On May 21, the Group of Seven summit concluded in Hiroshima, Japan. Taking advantage of its position as host country, Japan directly, or indirectly, pointed to China on a number of issues at the meeting, showing no regard for basic facts and coordinating with the United States to smear China. The joint statement, issued after the conference and strongly promoted by Japan, listed China as a standalone item and directly referenced China 20 times. In exchange for American support for its military normalization and in an attempt at enhancing its value in the U.S. global strategic layout, Japan actively manipulated China-related issues and cooperated with the U.S. to engineer a camp confrontation in the Asia-Pacific. Putting on such farcical political shows exacerbates the trend of global and regional conglomeration and confrontation, exposing the Asia-Pacific to new variables and risks to the peace and prosperity of the region.
Helping the US To Suppress China by Hyping ‘Economic Coercion’
The communiqué stated that the G7 would respond in concert to “economic coercion” from China, but the irony is that the instigator of economic coercion — of which the other six member states, particularly Japan, have been victims — is the U.S. itself. In 1985, worried about Japan’s burgeoning economic strength, the U.S. forced Japan into signing the Plaza Accord, setting the stage for the sharp appreciation of the yen and eventually plunging Japan into a 30-year slump due to the bursting of the bubble economy. In 1986, and again in 1991, the U.S. coerced Japan into signing two agreements aimed at restricting exports of semiconductors to the U.S. and expanding the share of American semiconductors in the Japanese market. Around the same time, and so as to suppress Japan’s semiconductor industry, the U.S. applied Section 301 of its 1974 Trade Act against Japan and imposed sanctions, successfully achieving a reversal of the U.S.-Japanese semiconductor market share: Between 1988 and 2019, Japan’s semiconductor market share plummeted from 50.3% to 10%, while the U.S. market share rose from 36.8% to 50.7%. Japan’s semiconductor industry has never managed to recover, while the U.S. has reemerged as the global semiconductor leader.
In recent years, the U.S. has not merely suppressed the development of China’s semiconductor industry through economic coercion tactics such as technology blockades, unilateral sanctions and investment reviews, but has also pressured Japan and the Netherlands to restrict exports of semiconductor equipment to China. Japan, once the victim, has responded positively to this by deciding to impose export controls on 23 types of sophisticated semiconductor manufacturing equipment in six categories, starting in July of this year, which is consistent with the U.S. restricting China’s ability to produce advanced semiconductor chips. Clearly, then, when it comes to the issues of economic coercion and suppressing China, the U.S. is the main culprit, and Japan is an accomplice.
Japan boasts of being the standard bearer of free trade, but as this year’s G7 host country, it set economic security as a separate topic for the first time at the summit, pushing instead for each country to agree to build a supply chain of important materials such as chips and rare earth elements. This was done with the aim of helping the U.S. to build an economic “small yard, high fence” and artificially promote a decoupling from China, so as to exclude China from the global production and supply chain. The summit communiqué stated the necessity of “de-risking” economic and trade relations with and reducing key supply chain dependencies on China, as if the recent turmoil in the U.S. banking sector and the looming debt defaults were not the main risk points threatening global economic growth. A new report by the International Monetary Fund observed that, under the influence of the U.S. “Chips and Science Act,” capital is flowing to “geopolitically close countries;” it further warned that the damage from the rise of “friend-shoring” is likely to be greatest in less developed markets, with geoeconomic fragmentation triggered by policy changes across countries ultimately leading to long-term losses equivalent to 2% of global gross domestic product. At the same time, both the IMF and the World Bank are bullish on the Chinese economy and believe that its growth will have positive spillover effects on other countries, contributing significantly to global economic growth. When it comes to the world’s economic development, China is not a risk, but an opportunity.
Interfering in the Taiwan Issue, Undermining Regional Stability
Not only did the Hiroshima summit discuss China’s Taiwan issue in the idlest of terms, but it also included “safeguarding peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait” and “[calling] for a peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues,” which is a gross interference in China’s internal affairs. The Taiwan Strait issue, a matter of China’s domestic affairs, was included in the summit agenda by Japan as G7 host country. Japan thus joins the U.S. and Europe and their ulterior motives in flagrantly interfering in China’s internal affairs. Ever since the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Japan has used various international events to push its own ideas, drawing a forced connection between that conflict and the Asia-Pacific, exaggerating regional tensions, lobbying other countries to jointly exert pressure on China, and participating in disruptions in the Taiwan Strait. At the same time, Japan has been actively promoting the securitization of its technological and industrial cooperation with Taiwan, attempting to create a space for the forces of Taiwan independence to survive in the economic sphere and trying to limit China’s choices of path in resolving the Taiwan issue by emphasizing the position of the latter in the world’s production and supply chain.
