Must Japan be eclipsed by China?
Published: 12th Nov 2010 15:01:05
At the 21-nation summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (Apec) in Japan this weekend, US President Barack Obama will meet Chinese and other regional leaders to discuss how to keep rising economic and security tensions in check. For Japan, the cost of failure could be high, as William Horsley reports.
Japan faces a decisive fork in the road as it prepares to host the Yokohama summit.
One route would result in an abrupt end to Japan's half century as Asia's most successful nation, and signal a long decline in the shadow of China, the rising regional power.
The much brighter path for Japan would lead to a secure regional order based on agreed international rules and a "concert" of Asian nations.
The Asia-Pacific countries, which together account for more than half the world's total economic output, will explore ways of reaching agreement on a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, as well as closer economic integration across the hugely diverse region.
This agenda aims to build a sense of inter-dependence and shared interests through the common benefits of open trade, investment and what is called "human security".
But as this week's G20 summit in Seoul showed, core issues like adjusting international currency values and dropping protective trade barriers multilaterally, are fraught with difficulties.
Increasingly, economic and security problems have become intertwined and barely distinguishable from each other - especially in Asia where the interests of the US, China, Russia and Japan converge.
Japan has much to lose if a peaceful new order cannot be established in its own neighbourhood. So does it have the ingenuity and strength to help bring it about?
Many experts in East Asian affairs say that the Japanese have only grown more inward-looking as the challenges have multiplied.
Foremost among those are the inexorable rise of China, North Korea's acquisition of nuclear weapons, and Japan's own clumsy handling of relations with its main ally, the United States.
Andrew Oros, an American political scientist and author on Japanese security issues, says the Japanese now appear overwhelmingly pessimistic about the future.
Speaking at a conference last week, Dr Oros said that recent events had shown Japan's political leaders were "more or less paralysed" in the face of hard strategic choices.
The current Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) government led by Naoto Kan has failed to resolve a long-running dispute over the planned relocation of a large US Marine base to a less crowded part of Okinawa, in the face of strong hostility from the local population to any American military presence.
Mr Kan's predecessor, Yukio Hatoyama, resigned in June amid confusion over the base issue, as well as charges that he was edging Japan's strategic stance away from the US and a bit closer to China.
Japan's perceived diplomatic weakness was exploited by Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev in early November when he made the first ever visit by a Russian leader to the Kuril islands, which the Japanese call their "Northern Territories".
The trip underlined Russia's intention to ignore Japan's claim to recover the islands which the Red Army seized in the closing days of World War II.
At home, a rapid series of government collapses mean that Mr Kan is Japan's fifth prime minister in only four years.
And a recent clash with China over the Japanese-held Senkaku islands in the East China Sea, which China also claims and calls Diaoyu, showed how far Japan is from a relationship of trust with its giant neighbour.
Japan arrested and then released the crew and captain of a Chinese fishing boat which collided in September with two Japanese patrol vessels.
But the Chinese, far from dampening down the row, encouraged mass displays of popular anti-Japanese feeling, banned exports to Japan of rare earth metals vital to Japan's hi-tech industries and started a diplomatic chill which will be tested at this weekend's summit.
For its part, Japan is anxious about Washington's decision to open a US-China "strategic dialogue", and there is so much talk of the United States and China becoming the world's most important decision-makers, a so-called "G2".
Tomohiko Taniguchi, a former Japanese foreign ministry spokesman turned strategic analyst, says China's vast size, super-fast economic growth and expanding naval power mean that Japan faces the prospect of Chinese dominance for the first time in more than 1,000 years.
Nothing would be more humiliating for Japan, he says, than "having to kowtow to the rulers in Beijing".
The Japanese government insists that it has a sound overall strategy. It continues to rely heavily on the 50-year-old US-Japan alliance while itself maintaining a defensive "posture" in line with Japan's postwar "peace constitution".
But Japan is also seeking a wide consensus for more meaningful security ties with other democracies like Australia, India and countries in Southeast Asia - and even with the Atlantic alliance, NATO.
Japanese officials point out that the country is still in the top five among the world's givers of development aid, despite its recent years of lean economic growth at home. It is the number one aid-giver to India.
Japan's advanced technology is also vital to the joint programme with the US to develop ever more sophisticated missile defence systems - something that is crucial for Japan's homeland defence against North Korea's repeated missile tests in the sea close to Japanese territory.
This policy mix involves many levers, but it leaves Japan open to the charge that it seeks to be "all things to all people".
The core reality for Japan is that the 50-year era of its amazing ascent, under American protection, to become an economic superpower is now being challenged by strong global power shifts.
An even greater challenge for Japan may be to cast off the inward-looking mindset of its leaders that has evolved during the years of plenty, and start to show political leadership to match its economic power.
At 20:04:29 in BusinessUS chain Destination Maternity has withdrawn a bid for UK maternity and baby-wear firm Mothercare.
At 20:04:22 in SportManchester United forward Bebe has signed for Benfica on a four-year deal for a fee of £2.4m (3m euros).
At 20:01:58 in EnglandFive Preston North End players and one former player have been released from bail as part of a spot-fixing probe by the National Crime Agency (NCA).
At 20:00:50 in SportBen Proud won England's first swimming gold of the Commonwealth Games in the men's 50m butterfly final.
At 19:54:51 in EnglandResidents of Halton will not have to pay to use two bridges over the River Mersey, when a new crossing opens in three years' time, the Chancellor has announced.
At 19:49:56 in SportScotland's Corrie Scott continued the host nation's fine start in the pool with a Glasgow 2014 bronze medal in the 50m Breaststroke.
At 19:49:36 in EntertainmentEleanor Bron has joined the cast of Radio 4's rural drama series The Archers, playing a character who first appeared in it 60 years ago.
At 19:42:32 in WalesA new-look £4.4m emergency unit at Cardiff's University Hospital of Wales will lead to improved care, says Health Minister Mark Drakeford.
At 19:05:13 in SportSprinter Christian Malcolm has defended Rhys Williams, and says there is not a drugs problem in Welsh athletics.
At 19:00:34 in EnglandMore than half of Charing Cross Hospital could be sold if plans to overhaul health services in north-west London are approved.
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2010. Must Japan be eclipsed by China? [Online] (Updated 12th Nov 2010)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/107713/Must-Japan-be-eclipsed-by-China [Accessed 25th Jul 2014]
News In Other Categories
US chain Destination Maternity has withdrawn a bid for UK maternity and baby-wear firm Mothercare.
With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
US chain Destination Maternity has withdrawn a bid for UK maternity and baby-wear firm Mothercare.
When this picture of Ed Miliband's battle with a bacon butty hit the news, the Labour team pulled a few faces of their own. So why is the party's leader talking about how he looks?
Five Preston North End players and one former player have been released from bail as part of a spot-fixing probe by the National Crime Agency (NCA).
Would it be better if the NHS bought in bulk?