KISHIDA AND XI PORTRAY WORLD’S GOOD AND EVIL IN SEPARATE SUMMITS
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has finally made it to Kyiv. Late on March 20, Kishida climbed aboard a chartered plane at New Delhi en route to Ukraine via Poland for a summit with Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelinsky. (Kishida, who had just conferred with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, became the last G7 leader to meet Zelensky.) In Poland, Kishida switched to an eastbound train, arriving in Kyiv a little past noon the following day after a 10-hour ride.
In his belated summit with Zelensky, Kishida condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine as “an aggression that shakes the very foundation of the international order.” Accompanied by Zelensky, he toured the town of Bucha on the outskirts of Kyiv, where more than 400 civilians reportedly murdered by Russian forces. He laid a wreath outside a church and observed a moment of silence.
In a joint communique, the two leaders pledged to “upgrade bilateral relations to a special global partnership,” declaring that “maintaining and intensifying sanctions on Russia is indispensable.” They also expressed “serious concern about the situation in the East and South China Seas,” emphasizing the “importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.” Kishida left Kyiv the next day, vowing Japan will continue to seamlessly back Ukraine “in a form unique to Japan.”
Coincidentally, Chinese President Xi Jinping flew to Moscow on the same day for a summit with Vladimir Putin. The two leaders met in two sessions that lasted a total of ten hours.
The two concurrent summits struck a sharp contrast—Kishida and Zelensky representing the “good” group and Putin and Xi the “evil“ group. The Washington Post ran a piece with photos of the two summits in its March 22 edition with the headline, “Visit to Kyiv by Japan’s Kishida Provides a Sharp Contrast to Xi’s in Russia.”
The daily noted that Xi invited Putin to China for a visit “in another show of support for Moscow as a war crimes arrest warrant (issued by the International Criminal Court in the Hague) increasingly isolates the Russian leader.” Underlining “the remarkable split screen of the two Asian leaders holding summits on opposite sides of the Russia-Ukraine conflict,” the Post had this to say about the Kishida visit:
“The timing of Kishida’s trip was initially coincidental, according to those familiar with the planning, but it nonetheless presented a symbolic and stark contrast to China and highlighted how the Russian invasion has reshaped security calculations in Asia.” The daily, known for its sometimes harsh views of Japan, reported favorably on Japan’s achievements this time around, giving high marks for having “adopted sweeping changes to its national security strategy and a major ramp-up of its defense budget—a dramatic move to shed its longtime postwar pacifist constraints.” The article also commented approvingly on Japan’s efforts to seek ‟security groupings throughout the Indo-Pacific and with European countries” that share the same values with Japan, such as the rule of law.
Kishida’s visit to Kyiv has generally been supported back in Japan, the public having more or less forgotten that he made the visit late—more than two months after Zelensky invited him in early January. Kishida is a very fortunate politician.
Kishida made clear to Zelensky Japan’s resolve to extend seamless support, vowing that Japan will strive to be a major force in safeguarding and promoting the values of the international community in condemning wars of aggression in the 21st century. What commitment did Xi make to Putin?
Bilateral Relations Beyond Ordinary Alliance
Full details of the lengthy Xi-Putin summit have yet to be made public. They issued a wordy joint statement, which more prominently portrayed the bilateral relationship largely in China’s favor while reflecting the depth of anti-American thinking on China’s part. One can clearly sense China’s goal of building a “great Chinese Empire” by controlling Russia, although emphasis was placed on furthering China-Russia economic ties to that end.
As regard’s Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Xi has often stated that China would “mediate for peace and dialogue without prejudice” as a neutral peace broker. But it has yet to propose concrete plans for a truce as it firmly stands by Russia.
In Xi’s words, the China-Russia relationship has “no limits” and will “go far beyond a bilateral scope.” Neither leader has a term limit and is essentially in office for life. The Western world, where leaders change every few years, must keep a close eye on what the duo is after.
The joint statement showed China and Russia view each other as “priority partners” and stressed: “Consolidating and deepening the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination in the new era is a strategic choice made by the two sides based on their respective national conditions, which conforms to the fundamental interests of the two countries and peoples and to the trend of development of the times, not subject to external influences.” It further stated: “There is no ‘superior democracy’ and the two sides oppose the imposition of their own values, the demarcation of ideology, the hypocritical narrative of so-called ‘democracy against authoritarianism,’ and the use of democracy and freedom as an excuse and political tool to put pressure on other countries. Russia attaches great importance to China’s global civilization initiative.”
Scheme to Impose “Chinese Way” on the World
Russia had this to say about Taiwan: “The Russian side reaffirms its adherence to the
one-China principle, recognizes Taiwan as an inalienable part of China’s territory, opposes any form of ‘Taiwan independence,’ and firmly supports China’s measures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Russia needs a prosperous and stable China, and China needs a strong and successful Russia.”
Unquestionably, Russia needs Chinese assistance badly. Take the increase in China’s import of Russian oil, for instance. Putin is desperately trying to complete the Power of Siberia 2 pipeline to ship its gas to China via Mongolia. Thomas Grove of the Wall Street Journal wrote in a report dated March 23: “During the summit, Mr. Putin said agreements on the pipeline were moving forward, but Mr. Xi stayed silent on the issue.”
Detailing the present status of the stalled construction of the pipeline, the Washington Post concluded in a piece in its March 24 edition that Putin’s expectations of the project he himself has called “the deal of the century” appeared to have shrunk considerably during the Moscow summit.
China and Russia have discussed the pipeline project for nearly two decades. Money has been the factor that has caused a frequent suspension of the project: i.e., which side would bear the construction and maintenance costs and at what level to set the price. China has attempted to take unfair advantage of Russia and milk it to the last drop. There is also the view that by 2035, China’s demand for gas can be sufficiently through ongoing domestic gas development projects and other contracts already in place.
President Richard Nixon formulated a strategy to triumph in the Cold War by decoupling the Soviet Union (USSR) and China, and then drawing the latter to the US. But today, China is plotting to get the better of the US by subjugating Russia. This time Russia agreed to all of China’s global strategies—the Global Security Initiative, the Community of Common Destiny for Mankind initiative, and the Global Development Initiative. China is also scheming to draw the other so-called “BRICS” (Brazil, India, and South Africa in addition to Russia and China) into its camp and dye them all in its values. Targeting the SCO (the Shanghai Cooperation Organization) as well, China’s goal is to ultimately bring the entire world into its system of governance.
Ukraine is the frontline of this conflict between the West and the evil world. Beyond it looms Taiwan. We must bear this geopolitical backdrop in mind as we unflinchingly strive to drastically transform our postwar system, face up to the threats from China resolutely, and shatter its hegemonic ambitions to impose the “Chinese way” on the world.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 1,043 in the April 6, 2023 issue of The Weekly Shincho)