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* Introduction * Part 1 * Part 2 * Part 3 * Part 4 * Part 5 * Part 6 * Part 7 *

 

 

THE GRAND CHESSROARD

 

Chapter 6.  The Far Eastern Anchor

   - China: Not Global but Regional

   - Japan: Not Regional but International

   - America's Geostrategic Adjustment

 

AN EFFECTIVE AMERICAN POLICY for Eurasia has to have a Far k Eastern anchor. That need will not be met if America is ex-JL JLcluded or excludes itself from the Asian mainland. A close relationship with maritime Japan is essential for America's global policy, but a cooperative relationship with mainland China is imperative for America's Eurasian geostrategy. The implications of that reality need to be faced, for the ongoing interaction in the Far East between three major powers—America, China, and Japan— creates a potentially dangerous regional conundrum and is almost certain to generate geopolitically tectonic shifts.

    For China, America across the Pacific should be a natural ally since America has no designs on the Asian mainland and has historically opposed both Japanese and Russian encroachments on a weaker China. To the Chinese, Japan has been the principal enemy over the last century; Russia, "the hungry land" in Chinese, has long been distrusted; and India, too, now looms as a potential rival! The principle "my neighbor's neighbor is my ally" thus fits the geopolitical and historical relationship between China and America.

    However, America is no longer Japan's adversary across the ocean but is now closely allied with Japan. America also has strong ties with Taiwan and with several of the Southeast Asian nations. The Chinese are also sensitive to America's doctrinal reservations regarding the internal character of the current Chinese regime. Thus, America is also seen as the principal obstacle in China's quest not only to become globally preeminent but even just regionally predominant. Is a collision between America and China, therefore, inevitable?

    For Japan, America has been the umbrella under which the country could safely recover from a devastating defeat, regain its economic momentum, and on that basis progressively attain a position as one of the world's prime powers. But the very fact of that umbrella imposes a limit on Japan's freedom of action, creating the paradoxical situation of a world-class power being simultaneously a protectorate. For Japan, America continues to be the vital partner in Japan's emergence as an international leader. But America is also the main reason for Japan's continued lack of national self-reliance in the security area. How long can this situation endure?

    In other words, in the foreseeable future two centrally important—and very directly interacting—geopolitical issues will define America's role in Eurasia's Far East:

 

1. What is the practical definition and—from America's point of view—the acceptable scope of China's potential emer gence as the dominant regional power and of its growing as pirations for the status of a global power?

 

2. As Japan seeks to define a global role for itself, how should America manage the regional consequences  of the in evitable reduction in the degree of Japan's acquiescence in its status as an American protectorate?

 

    The East Asian geopolitical scene is currently characterized by metastable power relations. Metastability involves a condition of external rigidity but of relatively little flexibility, in that regard more reminiscent of iron than steel. It is vulnerable to a destructive chain reaction generated by a powerful jarring blow. Today's Far East is experiencing extraordinary economic dynamism along side growing political uncertainty. Asian economic growth may in fact even contribute to that uncertainty, because prosperity obscures the region's political vulnerabilities even as it intensifies national ambitions and expands social expectations.

    That Asia is an economic success without parallel in human development goes without saying. Just a few basic statistics dramatically highlight that reality. Less than four decades ago, East Asia (including Japan) accounted for a mere 4 percent or so of the world's total GNP, while North America led with approximately 35-40 percent; by the mid-1990s, the two regions were roughly equal (in the neighborhood of 25 percent). Moreover, Asia's pace of growth has been historically unprecedented. Economists have noted that in the takeoff stage of industrialization, Great Britain took more than fifty years and America just somewhat less than fifty years to double their respective outputs per head, whereas both China and South Korea accomplished the same gain in approximately ten years. Barring some massive regional disruption, within a quarter of a century, Asia is likely to outstrip both North America and Europe in total GNP.

    However, in addition to becoming the world's center of economic gravity, Asia is also its potential political volcano. Although surpassing Europe in economic development, Asia is singularly deficient in regional political development. It lacks the cooperative multilateral structures that so dominate the European political landscape and that dilute, absorb, and contain Europe's more traditional territorial, ethnic, and national conflicts. There is nothing comparable in Asia to either the European Union or NATO. None of the three regional associations—ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), ARF (Asian Regional Forum, ASEAN's platform for a political-security dialogue), and APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Group)—even remotely approximates the web of multilateral and regional cooperative ties that bind Europe together.

    On the contrary, Asia is today the seat of the world's greatest concentration of rising and recently awakened mass nationalisms, fueled by sudden access to mass communications, hyperactivated by expanding social expectations generated by growing economic prosperity as well as by widening disparities in social wealth, and made more susceptible to political mobilization by the explosive increase both In population and urbanization. This condition is rendered even more ominous by the scale of Asia's arms buildup. In 1995, the region became—according to the International Institute of Strategic Studies—the world's biggest importer of arms, outstripping Europe and the Middle East.

 

Pict 027 Boundary and Territorial Disputes in East Asia

  1.  Chinese Claim

  2.  Indian Claim

  3.  Chinese Claim

  4.  China-Vietnam Border Friction

  5.  Paracel Islands

  6.  Spratly Islands

  7.  Pratas Island

  8.  Senkaku Islands / Diao-Yu-Tai

  9.  Liancourt Rocks

 10.  Demarcation Line

 11.  Northern Territories

 

    In brief, East Asia is seething with dynamic activity, which so far has been channeled in peaceful directions by the region's rapid pace of economic growth. But that safety valve could at some point be overwhelmed by unleashed political passions, once they have been triggered by some flash point, even a relatively trivial one. The potential for such a flash point is present in a large number of contentious issues, each vulnerable to demagogic exploitation and thus potentially explosive:

 

• China's resentment of Taiwan's separate status is intensify ing as China gains in strength and as the increasingly pros perous Taiwan begins to flirt with a formally separate status as a nation-state.

 

• The Paracel and Spratly Islands in the South China Sea pose the risk of a collision between China and several Southeast Asian states over access to potentially valuable seabed en ergy sources, with China imperially viewing the South China Sea as its legitimate national patrimony.

 

• The Senkaku Islands are contested by both Japan and China (with the rivals Taiwan and mainland China ferociously of a single mind on this issue), and the historical rivalry for regional preeminence between Japan and China infuses this

issue with symbolic significance as well.

 

• The division of Korea and the inherent instability of North Korea—made all the more dangerous by North Korea's quest for nuclear capability—pose the risk that a sudden explosion could engulf the peninsula in warfare, which in turn would engage the United States and indirectly involve Japan.

 

• The issue of the southernmost Kuril Islands, unilaterally seized in 1945 by the Soviet Union, continues to paralyze and poison Russo-Japanese relations.

