Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Impact of Japanese Kowtow to China on the Free World

The territorial dispute between China and Japan over Senkaku Islands is beyond a bilateral clash. We need to understand this dispute from global contexts. It is a clash between autocracy and democracy, and the Japanese government bowed down Chinese pressure, as the rogue captain of Chinese fisher boat was released ("China fishing boat captain to be freed by Japan. Will it ease tensions?"; Christian Science Monitor; September 24, 2010).

One of the reasons for this kowtow is an export ban of rare earth elements to Japan imposed by China. These materials are necessary for manufacturing batteries for hybrid vehicles, appliances for mobile phones, and other high tech products. Currently, Japan relies 90% of rare earth resource demands on import from China ("China bans rare earth material export to Japan"; Fuji Sankei Business Eye; September 25, 2010). Chinese export ban inflicts critical damages on Japanese manufacturing industry. This dispute has brought us home that our free world is vulnerable to natural resource diplomacy by autocratic nations. It is quite similar to the gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine in January 2009. As Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin intimidated whole Europe to close gas pipeline, Ukrainians bent over Russia. Ukraine sold its national sovereignty to Kremlin to extend the naval base deal for the Black Sea Fleet.

Natural resource diplomacy by China and Russia is combined with their expansionist ambition. Just as Russia regards Eastern Europe and Former Soviet Union as its natural sphere of influence, China regards islands in East China and South China seas as the “pear necklace” for its aggressive expansionism from the Pacific to the Indian oceans ("China's High Seas Aggression"; Human Events; May 20, 2010). It is too well known that China pursues megalomaniac build up of its navy. Just as Russia acts with Czarist and Stalinist instinct in geopolitical rivalries against the West, China behaves with cefeng or Confucianism hegemony instinct when it claims its preeminence in East Asia. Throughout the history, China never admitted equal relations with any foreign countries until it was defeated by Queen Victoria’s gun boat in the Opium War. We must never forget this historical perspective, whenever China takes assertive attitude.

The Senkaku conflict is more serious than the Takeshima conflict. In the latter, South Korea has neither ambition nor power to tower over Japan, even though Koreans often launch anti-Japanese campaign on history. But China has cefeng ambition throughout East Asia, and explores to make Japan bend over, as Russia did to Ukraine. Therefore, autocratic China is far more dangerous than democratic South Korea.

In the old cold war, autocratic great powers were out of our system, and they had a tiny portion of share in global economic transaction. But in the new cold war, they use our global economy to impose their will on others. In an NHK’s TV program, “Japan at the Crossroads” on March 12, 2010, commentators and the public discussed the US-Japanese alliance and Japanese national security. In this debate, when a conservative opinion leader Yoshiko Sakurai stressed closer US-Japanese security ties to manage Chinese threat as both nations did against Cold War Soviet threat, Professor Kang Sang-jung of Tokyo University argued against her that China today was more incorporated into the global economy than the old Soviet Union. Kang said that China was no threat to Japan, because of such deeply founded mutual interdependence. If he understood the peril of natural resource diplomacy by autocratic states, he would change his viewpoints.

Will Japan succumb to China as Ukraine did to Russia? Current debates on this conflict utterly dismiss the fundamental structure global politics, which is the clash between democracy and autocracy as Robert Kagan, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, argues in his book “The Return of history and the End of Dreams”. Further Japanese kowtow to China will embolden autocratic states around the world.