Is China safer than Japan


Sixty years after the end of the war, Japan's foreign policy is at a crossroads. In East Asia, Japan has to take the initiative to implement a desirable order in this region on the basis of the experience and knowledge it has acquired so far, among other things because of the increasingly stronger presence of China and the tasks relating to North Korea.


Sixty years have passed since the end of the war. Japan's foreign policy is now at a crossroads. I myself worked in the Foreign Ministry for 36 years, but when I look back on that time, I am not sure that our foreign policy has adequately adjusted to the widespread change in international relations and the domestic political environment in Japan. Given Japan's shrinking population as a result of declining birth rates and aging, we are facing an era in which our country's potential will decline in relative terms. Japan therefore doesn't have much time left. It is very possible that in ten to fifteen years, China and India, with their huge populations, will have developed to such an extent that they have caught up with Japan both economically and militarily. These countries are facing a number of difficult problems and there is no doubt that their development will in fact go so smoothly. At least in the next few years this is likely to be the case, and as long as these countries maintain an appropriate policy, sooner or later several Asian states will with certainty emerge as major international powers.

On the other hand, I hope Japan’s potential will not just wane. Japan is currently implementing reforms with great commitment. It must now put its public finances back in order and strive for greater efficiency in its economy. In order for Japan to embark on this path of economic recovery, it also needs an appropriate environment. What kind of East Asia is desirable for Japan and what order must it shape? Within the region, Japan is the largest economic power and at the same time the most progressive democracy. I believe that the most important task of our foreign policy now is for Japan to take the initiative before it is too late and to work towards an order that will benefit this region as a whole.

What is your attitude towards China?
From the standpoint of creating a stable environment that enables security and prosperity, the most important question is what to do with China, whose presence is growing in strength. It cannot be ruled out that as its potential further increases, China, in which there is no political freedom under the one-party rule of the Communist Party, will take steps to seek supremacy in the region. If you look at the current actions of China, its military spending, which has recorded double-digit growth rates for seventeen years and whose actual scope far exceeds the published figures, as well as its opaque military policy together with its fundamental stance, do not indicate the use of military force against Taiwan to rule out, the states concerned are certainly cause for concern. Some experts are of the opinion that the stability of the region can only be preserved by strengthening Japan's military potential and expanding the deterrent potential within the framework of the Japanese-American alliance in order to maintain its superiority over the increasingly self-confident China through strength.

However, it must be said very clearly that the conditions differ fundamentally from the policy towards the Soviet Union during the Cold War. China is pursuing a course of economic opening and attracting foreign investment. The international community also sees China as an opportunity for trade, so that today the mutual dependence between China and the international community in the field of economics is greater than anything else. China's trade volume with Japan, the United States and the EU is approximately $ 170 billion each, and the Chinese export industry is largely dependent on foreign capital. China's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) was the most important factor that fueled this trend. As long as China does not change this policy comprehensively, there is no reason to pursue a policy of containment such as it did during the Cold War against the Soviet Union. A constructive contribution from China is also required for the various tasks that exist at the international and regional level. Discussions on issues such as trade, energy and the environment make little sense without China's involvement. The G8 summit in Gleneagles this year also attached great importance to the dialogue with China, and the international community should continue to pursue a policy of constructive involvement as the basis of its China policy in the future.

How must Japan shape its China policy in view of these international ties between China? While China was still a developing country and showed no active presence either regionally or internationally - that is, until about the mid-1990s - Japan supported the country's economic opening under the slogan of "Japanese-Chinese friendship" and continues to do so . In both Japan and China it was taken for granted that Japan should help rebuild the country because of the great damage it had caused by the war. On the Japanese side there was a certain generosity towards the developing country China, while on the Chinese side they were relieved that the close relationships with central figures in Japanese politics ensured that occasional bilateral frictions did not unduly impair political relations.