 

• Other latent territorial-ethnic conflicts involve Russo-Chi-nese, Chinese-Vietnamese, Japanese-Korean, and Chinese-Indian border issues; ethnic unrest in Xinjiang Province; and Chinese-Indonesian disputes over oceanic boundaries. (See map above.)

 

    The distribution of power in the region is also unbalanced. China, with its nuclear arsenal and its large armed forces, is clearly the dominant military power (see table on page 156). The Chinese navy has already adopted a strategic doctrine of "offshore active defense," seeking to acquire within the next fifteen years an oceangoing capability for "effective control of the seas within the first island chain," meaning the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea. To be sure, Japan's military capability is also increasing, and in terms of quality, it has no regional peer. At present, however, the Japanese armed forces are not a tool of Japanese foreign policy and are largely viewed as an extension of the American military presence in the region.

 

Pict 028 Asian Armed Forces

 

"Taiwan has 150 F-16s, 60 Mirage, and 130 other fighter jets on order and several naval vessels under construction.

"Malaysia is purchasing 8 F-18s and possibly 18 MiG-29s.

Note: Personnel means all active military; tanks are main battle tanks and light tanks; fighters are air-to-air and ground attack aircraft; surface ships are carriers, cruisers, destroyers, and frigates;and submarines are all types. Advanced systems are at least mid-1960s design with advanced technologies, such as laser range finders for tanks.

Source: General Accounting Office report, "Impact of China's Military Modernization in the Pacific Region," June 1995.

----

 

    The emergence of China has already prompted its southeastern neighbors to be increasingly deferential to Chinese concerns. It is noteworthy that during the minicrisis of early 1996 concerning Taiwan (in which China engaged in some threatening military maneuvers and barred air and sea access to a zone near Taiwan, precipitating a demonstrative U.S. naval deployment), the foreign minister of Thailand hastily declared that such a ban was normal, his Indonesian counterpart stated that this was purely a Chinese affair, and the Philippines and Malaysia declared a policy of neutrality on the issue.

    The absence of a regional balance of power has in recent years prompted both Australia and Indonesia—heretofore rather wary of each other—to initiate growing military coordination. Both countries made little secret of their anxiety over the longer-range prospects of Chinese regional military domination and over the staying power of the United States as the region's security guarantor. This concern has also caused Singapore to explore closer security cooperation with these nations. In fact, throughout the region, the central but unanswered question among strategists has become this: "For how long can peace in the world's most populated and increasingly most armed region be assured by one hundred thousand American soldiers, and for how much longer in any case are they likely to stay?"

   It is in this volatile setting of intensifying nationalisms, increasing populations, growing prosperity, exploding expectations, and overlapping power aspirations that genuinely tectonic shifts are occurring in East Asia's geopolitical landscape:

 

• China, whatever its specific prospects, is a rising and poten tially dominant power.

 

• America's security role is becoming increasingly dependent on collaboration with Japan.

 

• Japan is groping for a more defined and autonomous politi cal role.

 

• Russia's role has greatly diminished, while the formerly Russian-dominated Central Asia has become an object of in ternational rivalry.

 

• The division of Korea is becoming less tenable, making Korea's future orientation a matter of increasing geostrategic interest to its major neighbors.

 

    These tectonic shifts give added salience to the two central issues posed at the outset of this chapter.

   

CHINA: NOT GLOBAL BUT REGIONAL

China's history is one of national greatness. The currently intense nationalism of the Chinese people is new only in its social pervasiveness, for it engages the self-identification and the emotions of an unprecedented number of Chinese. It is no longer a phenomenon confined largely to the students who, in the early years of this century, formed the precursors of the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party. Chinese nationalism is now a mass phenomenon, defining the mindset of the world's most populous state.

    That mindset has deep historical roots. History has predisposed the Chinese elite to think of China as the natural center of the world. In fact, the Chinese word for China—Chung-kuo, or the "Middle Kingdom"—both conveys the notion of China's centrality in world affairs and reaffirms the importance of national unity. That perspective also implies a hierarchical radiation of influence from the center to the peripheries, and thus China as the center expects deference from others.

    Moreover, since time immemorial, China, with its vast population, has been a distinctive and proud civilization all its own. That civilization was highly advanced in all areas: philosophy, culture, the arts, social skills, technical inventiveness, and political power. The Chinese recall that until approximately 1600, China led the world in agricultural productivity, industrial innovation, and standard of living. But unlike the European and the Islamic civilizations, which have spawned some seventy-five-odd states, China has remained for most of its history a single state, which at the time of America's declaration of independence already contained more than 200 million people ^and was also the world's leading manufacturing power.

    From that perspective, China's fall from greatness—the last 150 years of China's humiliation—is an aberration, a desecration of China's special quality, and a personal insult to every individual Chinese. It must be erased, and its perpetrators deserve due punishment. These perpetrators, in varying degrees, have primarily been four: Great Britain, Japan, Russia, and America—Great Britain, because of the Opium War and its consequent shameful debasement of China; Japan, because of the predatory wars spanning the last century, resulting in terrible (and still unrepentecl) infliction of suffering on the Chinese people; Russia, because of protracted encroachment on Chinese territories in the North as well as Stalin's domineering in-sensitivity toward Chinese self-esteem; and finally America, because through its Asian presence and support of Japan, it stands in the way of China's external aspirations.

   In the Chinese view, two of these four powers have already been punished, so to speak, by history. Great Britain is no longer an empire, and the lowering of the Union Jack in Hong Kong forever closes that particularly painful chapter. Russia remains next door, though much diminished in stature, prestige, and territory. It is America and Japan that pose the most serious problems for China, and it is in the interaction with them that China's regional and global role will be substantively defined.

    That definition, however, will depend in the first instance on how China itself evolves, on how much of an economic and military power it actually becomes. On this score, the prognosis for China is generally promising, though not without some major uncertainties and qualifications. Both the pace of China's economic growth and the scale of foreign investment in China—each among the highest in the world—provide the statistical basis for the conventional prognosis that within two decades or so China will become a global power, roughly on a par with the United States and Europe (assuming that the latter both unites and expands further). China might by then have a GDP considerably in excess of Japan's, and it already exceeds Russia's by a significant margin. That economic momentum should permit China to acquire military power on a scale that will be intimidating to all its neighbors, perhaps even to the more geographically distant opponents of China's aspirations. Further strengthened by the incorporation of Hong Kong and Macao, and perhaps also eventually by the political subordination of Taiwan, a Greater China will emerge not only as the dominant state in the Far East but as a world power of the first rank.

    However, there are pitfalls in any such prognosis for the "Middle Kingdom's" inevitable resurrection as a central global power, the most obvious of which pertains to the mechanical reliance on statistical projection. That very error was made not long ago by those who prophesied that Japan would supplant the United States as the world's leading economy and that Japan was destined to be the new superstate. That perspective failed to take into account both the factor of Japan's economic vulnerability and the problem of political discontinuity—and the same error is being made by those who proclaim, and also fear, the inevitable emergence of China as a world power.

