The Japanese media reported on Monday the government’s decision to ban its central government ministries and the military from purchasing equipment made by Chinese telecommunications companies Huawei and ZTE, citing efforts to prevent cyber attacks and leaks of confidential information. Tokyo however did not name Huawei and ZTE and said the new rules did not target specific companies.
On the same day it was also reported that the three major mobile phone operators in Japan have decided to exclude Huawei and ZTE products from communication devices such as base stations.
Japan seemingly has become the latest country to take up the US call to ban communications equipment made by Chinese companies. In taking the decision, Japan has bowed to US pressure. The move is not in Tokyo’s national interest and could hurt Sino-Japanese relations at an important time.
Huawei and ZTE have extensive cooperation with Japan, mirroring the deep connections the two countries have in the telecommunications sector. Boycotting them obviously will bring negative impact on Japan’s 5G network development.
Trying to suppress China’s telecom enterprises is a new strategy of the US. There are some people in the US who talked of “decoupling” to curb China’s high-tech development. Such impulsive moves are driven by the urge to maintain its hegemony. But Japan doesn’t have the same goal. Boycotting China-Japan cooperation is a bad choice.
China’s market is much larger than Japan’s, and will certainly be much bigger than the US’ in the future. Tokyo need not toe the American line and should defend its privilege to take prudent business decisions in keeping with its sovereign rights.
Tokyo’s long-term economic prospects are closely related to the Chinese market that could in the long run outdo its relations with the US market. If Japan now leaves it to the US to decide how it works with China, it could become a vassal state.
In fact, the more the US shows its propensity to confront China by seeking the help of allies, the more Japan needs to remain independent. Japan’s interests lie between the two big markets, rather than on either side. Even Vietnam and the Philippines understand this truth. As an important Asian power, Japan should be sensible not to go with the US by rejecting the strategic significance of China.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent efforts to improve relations with China show that his government is aware of the big picture. However, Tokyo’s attitude toward Huawei and ZTE will once again make Chinese society doubt the gap between words and deeds.
If Japan moves to implement discriminatory policies against Huawei and ZTE, China will inevitably retaliate with corresponding measures. And the conflict would have been stoked by the United States. If Japan’s economic cooperation with China is subject to the wishes of the US, will not Japan’s long-term future be damaged?
How should China respond to Japan’s apparent wavering? The Chinese side should respond in keeping with principles and take necessary retaliatory measures. On the other hand, we should not exaggerate the impact of the Japanese move and predict a doomsday scenario for Sino-Japanese relations, which have recently started to look up. Let Japan pay the price for boycotting Huawei and ZTE products, while not letting it cast a long shadow on ties with China in the long run.
We believe that the Chinese society is mature and confident not to let unfavorable incidents effect ties with Japan. At the same time, China’s ability to stick to principles in its relations with Japan has also increased. China and Japan should respect each other and thwart external forces that try to drive a wedge between them.