However, due to the change in the political structures in Japan and the increasing development of China into a great power, Japan's attitude towards China has changed considerably. This change was particularly evident in the first five years of the 21st century. A whole series of events can be enumerated that have negatively influenced the Japanese view of China: the sudden increase in vegetable exports from China to Japan, the advance of Chinese security forces on the premises of the Japanese Consulate General in Shenyang to arrest refugees from North Korea, the Penetration of a Chinese submarine into Japanese territorial waters, the cruising of Chinese research vessels and the unilateral development of resources in disputed sea areas, as well as the behavior of the Chinese authorities on the occasion of the recent anti-Japanese demonstrations. The basis for this deterioration in the assessment of China by Japan is not only the feeling that China's behavior does not comply with the basic rules of international relations, but that China leads the historical consciousness in Japan to justify its own actions and requires Japan to act like a perpetrator to behave who still has to apologize.

Of course, the feelings of the people in China, who have suffered a lot from the war of aggression, must always be kept in mind. However, over a period of sixty years under a democratic system, Japan's trustworthiness as a state committed to peace has been sufficiently confirmed by the international community, so that China's attitude to cite historical awareness as a reason for its own justification and this at every meeting at the Presenting at the head of government level seems unusual. By betting on the "history card", China arouses suspicion that it is only trying to prevent Japan from gaining greater influence in the area of ​​politics and security within this region. At least that is how his reasoning and the obvious actions taken to prevent Japan from becoming a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council appear in this light. Since China has expanded its relations with, among others, Europe and America, Russia and the members of the Community of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), it may believe that it can afford this exaggerated criticism of Japan and a deterioration in relations with Japan. Assuming this point of view were correct, Japan would also have to fight back behind the scenes on the international stage, so that the prospects for an improvement in Sino-Japanese relations would not be good. Objectively speaking, this development would be very unfortunate for Japan and China themselves, as well as for this region as a whole. The deterioration in relations between Japan and China would also have a destabilizing effect on the international situation as a whole.

The main cause of the deterioration in Sino-Japanese relations is the lack of trust between the two states. It is certainly difficult to forge relationships of trust between states with different systems of government, but if the current situation continues, there is much to lose on both sides. In order to establish stable relations between Japan and China in the future, the following principles on which those relations are based need to be reaffirmed. First of all, the governments must confirm and clearly explain to the people of both countries that the prosperous development of bilateral relations will benefit both Japan and China, and that there is nothing to be said against it if both countries play a role within the international community it is appropriate to their respective potentials, that the bilateral economic relations have a mutually complementary character and that common interests exist in the creation of a regional community in East Asia and in global issues such as energy and the environment. Relations will only improve if there is a greater understanding of the importance of Sino-Japanese relations in both countries.

In addition, it seems to me necessary to ensure that the problems of the past do not turn into political problems. From the Japanese perspective, it looks like China is using the history problem to keep Japan in check. From the Chinese point of view, the Prime Minister's visits to the Yasukuni Shrine symbolize the increase in right-wing extremist tendencies in Japan. The visits of the Prime Minister to this shrine, in which the category A war criminals are also venerated, evoke associations with the war. For the people in China who have experienced a lot of suffering, they represent an act that must irritate their feelings. The request by the Chinese side to stop these visits must therefore not simply be dismissed as meddling in internal Japanese affairs. However, can the problem be solved by the prime minister stopping his visits? As long as China uses the victory in the war of aggression instigated by Japan as a means of dominating its own population, the problem of history will persist. I think it is now time for both governments to face each other sincerely in order to establish objective rules so that the problem of history does not turn into a problem of politics, so that both states with their different systems of government can coexist and prosper in harmony .