    First of all, it is far from certain that China's explosive growth rates can be maintained over the next two decades. An economic slowdown cannot be excluded, and that by itself would discredit the conventional prognosis. In fact, for these rates to be sustained over a historically long period of time would require an unusually felicitous combination of effective national leadership, political tranquillity, domestic social discipline, high rates of savings, continued very high inflow of foreign investment, and regional stability. A prolonged combination of all of these positive factors is problematic.

    Moreover, China's fast pace of growth is likely to produce political side effects that could limit its freedom of action. Chinese consumption of energy is already expanding at a rate that far exceeds domestic production. That excess will widen in any case, but especially so if China's rate of growth continues to be very high. The same is the case with food. Even given the slowdown in China's demographic growth, the Chinese population is still increasing in large absolute numbers, with food imports becoming more essential to internal well-being and political stability. Dependence on imports will not only impose strains on Chinese economic resources because of higher costs, but they will also make China more vulnerable to external pressures.

    Militarily, China might partially qualify as a global power, since the very size of its economy and its high growth rates should enable its rulers to divert a significant ratio of the country's GDP to sustain a major expansion and modernization of China's armed forces, including a further buildup of its strategic nuclear arsenal. However, if that effort is excessive (and according to some Western estimates, in the mid-1990s it was already consuming about 20 percent of China's GDP), it could have the same negative effect on China's long-term economic growth that the failed attempt by the Soviet Union to compete in the arms race with the United States had on the Soviet economy. Furthermore, a major Chinese effort in this area would be likely to precipitate a countervailing Japanese arms buildup, thereby negating some of the political benefits of China's growing military prowess. And one must not ignore the fact that outside of its nuclear forces, China is likely to lack the means, for some time to come, to project its military power beyond its regional perimeter.

    Tensions within China could also intensify, as a result of the inevitable unevenness of highly accelerated economic growth, driven heavily by the uninhibited exploitation of marginal advantages. The coastal South and East as well as the principal urban centers—more accessible to foreign investment and overseas trade—have so far been the major beneficiaries of China's impressive economic growth. In contrast, the inland rural areas in general and some of the outlying regions have lagged (with upward of 100 million rural unemployed).

    The resulting resentment over regional disparities could begin to interact with anger over social inequality. China's rapid growth is widening the social gap in the distribution of wealth. At some point, either because the government may seek to limit such differences or because of social resentment from below, the regional disparities and the wealth gap could in turn impact on the country's political stability.

    The second reason for cautious skepticism regarding the widespread prognoses of China's emergence during the next quarter of a century as a dominating power in global affairs is, indeed, the future of China's politics. The dynamic character of China's nonsta-tist economic transformation, including its social openness to the rest of the world, is not mutually compatible in the long run with a relatively closed and bureaucratically rigid Communist dictatorship. The proclaimed communism of that dictatorship is progressively less a matter of ideological commitment and more a matter of bureaucratic vested interest. The Chinese political elite remains organized as a self-contained, rigid, disciplined, and monopolisti-cally intolerant hierarchy, still ritualistically proclaiming its fidelity to a dogma that is said to justify its power but that the same elite is no longer implementing socially. At some point, these two dimensions of life will collide head-on, unless Chinese politics begin to adapt gradually to the social imperatives of China's economics.

   Thus, the issue of democratization cannot be evaded indefinitely, unless China suddenly makes the same decision it made in the year 1474: to isolate itself from the world, somewhat like contemporary North Korea. To do that, China would have to recall its more than seventy thousand students currently studying in America, expel foreign businessmen, shut down its computers, and tear down satellite dishes from millions of Chinese homes. It would be an act of madness, reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution. Perhaps for a brief moment, in the context of a domestic struggle for power, a dogmatic wing of the ruling but fading Chinese Communist Party might attempt to emulate North Korea, but it could not be more than a brief episode. More likely than not, it would produce economic stagnation and then prompt a political explosion.

    In any case, self-isolation would mean the end of any serious Chinese aspirations not only to global power but even to regional primacy. Moreover, the country has too much of a stake in access to the world, and that world, unlike that of 1474, is simply too intrusive to be effectively excluded. There is thus no practical, economically productive, and politically viable alternative to China's continued openness to the world.

    Democratization will thus increasingly haunt China. Neither that issue nor the related question of human rights can be evaded for too long. China's future progress, as well as its emergence as a major power, will thus depend to a large degree on how skillfully the ruling Chinese elite handles the two related problems of power succession from the present generation of rulers to a younger team and of coping with the growing tension between the country's economic and political systems.

   The Chinese leaders might perhaps succeed in promoting a slow and evolutionary transition to a very limited electoral authoritarianism, in which some low-level political choice is tolerated, and only thereafter move toward more genuine political pluralism, including more emphasis on incipient constitutional rule. Such a controlled transition would be more compatible with the imperatives of the increasingly open economic dynamics of the country than persistence in maintaining exclusive Party monopoly on political power.

    To accomplish such controlled democratization, the Chinese political elite will have to be led with extraordinary skill, guided by pragmatic common sense, and stay relatively united and willing to yield some of its monopoly on power (and personal privilege)— while the population at largo will have to be both patient and undemanding. That combination of felicitous circumstances may prove difficult to attain. Experience teaches that pressures for democratization from below, either from those who have felt themselves politically suppressed (intellectuals and students) or economically exploited (the new urban labor class and the rural poor), generally tend to outpace the willingness of rulers to yield. At some point, the politically and the socially disaffected in China are likely to join forces in demanding more democracy, freedom of expression, and respect for human rights. That did not happen in Tiananmen Square in 1989, but it might well happen the next time.

    Accordingly, it is unlikely that China will be able to avoid a phase of political unrest. Given its size, the reality of growing regional differences, and the legacy of some fifty years of doctrinal dictatorship, such a phase could be disruptive both politically and economically. Even the Chinese leaders themselves seem to expect as much, with internal Communist Party studies undertaken in the early 1990s foreseeing potentially serious political unrest.1 Some China experts have even prophesied that China might spin into one of its historic cycles of internal fragmentation, thereby halting China's march to greatness altogether. But the probability of such an extreme eventuality is diminished by the twin impacts of mass nationalism and modern communications, both of which work in favor of a unified Chinese state.

 

1. "Official Document Anticipates Disorder During the Post-Deng Period," Cheng Ming (Hong Kong), February 1, 1995, provides a detailed summary of two analyses prepared for the Party leadership concerning various forms of potential unrest. A Western perspective on the same topic is contained in Richard Bfunn, "China After Deng: Ten Scenarios in Search of Reality," China Quarterly (March 1996).

