Starting his India trip Wednesday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took part in a grand roadshow in Gujarat and is set to attend a ceremony for the construction of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-speed Rail project, the first of its kind in India. The Indian Express said the two countries’ partnership could be “the cornerstone of a larger coalition … to resist China’s ‘string of pearls’ in the Asia-Pacific region.”
After the Doklam standoff, more voices in the Indian media instigate the country to step up cooperation with the US and Japan against China and exaggerate the geopolitical significance of closer India-Japan ties. Yet this to a large degree has exposed the vulnerable feeling of the Indian strategic circle in front of China. They want to encourage themselves by calling for India’s alliance with the US and Japan to showcase India’s strategic potential to China. This suits the desperate needs of Indian society’s mentality.
Meanwhile, Japan has been more narrow-minded in looking for allies globally to encircle China.
But in a changing world, the India-Japan intimacy is more like a contrivance.
As long as Chinese society is mentally strong enough, calls in the Indian and Japanese media for them to draw closer will be in vain. India and Japan are unlikely to form a military and political alliance with the US, despite not being able to let go of the mentality from the 20th century.
China’s vast trade with Japan and India greatly dwarfs bilateral trade between India and Japan. Given this, Tokyo and New Delhi are unlikely to challenge China without giving it serious thought.
As geopolitics can no longer direct international relations, those obsessed with geopolitical logic will find it hard to hold on.
Today India is so flooded by nationalism that many Indian media outlets don’t even know what they are talking about when they rattle their sabers about confronting China.
China wants to solve problems when it has disagreements with India on specific issues. China won’t actively seek strategic confrontation with India or Japan.
For many Chinese, China’s relationship with Japan is like a branch of its ties with the US, while China-India relations don’t work in the way that major-power relations usually function, with India’s complaints randomly pouring forth.
Under the international relations logic of the 21st century, closer India-Japan ties won’t pose grave threats to China because many of their emotional moves to console each other won’t produce any real effects in challenging China. China can spare some attention to this to remind itself that our strategy needs to be more extensive. Yet it doesn’t matter if China has no time for that.
A strong China has the confidence that no Asian country can substantially challenge China’s national security, nor can they by grouping together. China has been in the core of economic cooperation in Asia. Geopolitics is unlikely to go against the geo-economic situation.
The fundamental issue of Asia is development. Whoever develops fast will come out on top as the final winner. Since geopolitical issues can easily disturb people’s attention, China must be fully focused to make sound development a priority of its national foreign strategy. We can never follow India and Japan that have somewhat lost themselves.