Comprehensive solution to the North Korean nuclear problem
The security environment Japan finds itself in is still unstable and by no means transparent. I was involved in drafting the Japan-American Joint Declaration on Security, signed by Prime Minister Hashimoto and US President Clinton in 1996, and then in drafting guidelines for defense cooperation between the two countries. At that time, the most important concern was to ensure the efficient functioning of the Japanese-American security treaty in the event of an emergency on the Korean peninsula and to clearly define the tasks of Japan, which were not yet clearly identified. This clear definition of Japan's tasks in the event of an emergency in its environment and the associated creation of joint Japanese-American plans have strengthened Japan's potential for deterrence. The Joint Security Declaration also stated that the military situation can be influenced by the security environment and that foreign policy plays an important role in improving this security environment. Prime Minister Koizumi's visit to North Korea in September 2002, as well as the Japan-North Korean declaration of Pyongyang published on the occasion, came about on the basis of this attitude of principle. Given the historical fact that Japan exercised colonial rule on the Korean peninsula and that developments on this peninsula have a direct impact on Japan's security, it is only natural that Japan should be actively involved in building peace in this region. However, one must be aware that even with an active engagement on the part of Japan, the respective interests of the participating states are intricately intertwined, so that a solution in Japan's sole interest is not possible. For South Korea there is a problem of national reconciliation. A Korean minority lives in China in the border area with Korea and the country has great security interests. For the United States it is on the one hand a matter of maintaining peace in this region, but on the other hand there is also the problem of ensuring the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons as a global task. The six-party talks on the question of the North Korean nuclear program form an appropriate framework, since all the states involved are involved with their respective interests. Should this framework be abandoned, the prospects for a peaceful solution to the problem would become a long way off. All those involved, including North Korea, must be clear about this.

The clear aim of the six-party talks is the diplomatic solution to the problem of the North Korean nuclear program. The corresponding proposed solutions must, however, also take North Korea's demands into account. That is, the nuclear program's abandonment must include economic aid and allow North Korea to put its relations with the international community on a more normal basis. In addition, if North Korea so wishes, the problem of kidnappings must also be resolved within relations with Japan. A solution to the kidnapping issue will therefore also require progress in the six-party talks to resolve the nuclear problem. North Korea, too, is certainly aware that if the talks go into detail, bilateral consultations between Japan and North Korea will naturally also take place in parallel.

First of all, solutions are needed for the nuclear problem, the kidnappings and for North Korea to establish normal relations with the other states involved. In the long term, however, the six-party talks should also be continued as a framework for building trust on the Korean peninsula. If the future talks were to help build confidence and maintain peace in this region, this would significantly reduce tensions in the region and would also have a significant impact on the military situation. The mechanisms for reacting immediately to an emergency on the Korean peninsula are gradually changing and also influencing the strategy of the United States to station its armed forces on the front lines, so that this development can eventually also create scope for the burden of the Decrease US bases on Okinawa.

Promote the conception of the East Asian community
Together with the current foreign policy tasks within East Asia, Japan must work in the next ten to twenty years to draw up and implement long-term planning for a stable order in the region. The idea of ​​a regional community in East Asia must be thoroughly discussed from various angles.

First of all, an answer must be found as to what purpose such a community should serve. A look at the current East Asia shows that there is a great variety of systems of government in the individual states and that the values ​​that the individual societies consider worthy of protection are not identical. Therefore it will not be possible to strive for a community of values ​​immediately; rather, a functional community should first be created. This means that a community should be formed that focuses on the functions necessary for the development of the region such as trade, energy, finance and economic cooperation. Prime Minister Koizumi also made this the basis of his ideas in his speech in Singapore on cooperation in East Asia. In fact, Japan is strongly committed to negotiating economic partnership agreements with the leading states of ASEAN and South Korea, based on the model of the agreement with Singapore. China and Australia are also negotiating the conclusion of free trade agreements within the region in the same way. The aim should be to expand these bilateral agreements in the future and to establish an East Asian free trade area.

Functional cooperation is by no means limited to trade, investment and finance. In view of the high potential growth rates in this region, concrete cooperation on issues such as energy supply, development and their efficient use, as well as on the other side, on environmental protection should also be promoted. In addition, in the so-called non-traditional tasks in the area of ​​security, such as the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the fight against terrorism and protection against piracy, close cooperation must be sought, which ultimately aims at a community. If the creation of a community with this functional collaboration is the focus, then the next phase will come into focus in the future, namely the values ​​to be protected together.

There are currently many different systems of government in place in East Asia. From democracies with multi-party systems to dictatorships with one-party rule and military dictatorships, there is a great variety. There are differences in terms of ideas about rulership and the values ​​to be protected. As part of the process of forming the East Asian Community, efforts must be made to improve the systems of government in order to guarantee basic democratic values ​​such as respect for human rights and rule of law; At the same time, the relevant systems and human resource training must be developed. As long as this level has not been reached, it is still too early to talk about a security community, because without the same values, no unified understanding of threats can be achieved. Of course, in this context it is also important to further expand cooperation in the area of ​​security on the so-called “soft” level such as confidence-building measures and exchange programs in the defense sector as functional cooperation.