 

    There is, finally, a third reason for skepticism regarding the prospects of China's emergence in the course of the next twenty or so years as a truly major—and to some Americans, already menacing—global power. Even if China avoids serious political disruptions and even if it somehow manages to sustain its extraordinarily high rates of economic growth over a quarter of a century—which are both rather big "ifs"—China would still be relatively very poor. Even a tripling of GDP would leave China's population in the lower ranks of the world's nations in per capita income, not to mention the actual poverty of a significant portion of its people.2 Its comparative standing in per capita access to telephones, cars, and computers, let alone consumer goods, would be very low.

 

2. In the somewhat optimistic report titled "China's Economy Toward the 21st Century" (Zou xiang 21 shi ji de Zhongguo jinji), issued in 1996 by the Chinese Institute for Quantitative Economic and Technological Studies, it was estimated that the per capita income in China in 2010 will be approximately $735, or less than $30 higher than the World Rank definition of a low-income country.

 

    To sum up: even by the year 2020, it is quite unlikely even under the best of circumstances that China could become truly competitive in the key dimensions of global power. Even so, however, China is well on the way to becoming the preponderant regional power in East Asia. It is already geopolitically dominant on the mainland. Its military and economic power dwarfs its immediate neighbors, with the exception of India. It is, therefore, only natural that China will increasingly assert itself regionally, in keeping with the dictates of its history, geography, and economics.

    Chinese students of their country's history know that as recently as 1840, China's imperial sway extended throughout Southeast Asia, all the way down to the Strait of Malacca, including Burma, parts of today's Bangladesh as well as Nepal, portions of today's Kazakstan, all of Mongolia, and the region that today is called the Russian Far Eastern Province, north of where the Amur River flows into the ocean (see map on page 14 in chapter 1). These areas were either under some form of Chinese control or paid tribute to China. Franco-British colonial expansion ejected Chinese influence from Southeast Asia during the years 1885-95, while two treaties imposed by Russia in 1858 and 1864 resulted in territorial losses in the Northeast and Northwest. In 1895, following the Sino-Japanese War, China also lost Taiwan.

    It is almost certain that history and geography will make the Chinese increasingly insistent—even emotionally charged—regarding the necessity of the eventual reunification of Taiwan with the mainland. It is also reasonable to assume that China, as its power grows, will make that goal its principal objective during the first decade of the next century, following the economic absorption and political digestion of Hong Kong. Perhaps a peaceful reunification—maybe under a formula of "one nation, several systems" (a variant of Deng Xiaoping's 1984 slogan "one country, two systems")—might become appealing to Taiwan and would not be resisted by America, but only if China has been successful in sustaining its economic progress and adopting significant democratizing reforms. Otherwise, even a regionally dominant China is still likely to lack the military means to impose its will, especially in the face of American opposition, in which case the issue is bound to continue galvanizing Chinese nationalism while souring American-Chinese relations.

    Geography is also an important factor driving the Chinese interest in making an alliance with Pakistan and establishing a military presence in Burma. In both cases, India is the geostrategic target. Close military cooperation with Pakistan increases India's security dilemmas and limits India's ability to establish itself as the regional hegemon in South Asia and as a geopolitical rival to China. Military cooperation with Burma gains China access to naval facilities on several Burmese offshore islands in the Indian Ocean, thereby also providing some further strategic leverage in Southeast Asia generally and in the Strait of Malacca particularly. And if China were to control the Strait of Malacca and the geostrategic choke point at Singapore, it would control Japan's access to Middle Eastern oil and European markets.

    Geography, reinforced by history, also dictates China's interest in Korea. At one time a tributary state, a reunited Korea as an extension of American (and indirectly also of Japanese) influence would be intolerable to China. At the very minimum, China would insist that a reunited Korea be a nonaligned buffer between China and Japan and would also expect that the historically rooted Korean animosity toward Japan would of itself draw Korea into the Chinese sphere of influence. For the time being, however, a divided Korea suits China best, and thus China is likely to favor the continued existence of the North Korean regime.

    Economic considerations are also bound to influence the thrust of China's regional ambitions. In that regard, the rapidly growing demand for new energy sources has already made China insistent on a dominant role in any regional exploitation of the seabed deposits of the South China Sea. For the same reason, China is beginning to display an increasing interest in the independence of llu- energy-rich Central Asian states. In April 1996, China, Russia, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan signed a joint border and security agreement; and during President Jiang Zemin's visit to Kazakstan in July of the same year, the Chinese side was quoted as having provided assurances of China's support for "the efforts made by Kazakstan to defend its independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity." The foregoing clearly signaled China's growing involvement in the geopolitics of Central Asia.

   History and economics also conspire to increase the interest of a regionally more powerful China in Russia's Far East. For the first time since China and Russia have come to share a formal border, China is the economically more dynamic and politically stronger party. Seepage into the Russian area by Chinese immigrants and traders has already assumed significant proportions, and China is becoming more active in promoting Northeast Asian economic cooperation that also engages Japan and Korea. In that cooperation, Russia now holds a much weaker card, while the Russian Far East increasingly becomes economically dependent on closer links with China's Manchuria. Similar economic forces are also at work in China's relations with Mongolia, which is no longer a Russian satellite and whose formal independence China has reluctantly recognized.

   A Chinese sphere of regional influence is thus in the making. A sphere of influence, however, should not be confused with a zone of exclusive political domination, such as the Soviet Union exercised in Eastern Europe. It is socioeconomically more porous and politically less monopolistic. Nonetheless, it entails a geographic space in which its various states, when formulating their own policies, pay special deference to the interests, views, and anticipated reactions of the regionally predominant power. In brief, a Chinese sphere of influence—perhaps a sphere of deference would be a more accurate formulation—can be defined as one in which the very first question asked in the various capitals regarding any given issue is "What is Beijing's view on this?"

 

Pict 029 Potential Scope of China's Sphere of Influence and Collision Points

  1. Potential power conflicts

  2. of a Regionally Dominant Greater China

  3. of Greater China as a Global Power

 

   The map that follows traces out the potential range over the next quarter of a century of a regionally dominant China and also of China as a global power, in the event that—despite the internal and external obstacles already noted—China should actually become one. A regionally dominant Greater China, which would mobilize the political support of its enormously rich and economically powerful diaspora in Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, and Jakarta, not to speak of Taiwan and Hong Kong (see footnote below for some startling data)3 and which would penetrate into both Central Asia and the Russian Far East, would thus approximate in its radius the scope of the Chinese Empire before the onset of its decline some 150 years ago, even expanding its geopolitical range through the alliance with Pakistan. As China rises in power and prestige, the wealthy overseas Chinese are likely to identify themselves more and more with China's aspirations and will thus become a powerful vanguard of China's imperial momentum. The Southeast Asian states may find it prudent to defer to China's political sensitivities and economic interests—and they are increasingly doing so.4 Similarly, the new Central Asian states increasingly view China as a power that has a stake in their independence and in their role as buffers between China and Russia.

