As a new hegemon, China is the one the U.S. wants to contain. In Asia, Japan is of course the United States’ most important ally, and due to its geographic location, Taiwan is a natural American ally.
Ever since the U.S. began treating China with a heavy hand, imposing tariffs and sanctions aimed at science and technology, the confrontation between the U.S. and China has slowly spread to all levels of society, spiraling into a toxic situation. In this context, President Donald Trump took advantage of his visit to Japan to inspect the Yokosuka Naval Base and boarded the Japanese frigate Kaga. The military strategic of allying with Japan to control China was evident. This is the first time a U.S. president has boarded a Japanese naval warship, highlighting the solid relationship between the U.S. and Japan. In particular, over the past year, as Japan and China’s international relations and economic relationship have gradually warmed up again, Trump has been suppressing China, brashly playing the military card. This has naturally eroded and hurt the mutual trust that Japan and China have built.
Onboard the Maritime Self-Defense Force frigate Kaga, Trump declared that after Japan purchased more F-35s, it would be the ally with the largest F-35 fighter fleet, saying, “This ship, the Kaga, is the same. After it’s fitted to carry F-15 aircraft, it will become a warship that can cross regions.” Trump proclaimed more loudly, “The U.S. military doesn’t plan on giving up the strongest position in the world. It will never think about being second.”
Without a doubt, he was speaking to China. On Jan. 20, 2018, the National Defense Strategy report released by the U.S. government indicated that the reemergence of China and Russia is the central challenge to U.S. prosperity and safety.
However, this February, the RAND Corporation, the well-known U.S. security think tank, published a report entitled “Russia Is a Rogue, Not a Peer; China Is a Peer, Not a Rogue,” in which it treated China and Russia separately. This report clearly points out that China has adopted more active measures to expand its influence through trade, investment and development assistance. Thus, at present, China does not pose a direct threat to the U.S., but is rather a larger long-term challenge. In particular, in the realm of geoeconomics, China has already thrown off regional constraints, and in terms of international influence, absolute superiority of either the U.S. or China has gradually disappeared, but leans in China’s favor. That the U.S. has hit China with economic and trade tariffs and science and technology sanctions shows that the U.S. already can no longer tolerate the economic threat China poses and is attempting to speed up curtailment of possible military breakthroughs by China that would challenge U.S. military hegemony. Based on this, in addition to Japan, Russia will also be an important future ally.
In fact, Trump once had a good relationship with Vladimir Putin and wished to promote a strategy of allying with Russia to control China. However, that strategy stalled as a result of strong anti-Russia sentiment within the U.S. Yet, this year on March 24, the U.S. Department of Justice released a four-page summary revealing that Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence that Trump or his team colluded with the Russian government. This signifies that there is room — considerable room — for U.S.-Russian cooperation. The key is whether Russia is really willing to make a critical strategic turn.
It is worth noting that in his address to the Federal Assembly on Feb. 20, Putin vowed to strengthen Russia’s relationship with Asian countries, indicating Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asian countries. Russia’s plan in the Pacific region is to improve relations with Japan, and obtain Asian partners who will make investment in Siberia a top priority. From another perspective, Japan has always been a weather vane for U.S. foreign policy. When Japan and Russia improve their relationship, development of the U.S.-Russia relationship will be at hand.
It is evident from this that in the future, the U.S. will probably pressure China on trade and security. Japan, whether through trade or the military, has great strategic value for the U.S. And the ever-calculating Trump, on his trip to Japan, made a point of going onboard the MSDF Kaga. The strategic implications are profound and focused. The U.S. will subdue China through military force — the current question is one of time and opportunity.
With this in mind, Taiwan cannot take part in this grand occasion. Centrally located and as an island, Taiwan cannot abandon its role as a security partner for the U.S. At the same time, Taiwan is also a model of Asian democracy, valuing law, privacy and freedom of speech, and is a natural democratic partner. In the face of the changing and unpredictable situation in East Asia, the question is whether Taiwan is prepared.