The question of how far East Asia actually extends is also very important. It must be decided which states should be included in the cooperation for regional integration. In the discussion that has taken place so far, there is agreement that the ten member states of ASEAN in Southeast Asia and the three states in Northeast Asia, namely Japan, China and South Korea, should form the core. At the summit of the heads of state and government of East Asia, which will take place in Malaysia in December 2005, not only ASEAN + 3 but also India, Australia and New Zealand will participate. The process of creating a regional community in East Asia is a process of deepening functional cooperation. As long as the idea of ​​open regional cooperation is preserved, all states that are striving to participate in the cooperation in East Asia and are able to do so should be welcomed. However, if the purpose is to maintain close cooperation for the community, the participating states should feel a strong commitment to the creation of a regional East Asian community. For example, the United States has a very large presence in all areas of politics, security and economics, as far as the aspect of cooperation with East Asia is concerned. However, it is difficult to imagine that the United States, as the only global power, could feel an obligation to create an East Asian community. Russia is also expanding its relations with the East Asia region, starting with friendship and cooperation agreements in Southeast Asia. However, Russia, which borders both Europe and Central Asia and East Asia, is unlikely to give priority to an East Asian community. As a result, ASEAN plus Japan, China and South Korea as well as India, Australia and New Zealand appear first as logical candidates for the countries that make up the East Asian Community. It goes without saying that relations with countries such as the United States, which are vital to the future of the East Asia region, require some sort of mechanism to ensure constant consultation.

Finally, in promoting the conception of an East Asian Community, it is necessary to discuss what this means for relations with the United States, which acts as the central axis of Japanese foreign policy. In parts of the United States, it is believed that the idea of ​​an East Asian community serves to drive the United States out of the region and that it is an attempt at regional integration under Chinese leadership. I myself think that these fears are based on a lack of understanding of the nature of Japanese foreign policy or are caused by a lack of confidence in Japan as a whole. Japan is an East Asian country and - as already mentioned - it needs a stable environment to secure its future prosperity. This does not mean a contradiction to the basic coordinate system of Japanese foreign policy, namely that my country upholds the values ​​of democracy and the free market economy and, in order to preserve and promote them, adheres to the alliance with the United States and at the same time remains active as a member of the G8 committed to solving global issues. As already mentioned, there is no place within the concept of the East Asian Community for integrating the area of ​​security in the coming years. It goes without saying that Japan must continue to explain to the United States its views on cooperation with East Asia and seek sufficient understanding.

Spiritual leadership of Japan
During my participation in meetings with senior officials from ASEAN and the discussions that took place there, I have always felt that Japan is a mature democracy and a leading nation and that it is therefore above all called upon to assume spiritual leadership. Japan has gained extensive experience in numerous international organizations such as the G8 and the United Nations, and it takes responsibility for its work for the international community. This distinguishes it from the other states of East Asia. Japan must uphold and promote the vision of creating an East Asian community based on its experience and knowledge. At the same time, however, it must also be aware of the costs that Japan will face in realizing this vision. There is little point in talking about the East Asian community without reshaping Sino-Japanese relations, and there will be no stability in East Asia unless the threat to the Korean Peninsula is removed. In order to realize the East Asian Community, Japan must greatly expand its assistance in areas such as reducing the economic imbalance between the individual countries of ASEAN and strengthening human resource training, as well as opening up its markets generously in the Economic Partnership Agreements.




Hitoshi Tanaka
Graduated from the Law Faculty of Kyoto University; Entry into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Graduated from Oxford University. Head of the Second North America Department, Head of the East Asia Department, Envoy to the Japanese Embassy in London, Head of the Department of Foreign Policy Coordination, Deputy Head of the North America Department, Consul General in San Francisco, Head of the Economic Department, Head of the Asia-Oceania Department, Deputy Foreign Minister. Retired since August 2005.

(Source: Gaiko Forum, October 2005)

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