 

3. According to Yazhou Zhoukan (Asiaweek), September 25, 1994, the aggregate assets of the 500 leading Chinese-owned companies in Southeast Asia totaled about $540 billion. Other estimates are even higher: International Economy,. November/December 1996, reported that the annual in-c'ome of the 50 million overseas Chinese was approximately the above amount and thus roughly equal to the GDP of, China's mainland. The overseas Chinese were said to control about 90 percent of Indonesia's economy, 75 percent of Thailand's, 50-60 percent of Malaysia's, and the whole economy in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Concern over this condition even led a former Indonesian ambassador to Japan to warn publicly of a "Chinese economic intervention in the region," which might not only exploit such Chinese presence but which could even lead to Chinese-sponsored "puppet governments" (Saydiman Suryohadiprojo, "How to Deal with China and Taiwan," AsahiShimbun [Tokyo], September 23, 1996).

 

    The scope of China as a global power would most probably involve a significantly deeper southern bulge, with both Indonesia and the Philippines compelled to adjust to the reality of the Chinese navy as the dominant force in the South China Sea. Such a China might be much more tempted to resolve the issue of Taiwan by force, irrespective of America's attitude. In the West, Uzbekistan, the Central Asian state most determined to resist Russian encroachments on its former imperial domain, might favor a countervailing alliance with China, as might Turkmenistan; and China might also become more assertive in the ethnically divided and thus nationally vulnerable Kazakstan. A China that becomes truly both a political and an economic giant might also project more overt political influence into the Russian Far East, while sponsoring Korea's unification under its aegis (see map on page 167).

    But such a bloated China would also be more likely to encounter strong external opposition. The previous map makes it evident that in the West, both Russia and India would have good geopolitical reasons to ally in seeking to push back China's challenge. Cooperation between them would be likely to focus heavily on Central Asia and Pakistan, whence China would threaten their interests the most. In the south, opposition would be strongest from Vietnam and Indonesia (probably backed by Australia). In the east, America, probably backed by Japan, would react adversely to any Chinese efforts to gain predominance in Korea and to incorporate Taiwan by force, actions that would reduce the American political presence in the Far East to a potentially unstable and solitary perch in Japan.

 

4. Symptomatic in that regard was the report published in the Bangkok English-language daily, The Nation (March 31, 1997), on the visit to Beijing by the Thai Prime Minister, Chavalit Yongchaiyudh. The purpose of the visit was defined as establishing a firm strategic alliance with "Greater China." The Thai leadership was said to have "recognized China as a superpower that has a global role," and as wishing to serve as "a bridge between China and ASEAN." Singapore has gone even farther in stressing ils idcnlilicalion with China.

 

   Ultimately, the probability of either scenario sketched out on the maps fully coming to pass depends not only on how China itself develops but also very much on American conduct and presence. A disengaged America would make the second scenario much more likely, but even the comprehensive emergence of the first would require some American accommodation and self-restraint. The Chinese know this, and hence Chinese policy has to be focused primarily on influencing both American conduct and, especially, the critical American-Japanese connection, with China's other relationships manipulated tactically with that strategic concern in mind.

    China's principal objection to America relates less to what America actually does than to what America currently is and where it is. America is seen by China as the world's current hege-mon, whose very presence in the region, based on its dominant position in Japan, works to contain China's influence. In the words of a Chinese analyst employed in the research arm of the Chinese Foreign Ministry: "The U.S. strategic aim is to seek hegemony in the whole world and it cannot tolerate the appearance of any big power on the European and Asian continents that will constitute a threat to its leading position."5 Hence, simply by being what it is and where it is, America becomes China's unintentional adversary rather than its natural ally.

 

5. Song Yimin. "A Discussion of the Division and Grouping of Forces in the World After the End of the Cold War," International Studies (China Institute of International Studies, Beijing) 6-8 (1996):10. That this assessment of America represents the view of China's top leadership is indicated by the fact that a shorter version of the analysis appeared in the mass-circulation official organ of the Party, Renmin Ribao (People's Daily), April 29, 1996.

 

   Accordingly, the task of Chinese policy—in keeping with Sun Tsu's ancient strategic wisdom—is to use American power to peacefully defeat American hegemony, but without unleashing any latent Japanese regional aspirations. To that end, China's geostrat-egy must pursue two goals simultaneously, as somewhat obliquely denned in August 1994 by Deng Xiaoping: "First, to oppose hege-monism and power politics and safeguard world peace; second, to build up a new international political and economic order." The first obviously targets the United States and has as its purpose the reduction in American preponderance, while carefully avoiding a military collision that would end China's drive for economic power; the second seeks to revise the distribution of global power, capitalizing on the resentment in some key states against the current global pecking order, in which the United States is perched at the top, supported by Europe (or Germany) in the extreme west of Eurasia and by Japan in the extreme east.

    China's second objective prompts Beijing to pursue a regional geostrategy that seeks to avoid any serious conflicts with its immediate neighbors, even while continuing its quest for regional preponderance. A tactical improvement in Sino-Russian relations is particularly timely, especially since Russia is now weaker than China. Accordingly, in April 1997, both countries joined in denouncing "hegemonism" and declaring NATO's expansion "impermissible." However, it is unlikely that China would seriously consider any long-term and comprehensive Russo-Chinese alliance against America. That would work to deepen and widen the scope of the American-Japanese alliance, which China would like to dilute slowly, and it would also isolate China from critically important sources of modern technology and capital.

    As in Sino-Russian relations, it suits China to avoid any direct collision with India, even while continuing to sustain its close military cooperation with Pakistan and Burma. A policy of overt antagonism would have the negative effect of complicating China's tactically expedient accommodation with Russia, while also pushing India toward a more cooperative relationship with America. To the extent that India also shares an underlying and somewhat anti-Western predisposition against the existing global "hegemony," a reduction in Sino-Indian tensions is also in keeping with China's broader geostrategic focus.

   The same considerations generally apply to China's ongoing relations with Southeast Asia. Even while unilaterally asserting their claims to the South China Sea, the Chinese have simultaneously cultivated Southeast Asian leaders (with the exception of the historically hostile Vietnamese), exploiting the more outspoken anti-Western sentiments (particularly on the issue of Western values and human rights) that in recent years have been voiced by the leaders of Malaysia and Singapore. They have especially welcomed the occasionally strident anti-American rhetoric of Prime Minister Datuk Mahathir of Malaysia, who in a May 1996 forum in Tokyo even publicly questioned the need for the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, demanding to know the identity of the enemy the alliance is supposed to defend against and asserting that Malaysia does not need allies. The Chinese clearly calculate that their influence in the region will be automatically enhanced by any diminution of America's standing.

