Suga’s China policy is skewed, casting shadow on Japan’s future
Published: Apr 18, 2021 04:18 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Despite a fresh wave of rising coronavirus infections throughout Japan, shadowing the Tokyo Summer Olympics set to be held in three months, Yoshihide Suga, the country's new prime minister, flew to Washington to meet US President Joe Biden in person. In a joint declaration after their meeting on Friday, the two agreed to collaborate more closely to challenge China's growing economic power and prestige on the global stage.  

The US-Japan leaders' summit was scrutinized by the world, including Beijing, for any explicit and significant move by the Biden administration to cajole Tokyo to jump onto Washington's bandwagon of vitrioling China's domestic policies, intruding into China's internal affairs, or forming an ill-willed alliance to deliberately impede and mitigate China's development in the coming months.

Biden's first in-person summit with a foreign government leader since becoming the US president is an untold attempt to persuade Japan to help the US counter China's rise, which seems to be a central part of Biden's foreign policy.

In a move that makes many ordinary Chinese people angry and indignant, Suga questioned China's "unlawful" maritime claims in the South China Sea, which shows a clear malicious attack on China's foreign policy and interferes in China's internal affairs. 

It would be despicable on the part of Japan if Tokyo intentionally chose to become a strategic vassal of Washington. Japanese governments, ever since 1945, have tried to realize the dream of becoming a "normal country" like others in the region, but they seem to have totally lost their spine after being devastated by two US atomic bombs at the end of the World War II. 

It will be risky for Tokyo not to pursue an independent foreign policy, and strike a balance between its policy stance towards US and China. 

Biden and Suga invoked the "Quad" plan - which also includes India and Australia - to seek a tougher stance against China. They also shared concerns on "the impact of China's actions on peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and the world", and agreed to "enhance deterrence and response capabilities in line with the challenging security environment, and to deepen defense cooperation across all domains". And, the two also agreed to initiate a new Competitive and Resilience Partnership (CRP) to focus on their countries' innovation to compete with China.

It baffles many in the Asia-Pacific region that the new Suga government is negating past Japanese governments' generally friendly policy approach toward China by following the heels of Washington and beginning to critique Beijing's governance.

In March, Biden met virtually with leaders of the Quad, an informal alliance headed by the US, which was also a brainchild of Washington politicians to work as a way to encircle China and counter China's nonstop economic, technological and military development. To impede China's rise, many US politicians seem to have become increasingly restless and reckless, by making up lies to demonize China, launching trade wars and technology cut-offs to stymie China's economic growth, and since Biden assumed office in January, by forming new clans to create trouble for Beijing. 

The Biden administration's latest moves to stubbornly stick to his predecessor's tariffs and economic sanctioning policy, to badmouth China's domestic policies in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, and, recently, to make it easier for incumbent US officials to meet Taiwan's DPP-led secessionists have drawn the growing ire of all Chinese people. 

The Quad organization is something which is vehemently pecked at on Chinese social media chat-rooms. 

For a long time, Beijing has been calling on Tokyo to keep a distance from US government's hard line on China, by continuing to work with China and South Korea, boosting their trade and economic integration, solidifying their industrial supply chains, co-investing in future technologies, and helping maintain and extend stability and prosperity in East Asia, which will create countless jobs and opportunities for the region. 

With regard to Japan's security, it will be wise for Japan to forge amicable partnership relations with China and Russia, simply because Japan is, geographically, close and akin to the two giant countries. 

Japan can never move its islands away from the West Pacific Rim, so it is in Japan's best interests to integrate more deeply with the two continental giants. 

As Japan's largest trading partner for many years, Chinese consumers are generally fond of buying Japanese products. Now, Germany and Japan-made cars are packed on city streets throughout China. Personally, I am driving an imported Toyota car, which is of good quality. 

After all, Japan is an Asian country and it always will be, though many politicians in Tokyo have aspired Japan to become a Western nation. It is in its national interests to establish a stable and constructive relationship with all regional countries, particularly with China and Russia. 

China's economic and technological growth is unstoppable. Prime Minister Suga's China policy is skewed, casting a shadow on Japan's future. If Tokyo stubbornly decides to keep in tandem with the US government, or willing to be the linchpin of Washington's anti-China strategy, in approximately 20 to 30 years, Japan will see the result. 

The author is an editor with the Global Times.