventional world order by putting China at its center, according to Kitamura. If a further merger of Europe with China and Russia can be managed to allow the Eurasian continent to return to the center of world civilization, America would be reduced to the status of an isolated island, asserts Wang. That is the ultimate goal Wang sees Xi as envisioning, as Kitamura quotes Wang as arguing. I believe Kitamura is right about this being the essence of Wang’s views of Xi’s Belt and Road initiative.
To underscore the critical importance of the Eurasian continent, Kitamura introduces The Geography of the Peace, written in 1941 by American political scientist Nicholas John spykman (1893-1943).Kitamura quotes Spykman as stating:
“The potential of the whole of the Eurasian continent, with twice the landmass of America and ten times its population (at the time of writing), has the possibility of overwhelming America in the future…If America has to face the nations on the rimland of Eurasia, it will not be able to escape from a vast encirclement by powerful forces. Therefore, America must aim to prevent the center of power in the old world (Eurasia) from being unified through alliances hostile to its national interests…”
Twenty-five years ago, Zbigniew Brzezinski, security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, preached the importance of the Eurasian continent, but Spykman had already issued a similar warning more than a half century prior to that.
If China succeeds in integrating the Eurasian continent, Japan will be in a precarious situation. China’s strategy collides head-on with the FOIP (Free and Open Indo-Pacific) initiative, a Japanese-proposed framework for peace and stability in the region based on the conviction that “maritime nations must cooperate to promote free trade and the rule of law in this region, and the “Quad” (an informal strategic forum comprising Australia, India, Japan, and the US).
Economic security is a means of countering the efforts being made to build a new world order by autocracies fundamentally incompatible with democracies. Kitamura published his latest book, which subtly reflects what Sung Tzu, the legendary Chinese strategist of the 6th century BC, preaches in The Art of War. I believe that carefully reading Kitamura’s book at this juncture will serve our national interests well.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 1,004 in the June 23, 2022 issue of The Weekly Shincho)