    In a similar vein, patient pressure appears to be the motif of China's current policy toward Taiwan. While adopting an uncompromising position with regard to Taiwan's international status— to the point of even being willing to deliberately generate international tensions in order to convey China's seriousness on this matter (as in March 1996)—the Chinese leaders presumably realize that for the time being they will continue to lack the power to compel a satisfactory solution. They realize that a premature reliance on force would only serve to precipitate a self-defeating clash with America, while strengthening America's role as the regional guarantor of peace. Moreover, the Chinese themselves acknowledge that how effectively Hong Kong is first absorbed into China will greatly determine the prospects for the emergence of a Greater China.

    The accommodation that has been taking place in China's relations with South Korea is also an integral part of the policy of consolidating its flanks in order to be able to concentrate more effectively on the central goal. Given Korean history and public emotions, a Sino-Korean accommodation of itself contributes to a reduction in Japan's potential regional role and prepares the ground for the reemergence of the more traditional relationship between China and (either a reunited or a still-divided) Korea.

    Most important, the peaceful enhancement of China's regional standing will facilitate the pursuit of the central objective, which ancicnl China's strategist Sun Tsu might have formulated as follows: to dilute American regional power to the point that a diminished America will come to need a regionally dominant China as its ally and eventually even a globally powerful China as its partner. This goal is to be sought and accomplished in a manner that does not precipitate either a defensive expansion in the scope of the American-Japanese alliance or the regional replacement of America's power by that of Japan.

    To attain the central objective, in the short run, China seeks to prevent the consolidation and expansion of American-Japanese security cooperation. China was particularly alarmed at the implied increase in early 1996 in the range of U.S.-Japanese security cooperation from the narrower "Far East" to a wider "Asia-Pacific," perceiving in it not only an immediate threat to China's interests but also the point of departure for an American-dominated Asian system of security aimed at containing China (in which Japan would be the vital linchpin,6 much as Germany was in NATO during the Cold War). The agreement was generally perceived in Beijing as facilitating Japan's eventual emergence as a major military power, perhaps even capable of relying on force to resolve outstanding economic or maritime disputes on its own. China thus is likely to fan energetically the still strong Asian fears of any significant Japanese military role in the region, in order to restrain America and intimidate Japan.

 

6. An elaborate examination of America's alleged intent to construct such an anti-China Asian system is contained in Wang Chunyin, "Looking Ahead to Asia-Pacific Security in the Early Twenty-first Century," Guoji Zhanwang (World Outlook), February 1996.

   Another Chinese commentator argued that the American-Japanese security arrangement has been altered from a "shield of defense" aimed at containing Soviet power to a "spear of attack" pointed at China (Yang Baijiang, "Implications of Japan-U.S. Security Declaration Outlined," Xiandai Guoji Guanxi [Contemporary International Relations], June 20, 1996). On January 31, 1997, the authoritative daily organ of the Chinese Communist Party, Renmin Ribao, published an article entitled "Strengthening Military Alliance Does Not Conform with Trend of the Times," in which the redefinition of the scope of the U.S.-Japanese military cooperation was denounced as "a dangerous move."

 

    However, in the longer run, according to China's strategic calculus, American hegemony cannot last. Although some Chinese, especially among the military, tend to view America as China's implacable foe, the predominant expectation in Beijing is that America will become regionally more isolated because of its excessive reliance on Japan and that consequently America's dependence on Japan will grow even further, but so will American-Japanese contradictions and American fears of Japanese militarism. That will then make it possible for China to play off America and Japan against each other, as China did earlier in the case of the United States and the Soviet Union. In Beijing's view, the time will come when America will realize that—to remain an influential Asia-Pacific power—it has no choice but to turn to its natural partner on the Asian mainland.

 

JAPAN: NOT REGIONAL BUT INTERNATIONAL

How the American-Japanese relationship evolves is thus a critical dimension in China's geopolitical future. Since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, America's policy in the Far East has been based on Japan. At first only the site for the occupying American military, Japan has since become the basis for America's political-military presence in the Asia-Pacific region and America's centrally important global ally, yet also a security protectorate. The emergence of China, however, does pose the question whether—and to what end—the close American-Japanese relationship can endure in the altering regional context. Japan's role in an anti-China alliance would be clear; but what should Japan's role be if China's rise is to be accommodated in some fashion even as it reduces America's primacy in the region?

   Like China, Japan is a nation-state with a deeply ingrained sense of its unique character and special status. Its insular history, even its imperial mythology, has predisposed the highly industrious and disciplined Japanese people to see themselves as endowed with a distinctive and superior way of life, which Japan first defended by splendid isolation and then, when the world imposed itself in the nineteenth century, by emulating the European empires in seeking to create one of its own on the Asian mainland. The disaster of World War II then focused the Japanese people on the one-dimensional goal of economic recovery, but it also left them uncertain regarding their country's wider mission.

    Current American fears of a dominant China are reminiscent of the relatively recent American paranoia regarding Japan. Japanopho-bia has now yielded to Sinophobia. A mere decade ago, predictions of Japan's inevitable and imminent appearance as the world's "superstate"—poised not only to dethrone America (even to buy it out!) but to impose some sort of a "Pax Nipponica"—were a veritable cottage industry among American commentators and politicians. But not only among the Americans. The Japanese themselves soon became eager imitators, with a series of best-sellers in Japan propounding the thesis that Japan was destined to prevail in its high-tech rivalry with the United States and that Japan would soon become the center of a global "information empire," while America was allegedly sliding into a decline because of historical fatigue and social self-indulgence.

    These facile analyses obscured the degree to which Japan was, and remains, a vulnerable country. It is vulnerable to the slightest disruptions in the orderly global flow of resources and trade, not to mention global stability more generally, and it is beset by surfacing domestic weaknesses—demographic, social, and political. Japan is simultaneously rich, dynamic, and economically powerful, but it is also regionally isolated and politically limited by its security dependence on a powerful ally that happens to be the principal keeper of global stability (on which Japan so depends) as well as Japan's main economic rival.

   It is unlikely that Japan's current position—on the one hand, as a globally respected economic powerhouse and, on the other, as a geopolitical extension of American power—will remain acceptable to the new generations of Japanese, no longer traumatized and shamed by the experience of World War II. For reasons of both history and self-esteem, Japan is a country not entirely satisfied with the global status quo, though in a more subdued fashion than China. It feels, with some justification, that it is entitled to formal recognition as a world power but is also aware that the regionally useful (and, to its Asian neighbors, reassuring) security dependence on America inhibits that recognition.

    Moreover, China's growing power on the mainland of Asia, along with the prospect that its influence may soon radiate into the maritime regions of economic iniporl.nicc lo Japan, intcnsilics the Japanese sense of ambiguity regarding the country's geopolitical future. On the one hand, there is in Japan a strong cultural and emotional identification with China as well as a latent sense of a common Asian identity. Some Japanese may also feel that the emergence of a stronger China has the expedient effect of enhancing Japan's importance to the United States as America's regional para-mountcy is reduced. On the other hand, for many Japanese, China is the traditional rival, a former enemy, and a potential threat to the stability of the region. That makes the security tie with America more important than ever, even if it increases the resentment of some of the more nationalistic Japanese concerning the irksome restraints on Japan's political and military independence.

