Monday, March 21, 2005

Bush, the neocons, Japan and China

Condi-Condi was just in Japan, trying to build up Japan as a counter-weight to China: As China rises, US taps Japan as key ally by Robert Marquand Christian Science Monitor 03/21/05.

Washington is working to put Japan at the center of its vision of Asia, at a time when North Korea may soon be labeled a nuclear state.

American diplomats are also more explicitly benchmarking concerns about China, including the nation's rapid military rise, and its unclear internal politics.

Indeed, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, stood in Tokyo less than 24 hours after the passing of George Kennan, the fabled US architect of Soviet containment, and articulated a new, modified, and arguably "friendly" form of containment of China, the world's largest remaining communist power.

Describing the "rise of China" as a "new factor in global politics," Ms. Rice stated that while the US regards China as a partner and desires its prosperity, that China's political direction is unknown. The "strategic context" in Asia demands that the US foster stronger ties with Japan, South Korea, and India - even while encouraging greater trade and cooperation with Beijing, Rice explained.

I doubt very seriously that China - which currently is lending huge sums of money to the US to finance our trade deficit - sees this manuver as especially "friendly."  "Friendly containment" sounds a little like "humanitarian war." As Marquand reports:

Relations between China and Japan remain mixed and often sour. Japan is concerned that China will simply use North Korea as a kind of proxy threat against Tokyo. Japan also worries that China will seize Taiwan and block oil lanes. Beijing is concerned that the US is aligning itself with a Japan whose own direction is not entirely clear. In the past five years, Japanese nationalist sentiments have risen markedly. While the US has encouraged Japan to take a more assertive role in the world, and to be a so-called "normal nation," Chinese officials say that Japan remains unrepentant for its World War II past.

Former CIA analyst Chalmers Johson in an article last week discussed how China fits into the neoconservative view of the world, in which there must always be enemies for the United States to actively confront militarily: No Longer the "Lone" Superpower: Coming to Terms with China by Chalmers Johnson (introduction by Tom Engelhardt) 03/15/05.

America's intention is to turn Japan into what Washington neo-conservatives like to call the "Britain of the Far East" -- and then use it as a proxy in checkmating North Korea and balancing China. On October 11, 2000, Michael Green, then a member of Armitage Associates, wrote, "We see the special relationship between the United States and Great Britain as a model for the [U.S.-Japan] alliance." Japan has so far not resisted this American pressure since it complements a renewed nationalism among Japanese voters and a fear that a burgeoning capitalist China threatens Japan's established position as the leading economic power in East Asia. Japanese officials also claim that the country feels threatened by North Korea's developing nuclear and missile programs, although they know that the North Korean stand-off could be resolved virtually overnight -- if the Bush administration would cease trying to overthrow the Pyongyang regime and instead deliver on American trade promises (in return for North Korea's agreement to give up its nuclear weapons program). Instead, on February 25, 2005, the State Department announced that "the U.S. will refuse North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's demand for a guarantee of ‘no hostile intent' to get Pyongyang back into negotiations over its nuclear weapons programs." And on March 7, Bush nominated John Bolton to be American ambassador to the United Nations even though North Korea has refused to negotiate with him because of his insulting remarks about the country. ...

It has long been an article of neo-con faith that the U.S. must do everything in its power to prevent the development of rival power centers, whether friendly or hostile. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, this meant they turned their attention to China as one of our probable next enemies. In 2001, having come to power, the neo-conservatives shifted much of our nuclear targeting from Russia to China. They also began regular high-level military talks with Taiwan over defense of the island, ordered a shift of Army personnel and supplies to the Asia-Pacific region, and worked strenuously to promote the remilitarization of Japan.

Bush's grand adventure in Mesopotamia distracted from China as a focus of neocon concern for a while.  But: "By the summer of 2004, Bush strategists, distracted as they were by Iraq, again became alarmed over China's growing power and its potential to challenge American hegemony in East Asia."

Johnson also talks about some of the risks in the emerging Bush policy of promoting Japan as a pro-American counterweight to China in a situation in which the US regards China as an enemy.  There are some immediate financial risks:

Japan still possesses the world's largest foreign exchange reserves, which at the end of January 2005 stood at around $841 billion. But China sits on a $609.9 billion pile of dollars (as of the end of 2004), earned from its trade surpluses with us. Meanwhile, the American government and Japanese followers of George W. Bush insult China in every way they can, particularly over the status of China's breakaway province, the island of Taiwan. The distinguished economic analyst William Greider recently noted, "Any profligate debtor who insults his banker is unwise, to put it mildly. . . . American leadership has . . . become increasingly delusional -- I mean that literally -- and blind to the adverse balance of power accumulating against it."

And there's real political risk:

It is possible that, in the years to come, Taiwan itself may recede in importance to be replaced by even more direct Sino-Japanese confrontations. This would be an ominous development indeed, one that the United States would be responsible for having abetted but would certainly be unable to control. The kindling for a Sino-Japanese explosion has long been in place. After all, during World War II the Japanese killed approximately 23 million Chinese throughout East Asia -- higher casualties than the staggering ones suffered by Russia at the hands of the Nazis -- and yet Japan refuses to atone for or even acknowledge its historical war crimes. Quite the opposite, it continues to rewrite history, portraying itself as the liberator of Asia and a victim of European and American imperialism.

In -- for the Chinese -- a painful act of symbolism, after becoming Japanese prime minister in 2001, Junichiro Koizumi made his first official visit to Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, a practice that he has repeated every year since. Koizumi likes to say to foreigners that he is merely honoring Japan's war dead. Yasukuni, however, is anything but a military cemetery or a war memorial. It was established in 1869 by Emperor Meiji as a Shinto shrine (though with its torii archways made of steel rather than the traditional red-painted wood) to commemorate the lives lost in campaigns to return direct imperial rule to Japan. During World War II, Japanese militarists took over the shrine and used it to promote patriotic and nationalistic sentiments. Today, Yasukuni is said to be dedicated to the spirits of approximately 2.4 million Japanese who have died in the country's wars, both civil and foreign, since 1853. ...

Over time this downward spiral in relations will probably prove damaging to the interests of both the United States and Japan, but particularly to those of Japan. China is unlikely to retaliate directly but is even less likely to forget what has happened -- and it has a great deal of leverage over Japan. After all, Japanese prosperity increasingly depends on its ties to China. The reverse is not true.

And there are of course, military risks, especially if the Bush administration handles things incompetently.  Since incompetence is rewarded in foreign policy in this adminstration (see Condi-Condi, Paul Wolfowitz, Rummy), that's not a cheerful thought:

The Bush administration is unwisely threatening China by urging Japan to rearm and by promising Taiwan that, should China use force to prevent a Taiwanese declaration of independence, the U.S. will go to war on its behalf. It is hard to imagine more shortsighted, irresponsible policies, but in light of the Bush administration's Alice-in-Wonderland war in Iraq, the acute anti-Americanism it has generated globally, and the politicization of America's intelligence services, it seems possible that the U.S. and Japan might actually precipitate a war with China over Taiwan.

I wonder if they'll try to justify this policy as part of the "War on Terrorism"?

No comments: