Japan from the inside out

The world according to China

Posted by ampontan on Friday, November 19, 2010

The United States-Japan Foundation recently held a seminar in Shanghai. It invited Americans and Japanese specializing in Chinese affairs, and Chinese specializing in international affairs, for discussions. Kono Taro of the LDP attended, and he offered a summary of the opinions presented by the Chinese seminar participants on his website in Japanese with the English title, The World According to China. Here it is in English. Remember that Mr. Kono is only reporting what he heard others say.

1. The turnover in Japanese prime ministers is too extreme. We don’t know how much longer the Kan Cabinet will survive, so what value is there in working to build communication channels with the Cabinet?

2. We thought that after the Democratic Party of Japan took power, relations would improve in several ways, starting with historical issues. But it seems as if Prime Minister Kan will not take any action against the hawkish statements of Foreign Minister Maehara.

3. People often say that tension in Asia was created by the rise of China and the decline of the United States, but that’s not correct. The tension in Asia was created by the rise of China and the decline of Japan.

4. It should not have been necessary to suspend interaction between the citizens of both countries after the Senkakus Incident. The Chinese government was hounded domestically for that alone.

5. China now has some leeway in its relations with the United States because its power and status have risen.

6. In regard to Taiwan and territorial issues, the Chinese government is being pressured by the people, who insist that it should respond authoritatively to the United States government.

7. The current American-Sino relationship was formed when China was in a weak position, such as during the Tiananmen Square “incident”. China should act more assertively to create a relationship of equality with the United States.

8. From the Chinese perspective, the United States is saying that China should act more cooperatively, but the U.S. has not changed its position at all on Taiwan and Tibet. They are trying to use India, Japan, and Vietnam to maintain a balance in the region.

9. In its relations with the United States, China will take a strong position in regard to the core issues of Taiwan and Tibet. Realistic cooperation is possible in the economic sphere. For example, in exchange for China giving some ground on currency issues, the U.S. should eliminate its restrictions on providing technology to China. More cooperation is needed between the U.S. and Chine for international issues. China’s international role will increase in the future, so it will not follow America’s lead.

10. In regard to the issue of voting rights at the World Bank, the United States convinced a backwards-looking Europe, and China’s status rose. More of this will probably occur in the future.

11. Heretofore, when the United States engaged with growing powers, they were either complete enemies, such as the Soviet Union, or complete satellites, such as Germany or Japan. This is the first time that the United States has had to deal with the rise of a country that is neither, such as China, and they have no experience with it.

12. The United States is becoming frantic because it thinks it can defeat China with both its power and its values. It feels threatened by China’s rise, however. They seem to want to blame China for everything.

13. China must clearly signal its intentions, learn to communicate forthrightly with the United States, and take seriously its role and responsibilities in Asia and the world.

14. The U.S.-China relationship is not a mere bilateral relationship, but a relationship for creating international relations.

15. A new regional framework is required in Asia to handle new, non-traditional security issues while dealing singly with the traditional security issues of Taiwan, the Korean Peninsula, and the South China Sea. (The statement was made that Taiwan is no longer an issue.)

16. In Asia, Japan, South Korea, and India have very strong economic ties with China. Nevertheless, their bonds with the United States remain as those with a strong nation. This paradox will present an interesting topic for strategic thinkers in the future.

17. In China too the state strongly intervenes in the economy. Other problems include the central government’s excessive pressure on local governments for the resource economy, and the large income gaps.

18. On two occasions the argument was made that a certain amount of political reform was required. The first time, however, (the leadership) made the decision that it would be dangerous after watching the democracy movement in Poland. The second became linked to the Tiananmen “incident”. It is possible that the current corruption and economic gaps will lead to the necessity for political reform. But that will only involve democratic procedures within the party.

19. There is no question that the party controls the military. There are various problems within the government, however, regarding the relationship between the military and other institutions. For example, the status of the Foreign Ministry in the government is extremely low. It has no Politburo members, nor is there anyone at the deputy prime minister level.