   There is a superficial similarity between Japan's situation in Eurasia's Far East and Germany's in Eurasia's Far West. Both are the principal regional allies of the United States. Indeed, American power in Europe and Asia is derived directly from the close alliances with these two countries. Both have respectable military establishments, but neither is independent in that regard: Germany is constrained by its military integration into NATO, while Japan is restricted by its own (though American-designed) constitutional limitations and the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. Both are trade and financial powerhouses, regionally dominant and also preeminent on the global scale. Both can be classified as quasi-global powers, and both chafe at the continuing denial to them of formal recognition through permanent seats on the UN Security Council.

   But the differences in their respective geopolitical conditions are pregnant with potentially significant consequences. Germany's actual relationship with NATO places the country on a par with its principal European allies, and under the North Atlantic Treaty, Germany has formal reciprocal defense obligations with the United States. The U.S.-Japan Security Treaty stipulates American obligations to defend Japan, but it does not provide (even if only formally) for the use of the Japanese military in the defense of America. The treaty in effect codifies a protective relationship.

    Moreover, Germany, by its proactive membership in the European Union and NATO, is no longer seen as a threat by those neighbors who in the past were victims of its aggression but is viewed instead as a desirable economic and political partner. Some even welcome the potential emergence of a German-led Mitteleuropa, witli Germany seen as a benign regional power. That is far from the case with Japan's Asian neighbors, who harbor lingering animosity toward Japan over World War II. A contributing factor to neighborly resentment is the appreciation of the yen, which has not only prompted bitter complaints but has impeded reconciliation with Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and even China, 30 percent of whose large long-term debts to Japan are in yen.

    Japan also has no equivalent in Asia to Germany's France: that is, a genuine and more or less equal regional partner. There is admittedly a strong cultural attraction to China, mingled perhaps with a sense of guilt, but that attraction is politically ambiguous in that neither side trusts the other and neither is prepared to accept the other's regional leadership. Japan also has no equivalent to Germany's Poland: that is, a much weaker but geopolitically important neighbor with whom reconciliation and even cooperation is becoming a reality. Perhaps Korea, especially so after eventual reunification, could become that equivalent, but Japanese-Korean relations are only formally good, with the Korean memories of past domination and the Japanese sense of cultural superiority impeding any genuine social reconciliation.7 Finally, Japan's relations with Russia have been much cooler than Germany's. Russia still retains the southern Kuril Islands by force, which it seized just before the end of World War II, thereby freezing the Russo-Japanese relationship. In brief, Japan is politically isolated in its region, whereas Germany is not.

 

7. The Japan Digest, February 25, 1997, reported that, according to a governmental poll, only 36 percent of the Japanese felt friendly toward South Korea.

 

    In addition, Germany shares with its neighbors both common democratic principles and Europe's broader Christian heritage. It also seeks to identify and even sublimate itself within an entity and a cause larger than itself, namely, that of "Europe." In contrast, there is no comparable "Asia." Indeed, Japan's insular past and even its current democratic system tend to separate it from the rest of the region, in spite of the emergence in recent years of democracy in several Asian countries. Many Asians view Japan not only as nationally selfish but also as overly imitative of the West and reluctant to join them in questioning the West's views on human rights and on the importance of individualism. Thus, Japan is perceived as not truly Asian by many Asians, even as the West occasionally wonders to what degree Japan has truly become Western.

    In effect, though in Asia, Japan is not comfortably Asian. That condition greatly limits its geostrategic options. A genuinely regional option, that of a regionally preponderant Japan that overshadows China—even if no longer based on Japanese domination but rather on benign Japanese-led regional cooperation—does not seem viable for solid historical, political, and cultural reasons. Furthermore, Japan remains dependent on American military protection and international sponsorship. The abrogation or even the gradual emasculation of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty would render Japan instantly vulnerable to the disruptions that any serious manifestation of regional or global turmoil might produce. The only alternatives then would be either to accept China's regional predominance or to undertake a massive—and not only costly but also very dangerous—program of military rearmament.

    Understandably, many Japanese find their country's present position—simultaneously a quasi-global power and a security protectorate—to be anomalous. But dramatic and viable alternatives to the existing arrangements are not self-evident. If it can be said that China's national goals, notwithstanding the inescapable variety of views among the Chinese strategists on specific aspects, are reasonably clear and the regional thrust of China's geopolitical ambitions relatively predictable, Japan's geostrategic vision tends to be relatively cloudy and the Japanese public mood much more ambiguous.

    Most Japanese realize that a strategically significant and abrupt change of course could be dangerous. Can Japan become a regional power in a region where it is still the object of resentment and where China is emerging as the regionally preeminent power? Yet should Japan simply acquiesce in such a Chinese role? Can Japan become a truly comprehensive global power (in all its dimensions) without jeopardizing American support and galvanizing even more regional animosity? And will America, in any case, stay put in Asia, and if it does, how will its reaction to China's growing influence impinge on the priority so far given to the American-Japanese connection? For most of the Cold War, none of these (|iieslions ever .ê In be raised. Today, they have become slrategically salient and are propelling an increasingly lively debate in Japan.

    Since the 1950s, Japanese foreign policy has been guided by four basic principles promulgated by postwar Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida. The Yoshida Doctrine postulated that (1) Japan's main goal should be economic development, (2) Japan should be lightly armed and should avoid involvement in international conflicts, (3) Japan should follow the political leadership of and accept military protection from the United States, and (4) Japanese diplomacy should be nonideological and should focus on international cooperation. However, since many Japanese also felt uneasy about the extent of Japan's involvement in the Cold War, the fiction of semineutrality was simultaneously cultivated. Indeed, as late as 1981, Foreign Minister Masayoshi Ito was forced to resign for having permitted the term "alliance" (domef) to be used in characterizing U.S.-Japan relations.

    That is now all past. Japan was then recovering, China was self-isolated, and Eurasia was polarized. By contrast, Japan's political elite now senses that a rich Japan, economically involved in the world, can no longer define self-enrichment as its central national purpose without provoking international resentment. Further, an economically powerful Japan, especially one that competes with America, cannot simply be an extension of American foreign policy while at the same time avoiding any international political responsibilities. A politically more influential Japan, especially one that seeks global recognition (for example, a permanent seat on the UN Security Council), cannot avoid taking stands on the more critical security or geopolitical issues affecting world peace.

   As a result, recent years have seen a proliferation of special studies and reports by a variety of Japanese public and private bodies, as well as a plethora of often controversial books by well-known politicians and professors, outlining new missions for Japan in the post-Cold War era.8 Many of these have involved speculation regarding the durability and desirability of the American-Japanese security alliance and have advocated a more active Japanese diplomacy, especially toward China, or a more energetic Japanese military role in the region. If one were to judge the state of the American-Japanese connection on the basis of the public dialogue, one would be justified in concluding that by the mid-1990s relations between the two countries had entered a crisis stage.

