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Huanqiu, China

The Japanese Right Wing
Hopes for a Turn of Fortune
by Letting America Contain China

By Bao Shenggang

The Sino-Japanese relationship marches backward half a step and forward one full step.

Translated By Jingman Xiao

4 January 2013

Edited by Gillian Palmer

China - Huanqiu - Original Article (Chinese)

The Sino-Japanese relationship regarding the Diaoyu Island crisis is facing a turning point: marching half a step forward might render the situation out of control, but half a step backward is equivalent to one full step forward, which not only benefits both parties but also helps to stabilize the situation in northeastern Asia and facilitates the development of economic integration.

First of all, the root cause for the deteriorating relationship between China and Japan is Japan's turn toward the right wing. However, the tendency of turning right and resorting to militarism apparently cannot save Japan; conversely, Japan will may be trapped deeper in economic and political dilemmas, which will lead to further worsening its relations with neighboring countries and, ultimately, to diplomatic isolation.

Diplomatic unyieldingness due to the incompetence in economic terms of the Noda government and pro-right nationalist sentiments give rise to Japan's attempts to bet on the Diaoyu Islands, which is destined to be a fiasco. In this case, left with the mess, how is Abe going to sort it out? First, he has to be more “right” than the right wing and more unyielding as well in order to gain support, to balance the right wing force at home and to stabilize his rule. Therefore, Abe has been emphasizing during the election campaign and afterward that there is no leeway on the matter of the Diaoyu Islands; that Japan will never back off, not even half a step; and that it will send officials to the islands as well as amend its “Peace Constitution” to rename its Self-Defense Forces “Defense Forces.”

What is more, he has to maintain Japan’s friendship with America; U.S. support is an external factor in the stabilization of his rule and also a cornerstone of Japanese diplomacy and the maintenance of its status in Pacific Asia. Therefore, immediately after the election Abe announced his visit to the U.S. this January. What is he going to do next? Apparently the economy. Without economic improvement, Abe is not staying prime minister for long; in order to achieve that, Japan’s relationship with China has to be taken into consideration. The real foundation of Abe and the LDP is Japan's financial sector and entrepreneurs.

Finance Is the Compass and the LDP Steers

There is a saying in Japan: Finance is the compass and the LDP steers. The sector supported Abe just because it thought he could repair the Sino-Japanese relationship. This sector and the entrepreneurs are the promoters and benefactors of the economic and trade relationships between China and Japan — and, at the same time, victims if the relationship worsens. They cannot wait to have the relationship renewed and recovered.

Hence, what really determines what Abe will choose is the interests he represents. He resorted to nationalism to gain support but would have to step down after he took office if people had less money in their pocket. Needless to say, how both countries step half a step backward on this matter remains a mystery.

Secondly, choosing the middle way is the most beneficial to Japan; staying neutral could prevent Japan from being involved in the Sino-U.S. competitions and would ensure that it gets whatever it wants from both sides, thus maximizing its interests. Currently, the Asian political security and economy is a dual structure, with the former being centered on the U.S. It was formed during the Cold War, in which America established a series of bilateral security alliances including those with Japan, Korea, the Philippines and Australia in the Asian-Pacific region and built an American-led Asian-Pacific security system based upon the bilateral alliances. America's return to Asia and having the U.S.-Japan alliance as the cornerstone undoubtedly aims at rebuilding and reinforcing this system.

However, the Asian economic system is increasingly centered on China. After the Asian financial crisis, China and other Asia-Pacific countries have achieved fast growth in terms of economic development and accelerated the course of Asian economic integration at the same time. Not only did China surpass Japan and become the second largest economy in the world, it also is the largest trade partner of almost all Asia-Pacific countries. Though America attempts to return to Asia through political and military means, it is difficult for it to reverse the trend of Asian economic integration that is centered around China. Under such a circumstance, the best choice for Japan and other Asia-Pacific countries is to follow the American-led security system in terms of security problems and emulate the Chinese model in terms of the economy, which is to stay neutral between China and the U.S.

Finally, Japan should have learned from the Diaoyu Island crisis that the U.S. is not reliable or credible. Although the U.S.-Japan alliance is the basis of the U.S.-Japan relationship, they each have their own plans — unless Japan is still willing to be deployed as a vanguard in fighting China. Against the background of financial crisis and economic regression, America shifted its strategic focus to the Asia-Pacific region but lacked the huge but necessary resources to realize this strategy due to the sovereign debt crisis; thus domestic political impasse made America adopt a tight policy, which in turn brought about a huge resource insufficiency. How can this insufficiency be dealt with? America's solution is to find allies' support and cooperation, which means that America leads and the allies pay. In addition to that, America also gets their money through large-scale military sales, which America dubs power diplomacy; in fact, this role allows America to hide, stirring up trouble and benefiting as the third party. By getting others to work for it and trapping China in troubles and disputes with neighboring countries, America further contains and disrupts China's peaceful rise and development with the smallest prices to pay but biggest benefits.

The Japanese right wing and the Noda government see America's return to Asia as a turn of fortune for them: On one hand, this can contain China; on the other hand, Japan can strengthen its own military power, get out of the 20-year economic depression and the shadow of World War II to become a normal country and realize its ambition of its own return to Asia by enhancing its political and military strengths. However, what is the result? How America reacted in this Diaoyu Island crisis obviously is a disappointment to the right wing and also brings them a bitter sense of betrayal.

Strategic mistakes can be rectified and any misjudgment will bring irrevocable disaster. Which direction should Japan be choosing? To exert itself voluntarily in the service of the U.S. and be a vanguard in containing China and fighting China completely? Or to stay neutral and secure the maximization of its own interest? This is the choice that confronts Japan. Apparently, choosing the former will definitely drag Japan into deeper crisis and tends to worsen the situation in Eastern Asia, whereas the latter choice is seen as the wise one.



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