20. Whenever there is a difference of opinion between the military and the Foreign Ministry, the military does not give a second thought to challenging them.

21. The party uses personnel moves and the budget to control senior military officers. The military operated its own business enterprises, but permitting that led to corruption and the loss of the budget as a means of controlling the military. Therefore, controls are being put on the military’s involvement in business.

22. Taiwan has ceased to become a problem, so the military requires a new rationale for budget requests.


Don’t say they didn’t warn you.

Did you notice how often the word status came up in the conversation? Joshua Blanton at One Free Korea is even more blunt about China than I:

(F)eeding China’s ego also feeds its arrogance and its predatory nature…China’s leaders are the product of a zero-sum world view where preying on the weak is just what the strong do, where the ideology of class equality masks a cultural obsession with status, place, and power so deep that not even Mao could exterminate it…China must have its share of intra-governmental gridlock and negotiations, but those are negotiations conducted within that unaccountable fraction of a percent of the total population that hasn’t been subjugated. The rest of the world is made of lessers you subjugate, and rivals you can’t…(I)n Beijing…there is a long institutional memory of foreign kings bringing tribute.

Be sure to read all of it for the context, though it also stands alone very easily.

I much prefer La Femme Chinoise to Die chinesische weltanschauung.

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4 Responses to “The world according to China”

  1. Ok, now all you have to do is organize these great ideas into some kind of prose… Like a paragraph or two.

    As for Japan’s decline (I did a bit of Economics in school, and the development story in Asia is fascinating), why did they stop developing at “High End Manufacturing”… Why do we never hear about Japanese Services (business services, financial services, consulting, accounting) selling around the world. Why do westerns really only know about a handful of Japanese companies that make TV’s.

    In my view, Japan’s biggest problem is they stopped at high end manufacture… That meant that when the Koreans (Samsung, Daewoo, LG) came on about 20 years later, they competed against the Japanese…China hasn’t even got to that stage and we’re already talking about ‘tension’.. just because China has surpassed JP in GDP, etc.

    Why didn’t JP keep progressing? They stopped moving, and now the Koreans are.. well.. nibbling Japan’s sushi.
    MAR: Thanks for the note.

    Ok, now all you have to do is organize these great ideas into some kind of prose… Like a paragraph or two.

    Why? Kono Taro didn’t. That’s almost exactly how he organized them. He just made each of them individual segments. I gave them numbers to make them easier to follow.

    – A.

  2. PaxAmericana said

    A good article, and quite relevant for the current situation.

    For better or worse, there’s nothing surprising in the points. China wants to be treated as an equal to the US, or at least to have an agreement that they will be in a certain number of years. It’s only natural that the US’s domination of the world come to an end at some point, so what’s the big deal? We just have to create a new world arrangement from the situation. As the biggest concern of the Chinese establishment seems to be stability, there should be a way to work out some kind of modus vivendi.

    As an aside, for those who want to see a strong US presence in the world, the best thing might be to work on fixing all the problems inside the country. If China being equal is an unpleasant thought, imagine the world when America is significantly weaker than the US.

  3. Harry said

    Chinese leaders are now overconfident.

    And they will soon face the reality on the ground.

  4. If ’twere done, ’twere well ’twere done quickly!

    I presume you agree and are trying to drum up a little support for the forthcoming casus belli?

    I ’twere left to be done for too long, China might be too big! Best too if India, Pakistan and Japan could provide most of the cannon fodder? There is a reason why the FM is so weak. TPTB in USA will not go to war with China. China knows this. But China also knows what happened to draw Japan into WWII. You will have to be very good to organize anything similar to that! Singapore is still strategic. So is Russia. CCCP and USA were allied in WWII. They are getting closer now again. But cannot afford to be too close, else the dragon might get suspicious? Allowing regional China to flourish would be a good thing, but best done peacefully?

    Cut off the head?

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