JAPANESE MUST BECOME GEOPOLITICALLY WISER AND STRONGER IN 2023
Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine will not end until Vladimir Putin gives up fighting. Following the surprise pre-Christmas visit to Washington by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the US has further reinforced its stance to never let Ukraine suffer defeat. The only feasible way to end the brutal war now would be to make Putin realize that he stands no chance of winning his war and that he must agree to a ceasefire.
As the war drags on in Ukraine with Putin’s clout steadily declining, Xi Jinping managed to solidify his position in October as China’s virtual lifetime emperor. Xi then attended the G20 and APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) conferences in Indonesia and Thailand November 15-19, conferring with the leaders of more than two dozen nations, including: Argentine, Australia, Brunei, Chile, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Senegal, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, and the US.
Xi’s talks with these national leaders were conducted in a setting obviously designed to make one feel as though a supreme ruler was receiving tribute from his tributaries. Beaming smugly, Xi waited magnanimously in the middle of a plush “audience hall” where the leaders entered one after another with a look of joy, walked up to Xi, and shook his hand.
Under this dramatic setting, Xi cleverly sorted out the nations into two groups—those to take under China’s wings and those to deal sternly with. In fact, Xi employed every available means to divide up nations during his visits. He sought to divide the G7 nations by dealing with Canada strictly while softening his attitude towards Germany. Treating the UK and the US severely, he softened his posture towards Australia in an obvious attempt to cause a crack in the AUKUS (Australia-UK-US) military alliance. Xi’s ultimate purpose is to strike a sour note in the Western democratic camp centered on the US, counteracting its international influence.
Against such a backdrop, the administration of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced the revision of three key security/defense documents on December 16. The documents clearly upset the Chinese leadership. Although not yet complete, with certain operational details still to be filled in, the documents fundamentally reflect the motto of the slain former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who had pledged to “rejuvenate Japan.” They are epoch-making documents that are designed to fundamentally transform postwar Japan, which has long naively relied on the goodwill and friendship of the international community for its security.
Effectively stating that the “peace-loving” international community referred to in the preamble of our “peace” constitution actually does not exist, the documents reflect Japan’s fresh resolve to see with clear eyes the geopolitical reality of the world. The varied measures for bolstering Japan’s military capabilities referred to in the documents diametrically contradict Clause 2 of Article 9 of our constitution, which renounces the right to maintain military forces.
China Warns Japan to Watch “Words and Deeds”
Clearly, Japan‘s abrupt change of its defense posture and plans to increase its defense budget to 2% of its GDP didn’t sit well with China. During a news conference urgently called within hours after the documents were released on December 16, the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo referred to Japan’s imperial past and warned Tokyo to watch its “words and deeds” as regards Taiwan. The following day, the Chinese navy conducted take-off and landing drills of carrier-based fighters and helicopters aboard the Liaoning in the Pacific southwest of Okinawa in yet another attempt to intimidate Japan. Japan only spelled out its new resolve to update its posture toward its national security but China’s reaction was stern. The Xi administration will most likely resort to harsher intimidating measures if Japan implements a constitutional revision in order to further bolster its military capabilities en route to becoming a normal democracy.
But look how fragile Xi’s footing actually seems. Under his leadership, citizens cannot even hold decent funerals for the victims of the rapidly spreading coronavirus. Nobody can predict when another “white paper revolution” will occur next as an increasing number of young Chinese hold fundamental doubts about the legitimacy of the iron-fisted rule of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). There is no guarantee that the surprising protests by young people demanding Xi’s resignation will end with just the first wave, despite Xi’s determination to form a lifetime dictatorial administration. No one can lock away and silence the human heart forever.
And yet Xi remains eager to have the world follow the CCP line and dye the world red. Convinced that his party’s iron rule is superior to America’s liberalism, Xi persistently strives to establish China as a new hegemon replacing the US. Xi is working hard to seduce leaders of the weaker nations into a swamp of corruption, willing to close his eye to all their vices so long as they abide by the CCP’s directives. Every type of bribery and graft, kickback, and oppression of citizens is to be given his tacit approval, as long as loyalty is shown to the CCP and Xi himself.
Not a small number of leaders of less developed nations yield meekly to China, unable to hold on to a strong vision of their nation’s future or pride in their heritage. So the number of nations supporting China will likely increase going forward. But that hardly means we should accommodate the nations that will emerge from this process, their societies deeply tainted in Chinese values. At this juncture, we must make up our minds to resolutely fight against this global Chinese influence.
What about the US, which looks on China as its biggest geopolitical challenge? The Americans are suffering from a deep divisiveness, their society sharply divided over education, ethnicity, religion, gender, and wealth, among other things. The values of America’s far-left liberals, who repudiate America’s founding spirit itself, have rapidly been spreading across the US. President Joe Biden came to power two years ago pledging to heal a divided nation, but the divide has instead been widening. And yet, no one can deny the US is still the central power of the free world.
As the world’s strongest nation, the US has to date given Ukraine more than $50 billion to counter the Russian invasion. While facing up to Russia squarely in the international arena, America has been in the midst of a fierce economic war against China. Maintaining an unyielding front against China is the solid foundation of America’s foreign policy that the Democratic and Republican Parties share.
Strong Resolve to Defend Motherland
The role Japan plays as the US fiercely clashes with China and Russia is far more significant than most of us think. It is our natural responsibility to continue standing by the US while deepening cooperation with the European democracies in order to block the challenges to the free world from the Chinese and Russian dictatorships.
Despite its readiness to work closely with the US and Europe, however, it is a fact that Japan has yet to revise its postwar constitution, which is abnormal in comparison to those of the world’s other democracies. Because of its American-written constitution, which does not recognize the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) as an ordinary military, Japan has been at least “a few laps behind” other nations in implementing appropriate national security measures.
The Ukrainians have been countering Putin’s invasion with fierce desperation. If the war starts to go against Russia, Putin may be tempted to resort to nuclear weapons. But the Ukrainian people continue to put up stiff resistance.
One hopes that the Chinese, being presumably savvier than the Russians, will not commit the same folly as Putin. What should we Japanese do in case he does? Will we be able to defend our motherland like the Ukrainians? It is irresponsible of any adult Japanese citizen to not squarely face up to this issue.
The three recently released security documents are so designed as to bolster our military capabilities as fast as possible to avoid such a crisis from occurring. In short, it will enable Japan to build up the greatest possible deterrence, i.e., military capabilities, under the circumstances.
In my opinion, allowing a war to break out already means a defeat for the party concerned, because the lives of its citizens will be lost and the land devastated. That is why national leaders should never allow any war to erupt. To that end Japan must make its resolve crystal clear to its potential adversaries that we will dearly punish any nation that ventures to attack Japan because we stand ready to deter, counterattack, and drive any foes back. It is important for Japan to make it known globally at every opportunity that we are committed to safeguarding the peace and security of our motherland and have absolutely no intention of backing down.
It follows that Japan requires sufficient military power to back up its words. That is what the three security documents call for. But that is not enough. We must definitely revise our constitution in order to elevate the JSDF to the same status as other democracies. That, I believe, is the biggest challenge for Japan in the new year—the fifth year of Reiwa.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 1,031 in the January 5-12 combined issue of The Weekly Shincho)