Japan has also been availing itself of regional tensions to accelerate its push for military normalization. After some sneaky visits to Taiwan by U.S. politicians, several Japanese legislators have either followed suit with visits of their own or have spread the view that “a Taiwan emergency is a Japanese emergency,” inflaming regional tensions and creating a pretext for strengthening their military. At the end of 2022, Japan revised three security documents including its National Security Strategy, achieving a major change in its defense strategy from defensive to offensive, obliterating its “exclusive defense” principle, and further reducing its Peace Constitution to a shell of what it was. This year, Japan has been accelerating its military deployment in Okinawa, and not just that of its self-defense forces, including the Patriot-3 anti-missile system, in various parts of Okinawa including Ishigaki Island, Yonaguni Island and Miyako Island. It has also expanded its military facilities and increased its naval and air forces, openly creating tension all around the Taiwan Strait.
Disregarding Historical Facts, Applying Double Standards
For the first time, the Hiroshima G7 summit wrote of “upholding and reinforcing the free and open international order based on the rule of law” and “strongly opposing attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion.” This is an obvious continuation of the long-standing discourse trap created by Japan and the U.S., according to which the basic norms of international relations, based on the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, are replaced by Western rules underlined by ideology and values; the international rules that should be observed by all countries in the world are replaced by “clique rules” dominated by the G7 and U.S. priorities; and the common interests of the international community are replaced by those serving the vested interests of a small number of countries.
The G7 has called on China to abide by the rule of law, seemingly unaware that Japanese and American violations of the U.N. Charter and the basic principles of international law are both long-standing and too numerous to mention. For example, in September 1951, the U.S. and other countries signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty with Japan, making peace unilaterally. This directly violated the principle of unanimity between countries — especially the major ones — in dealing with postwar Japan, as defined in the Declaration by United Nations signed by 26 countries including China, the U.S., the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union in 1942. The 1943 Cairo Declaration clearly stipulated the handling of Japan’s occupation of territories during the war and was reaffirmed by the later Potsdam Proclamation, stating that Japan must return to China territories stolen from it during the war, including Taiwan, and that Japan’s sovereignty was limited to Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku, and the islands determined by the Allies. In 1971, the U.S. handed over the administration of Okinawa to Japan, in an illegal act of private transfer. As another example, in March 2014, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the Netherlands, ruled that Japan’s whaling program was not conducted for purposes of scientific research, ordered it to cease issuing whaling permits, and imposed a fine of 8 billion yen; in December 2018, Japan announced its withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission, and in June 2022 it officially resumed commercial whaling.
While asking other countries to be responsible, Japan has been supremely irresponsible, pushing ahead with its plan to discharge nuclear-contaminated water into the sea. In April 2021, without adequately consulting with its neighboring countries and without the International Atomic Energy Agency having reached a final verdict on the plan to dispose of nuclear-contaminated water, the Japanese government decided to release millions of tons of contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the sea from 2023 onward. At the same time, it attempted to confuse the concept by conflating nuclear-contaminated water with the wastewater discharged from nuclear power stations in the normal course of operations. Both Japanese and international experts have said that the 1.4 million tons of contaminated water from the Fukushima plant contains more than 60 types of radionuclides, and that once it is released into the sea, it will spread to global waters in the next few decades, taking an incalculable toll on the global marine environment and on human health.
During the Hiroshima summit, Japan carefully arranged for the G7 leaders to visit the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall. However, while Japan creates its own tragic image of a nuclear weapon victim, it selectively ignores the history of the atomic bombing, ignores the sentiments of people in war-stricken countries, and downplays, embellishes or outright denies its own history of aggression. On the one hand, it claims to be pursuing a “nuclear-free world,” but on the other, it is unwilling to step out from under the protection of the U.S. “nuclear umbrella” and refuses to accede to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, despite the strong demand from domestic anti-war groups. And while it blows the residual hazards of the atomic bombing out of all proportion, it is paying scant attention to voices of opposition both domestically and internationally, disposing of the nuclear-contaminated Fukushima waters by draining them into the sea, as a cost-saving measure. This is in defiance of the basic human rights of people of all countries, such as the right to health and the right to survival, and it shifts the risk of nuclear contamination onto the whole world. How can such hypocritical double standards win the trust of its Asian neighbors and the international community?
The writers are both special research fellows at the Graduate School of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Research Center for Xi Jinping Thought.