An editorial on the same theme, essentially, appeared in the English language China Daily on October 26,2017. It was titled “Japan cutting itself off from trend of the times”. Since it is quite different from this editorial in the Global Times (Chinese), the two are not presented in the usual ‘strike-out/italics’ format. Instead the China Daily editorial is reproduced at the end, in italics, after the translation of the Global Times (Chinese) editorial below, for reference purposes.
In an interview with the Japanese media on the 26th, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said that he hoped to establish a Summit level strategic dialogue between Japan, the United States, Australia and India, and promote free trade and defense cooperation between them centred on the South China Sea – Indian Ocean – Africa region. The media also reported that Japanese Prime Minister, Abe Shinzo, will raise the Four Power strategic dialogue with US President Trump during his forthcoming visit to Japan and hopes to get his approval for it,
The idea of a Japan-US-India-Australia dialogue is not new. Abe had put forward this vision during his last term of office, distantly echoing his “value diplomacy” and “arc of freedom and prosperity” proposals. The idea did not result in anything definite at that time because India did not respond and the United States was also not enthusiastic. But evidently Abe has not forgotten it. He probably feels that it stands a “good chance” now, and has mooted the idea again.
All analysts believe that the reason for the Abe government’s high interest in the Four-power dialogue is that it is intended to counter China. Kono mention of its coverage from the South China Sea through the Indian Ocean to Africa and China’s push for its “21st Century Maritime Silk Road” was a great coincidence conveys a whiff of “obstinacy”. This is an illustration of Japan’s extreme anxiety at the rise of China.
For Tokyo, the four countries into a strategic dialogue is (accumulation/build up of) a “trump card” in a game (of mahjong) with China. If it fails, shouting about it repeatedly can still put pressure on Beijing by displaying capacity for troubling China.
Can the Four Power strategic dialogue work out?
We believe Japan’s promotion of this matter will face several obstacles. This is not Washington’s original idea, Washington’s attitude is more subtle. It does not want the US dominated structure to be overshadowed by any joint US-Japan initiative. It much prefers to have Japan continue to be a follower of the USA, and not transform itself into an active advocate/pioneer.
Australia and India’s attitudes are more complicated. Australia is a US ally, and has a dialogue mechanism with Japan too, but China is also its largest trading partner. Australia is politically and security-wise a follower of the United States but, at the same time, it is reluctant to aggravate its contradiction with China, and is worried about participating in any overt anti-China mechanism.
India has had some problems with China in the past two years, so it wishes to strengthen relations with other countries and the USA and Japan are pulling it (towards themselves). But it will be a risky geopolitical gamble for it to make an “alliance” with Japan, the United States and Australia against China. And also contrary to its principle of non-alignment. (An approach of) being neither friendly nor aloof with the United States and Japan is in India’s best interests, so that it can enjoy benefits without entangling itself with the gains and losses of one-side or the other.
Because China does not really pose a major threat to the region, (measures) aimed against China are (mere) “possibilities”. For Japan, the starting point is a severe “psychological imbalance”, which is not shared universally (by others). So, comparing the prospect of the four countries joining hands to deal with China, as against their maintaining their respective normal relations with China separately, it will be difficult for the former to trounce the latter.
For this reason, even if the four countries were to have some kind of an arrangement to “enter the same room”, the clique would not be able to pull together and accomplish the closeness and stability that Japan hopes for. That kind of clique can only add a fair bit of trouble for China, depending on the skill and capabilities of Chinese diplomacy.
Sino-US relations are still the most critical; so long as the United States does not come out to lead, Japan cannot make any headway. If US’ attitude towards Abe’s Four Power strategic dialogue changes, then China will (have to) strive to keep Australia and India out of it, and raise costs for the US and Japan to carry out the strategic Summit of the four countries.
In fact, the contemporary significance of this (kind of) diplomacy and Vertical and Horizontal Alliances (Translator’s Note: opposing stratagems devised by the School of Diplomacy during the Warring States period 425-221 BC) has been greatly diminished. The fundamental reason for that is that now the logic of the games nations play has changed. Trump has little interest in “rebalancing the Asia-Pacific”, has retreated from the TPP also and declared revival of the US economy to be the focus of his rule, indicating that he views the traditional geopolitical (contest) game as a largely outdated one. Japan is (thus) left with little choice but to go the old way.
China has to counter the “formation of cliques” inimical to its interests on the external front; it cannot fail and must catch Japan and others keen to indulge in that (kind of activity) by the nose and force them out. For them to engage in (formation of) this “arc”, or (establish) that dialogue, indicates that China has become more powerful and one or two countries can not hold us back. As long as China continues to grow and develop, we will retain the strategic initiative, and not be passive.
Editorial China Daily (English) October 26, 2017: Japan cutting itself off from trend of the times
In recent years, Japan has developed a penchant for confronting China over issues of regional and international significance even though China’s stance on these issues is fair and reasonable. Japan’s proposal of a strategic dialogue with leaders of the United States, India and Australia, announced by its Foreign Minister Taro Kono this week, is another example of this.
According to Japanese media, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to float the idea to US President Donald Trump during his visit to the region next month.
As for the purpose of the Japanese proposal, Kono felt no need to cover up one of Japan’s objectives, telling Japanese media that the aim is to counter China’s expanding influence as a result of its Belt and Road Initiative.
Since the initiative was first proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013, it has won the support of more than 100 countries and international organizations, and more than 40 countries have signed cooperation agreements with China under the framework.
These countries and organizations have all recognized the immense opportunities offered by the initiative, which seeks to connect Asia with Europe and Africa and promote common development and shared prosperity.
The initiative has already reaped early harvests despite the sluggish global economic recovery, flagging international trade and a major backlash against globalization. As such, Japan’s intention to defame the China-proposed initiative this time is doomed to fail.
By unfairly putting an expansionist tag on the initiative, Japan is cutting itself off from the opportunities which the majority of countries have perceived in it. And it will have little effect in slowing the momentum with which the initiative is being rolled out since those that have less of a bias against China recognize it is a platform for nourishing inclusive growth.
However, due to its strained ties with China as a result of their territorial dispute and its concerns about having lost status because of China’s growing influence in the region, Japan has been ramping up its efforts to oppose China in regional and international issues.
Japan already has a trilateral strategic dialogue with Australia and the US, and one with India and the US, so by seeking to revive the old momentum for the so-called quad, it has also revealed its intention to try and hinder the efforts of China and the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to ease tensions in the South China Sea, which have recently made significant progress with the agreement on a framework for a Code of Conduct in the waters.
Tokyo should not try and push its own zero-sum agenda. Such a mentality, a legacy left over from the Cold War era, goes against the trend of the times which favors interconnected growth and shared prosperity.