WE MUST WIN BATTLE OVER CHINESE BAN OF JAPANESE MARINE PRODUCTS
Last Thursday (August 24), China suspended the import of all Japanese marine products, including scallops, immediately after the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Plant started discharging treated radioactive water into the ocean.
Tetsuro Nomura, Japanese Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, described the Chinese action as “totally unexpected” and Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said he would “explain the situation thoroughly to the Chinese side.” What on earth are they thinking? Are they serious? Don’t they know that China is mounting a political battle against Japan, fully aware that the water discharged from the Fukushima nuclear plant is safe? It is simply meaningless to make a “thorough explanation” at this point. What Japan must do now is launch an immediate counterattack. The material for counterattack is abundant. The important thing now is to win a victory over China by highlighting the absurdity of China’s words and deeds to the world community. Below are five proposals I wish to make in terms of counterattacks in dealing with China.
Proposal Ⅰ: Japan should stop exporting scallops to China. Among Japan’s agricultural, forestry, and fisheries products, scallops hold the top position in terms of export value. In the year 2022 alone, scallops accounted for approximately 80% of the total export volume of these products to China amounting to about 103,000 tons, with a value of ￥46.7 billion (US$322 million). Not all of them are consumed in China. A significant volume of Japanese scallops are shucked in China, where the labor cost is lower. They are then frozen and reexported to the US or Europe. Among these countries, the US is the biggest consumer of Japanese scallops.
Japan must immediately make arrangements to export its scallops directly to the US and Europe, cutting China out of the supply chain. In order to do this, Japan will have to swiftly establish ways to carry out the shucking process domestically or in other countries. then explore new routes for exports to the US and European countries. The Japanese government has already decided on concrete measures for additional aid to those involved in fisheries with an emphasis on strengthening the processing system at home. I believe this is the correct thing to do. It will result in a loss of employment for the Chinese and a decline in Chinese exports. But then the Chinese will have only themselves to blame because they are the ones who absurdly resorted to the all-out import ban out of political considerations.
Proposal Ⅱ: Japan should delineate in detail to the world the devious practices of the Chinese. While they claim that “the Pacific Ocean is not the sewer for Japan’s nuclear-contaminated water,” a large number of Chinese fishing fleets converge off the coast of Sanriku every fishing season, catching large quantities of saury and other fish using bottom trawl nets. They are exhausting the supply of fish around Japan, despite claiming that those waters are radiation-contaminated.
Opportunity to Let Chinese People Know the Truth
Now is the time for Japan to put its maximum effort into implementing a vigorous campaign to fully inform the international community of China’s contradictory words and actions and unreasonable behavior. Rather than “explaining thoroughly” as the sleepy-eyed chief cabinet secretary has meekly proposed, Japan should open its eyes to the world and clearly communicate that the concentration of tritium released into the ocean has fallen way below the detection limit set by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Proposal Ⅲ: It is crucial to share with the international community the fact that China always exerts pressure on nations that disseminate information inconvenient to it. Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, but the Chinese government violently objected to it, effectively banning the import of part of Norway’s marine products, including salmon. China at the time was the world’s largest importer of Norwegian salmon.
In 2021, when Australia proposed that the World Health Organization (WHO) conduct a scientific probe into the origin of the Wuhan virus, China imposed additional tariffs on Australian barley and wines. Taiwan and the Philippines have had their bananas, mangos, pineapples, and other products subjected to import restrictions by China many times. The unfairness of China’s import ban that Japan now faces is a well-known fact around the world. Our appeal for fair play should be supported by many nations.
Proposal Ⅳ: Japan should strongly point out that China has over the years been releasing far more tritium than Japan. TEPCO, the operator of the Fukushima plant, has announced that it will release up to 22 trillion becquerel (Bq) of tritium a year for the next 20 to 30 years. Meanwhile, four Chinese nuclear power plants are releasing a total of 447 trillion Bq a year into the East China Sea. The Chinese plants are Hongyanhe (90 million Bq per year) in Liaoning Province, Taishan (143 trillion Bq) and Yangjiang (102 trillion Bq) in Guangdong, and Ningde (112 trillion Bq) in Fujian. The total of 447 trillion is 20 times that of Fukushima. Therefore, Japan should legitimately ask China: “Is the East China Sea the sewer for Chinese radiation-contaminated water?
Professor Masahiko Hosokawa, a former economic bureaucrat who now serves as the planning committee member for the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals (JINF), a privately financed policy and security think tank that I head in Tokyo, asserted that Japan should carry out a full inspection of all imported Chinese marine products, noting:
“That China has been discharging a much higher level of tritium than Japan over the years justifies our ordering a full inspection. Such a measure by the Japanese government would be one way of disseminating the pertinent information to the Chinese population.”
It is highly likely that, due to information manipulation by their Communist administration, the Chinese do not really know that their country releases a much higher level of tritium into the sea than Japan. If so, our going ahead with a full inspection could give the Chinese people an opportunity to know the truth.
Proposal Ⅴ: Especially in a case like this, Japan should bring the matter before the World Trade Organization (WTO). Australia lodged a complaint with the WTO against China in 2021. Japan, not China, is the country that has devotedly honored the law and values supporting international bodies, including the WTO. I believe the strongest weapon we have in dealing with China is our sincere safeguarding of these democratic values at home and abroad.
China Expected to Increase Pressure on Japan
Hosokawa proposes that Japan take full advantage of being the G7 presidency holder this year, noting that “the G7 nations have agreed to jointly address China’s economic coercion. Japan should take up the latest Chinese action against it as the chair nation and seek backing from each member of the group.”
We Japanese are now standing face to face with an unconventional adversary which is the world’s second biggest economic power. We are engaged in a battle that does not require the use of weapons. The G7 members must be strongly banded together to face up to this disruptive bully, not sparing any effort or resource in enhancing the G7 framework of cooperation. Japan must depart from its passive stand of “thorough explanations” and mount a counteroffensive against China.
I believe we ought to expect this battle to become increasingly fierce going forward. Looking back over modern history, US-China relations have always influenced Japan’s fate significantly. In other words, during periods of positive U.S.-China relations, Japan’s position tends to weaken, and China often exerts pressure on Japan. Conversely, when tensions arise in U.S.-China relations, China employs a strategy of diplomatic charm towards Japan, with the underlying aim of driving a wedge between Japan and the U.S.
Too eager to have another summit with Xi Jinping, President Joe Biden appears to have been taking desperate measures, such as dispatching seven cabinet members of his administration to Beijing in rapid succession over the past two months. Secretary of State Tony Blinken finally made it to an audience with Xi Jinping in Beijing after an earlier trip was postponed in June due to the spy balloon incident, but Xi openly treated him as an inferior. Secretary Gina Raimondo has been visiting Beijing since August 27 (as of this writing) despite her emails having been hacked by China.
The Chinese side is obviously testing how far it can push the US, while the US has made a series of compromises to the point of suspecting the lack of a committed strategy on its part. Under such circumstances, China will inevitably continue to exert greater pressure on Japan. We must recognize this reality, and beyond that, we must come to grips with the basic incompatibility of our two countries. Demonstrating thorough proactive measures, our resolute stand against China’s lawlessness remains the sole viable course of action for Japan to pursue.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 1,063 in the September 7, 2023 issue of
The Weekly Shincho)