 

8. For example, the Higuchi Commission, a prime-ministerial advisory board that outlined the "Three Pillars of Japanese Security Policy" in a report issued in the summer of 1994, stressed the primacy of the American-Japanese security ties but also advocated an Asian multilateral security dialogue; the 1994 O/awa Coinmillcr report, "Uliieprinl for a New Japan"; the Yomiuri Shimbun 's outline for "A Comprehensive Security Policy" of May 1995, advocating among other items the use abroad of the Japanese military for peacekeeping; the April 1996 report of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives (keizai doyukai), prepared with the assistance of the Fuji Bank think tank, urging greater symmetry in the American-Japanese defense system; the report entitled "Possibility and Role of a Security System in the Asian-Pacific Region," submitted to the prime minister in June 1996 by the Japan Forum on International Affairs; as well as numerous books and articles published over the last several years, often much more polemical and extreme in their recommendations and more often cited by the Western media than the above-mentioned mostly mainstream reports. For example, in 1996 a book edited by a Japanese general evoked widespread press commentaries when it dared to speculate that under some circumstances the United States might fail to protect Japan and hence Japan should augment its national defense capabilities (see General Yasuhiro Morino, ed., Next deneralion (Imund Self-Defense I'orc.e and the commentary on it in "Myths of the U.S. Coming to Our Aid," Sunhei Sliimbun, March 4, 1996).

 

    However, on the level of public policy, the seriously discussed recommendations have been, on the whole, relatively sober, measured, and moderate. The extreme options—that of outright pacifism (tinged with an anti-U.S. flavor) or of unilateral and major rearmament (requiring a revision of the Constitution and pursued presumably in defiance of an adverse American and regional reaction)—have won few adherents. The public appeal of pacifism has, if anything, waned in recent years, and unilateralism and militarism have also failed to gain much public support, despite the advocacy of some flamboyant spokesmen. The public at large and certainly the influential business elite viscerally sense that neither option provides a real policy choice and, in fact, could only endanger Japan's well-being.

    The politically dominant public discussions have primarily involved differences in emphasis regarding Japan's basic international posture, with some secondary variations concerning geopolitical priorities. In broad terms, three major orientations, and perhaps a minor fourth one, can be identified and labeled as follows: the unabashed "America Firsters," the global mercantilists, the proactive realists, and the international visionaries. However, in the final analysis, all four share the same rather general goal and partake of the same central concern: to exploit the special relationship with the United States in order to gain global recognition for Japan, while avoiding Asian hostility and without prematurely jeopardizing the American security umbrella.

    The first orientation takes as its point of departure the proposition that the maintenance of the existing (and admittedly asymmetrical) American-Japanese relationship should remain the central core of Japan's geostrategy. Its adherents desire, as do most Japanese, greater international recognition for Japan and more equality in the alliance, but it is their cardinal article of faith, as Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa put it in January 1993, that "the outlook for the world going into the twenty-first century will largely depend on whether or not Japan and the United States ... are able to provide coordinated leadership under a shared vision." This viewpoint has been dominant within the internationalist political elite and the foreign policy establishment that has held power over the course of the last two or so decades. On the key geostrategic issues of China's regional role and America's presence in Korea, that leadership has been supportive of the United States, but it also sees its role as a source of restraint on any American propensity to adopt a confrontationist posture toward China. In fact, even this group has become increasingly inclined to emphasize the need for closer Japanese-Chinese relations, ranking them in importance just below the ties with America.

    The second orientation does not contest the geostrategic identification of Japan's policy with America's, but it sees Japanese interests as best served by the frank recognition and acceptance of the fact that Japan is primarily an economic power. This outlook is most often associated with the traditionally influential bureaucracy of the MITI (Ministry of International Trade and Industry) and with the country's trading and export business leadership. In this view, Japan's relative demilitarization is an asset worth preserving. With America assuring the security of the country, Japan is free to pursue a policy of global economic engagement, which quietly enhances its global standing.

    In an ideal world, the second orientation would be inclined to favor a policy of at least de facto neutralism, with America offsetting China's regional power and thereby protecting Taiwan and South Korea, thus making Japan free to cultivate a closer economic relationship with the mainland and with Southeast Asia. However, given the existing political realities, the global mercantilists accept the American-Japanese alliance as a necessary arrangement, including the relatively modest budgetary outlays for the Japanese armed forces (still not much exceeding 1 percent of the country's GDP), but they are not eager to infuse the alliance with any regionally significant substance.

   The third group, the proactive realists, tend to be the new breed of politicians and geopolitical thinkers. They believe that as a rich and successful democracy Japan has both the opportunity and the obligation to make a real difference in the post-Cold War world. By doing so, it can also gain the global recognition to which Japan is entitled as an economic powerhouse that historically ranks among the world's few truly great nations. The appearance of such a more muscular Japanese posture was foreshadowed in the 1980s by Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, but perhaps the best-known exposition of that perspective was contained in the controversial Ozawa Committee report, published in 1994 and entitled suggestively "Blueprint for a New Japan: The Rethinking of a Nation."

    Named after the committee's chairman, Ichiro Ozawa, a rapidly rising centrist political leader, the report advocated both a democratization of the country's hierarchical political culture and a rethinking of Japan's international posture. Urging Japan to become "a normal country," the report recommended the retention of the American-Japanese security connection but also counseled that Japan should abandon its international passivity by becoming actively engaged in global politics, especially by taking the lead in international peacekeeping efforts. To that end, the report recommended that the country's constitutional limitations on the dispatch abroad of Japanese armed forces be lifted.

Left unsaid but implied by the cMiiphasis on "a normal country" was also the notion of a more significant geopolitical emancipation from America's security blanket. The advocates of this viewpoint tended to argue that on matters of global importance, Japan should not hesitate to speak up for Asia, instead of automatically following the American lead. However, they remained characteristically vague on such sensitive matters as the growing regional role of China or the future of Korea, not differing much from their more traditionalist colleagues. Thus, in regard to regional security, they^paitook of the still strong Japanese inclination to let both matters remain primarily the responsibility of America, with Japan merely exercising a moderating role on any excessive American zeal.

   By the second half of the 1990s, this proactive realist orientation was beginning to dominate public thinking and affect the formulation of Japanese foreign policy. In the first half of 1996, the Japanese government started to speak of Japan's "independent diplomacy" (jishu gaiko), even though the ever-cautious Japanese Foreign Ministry chose to translate the Japanese phrase as the vaguer (and to America presumably less pointed) term "proactive diplomacy."

    The fourth orientation, that of the international visionaries, has been less influential than any of the preceding, but it occasionally serves to infuse the Japanese viewpoint with more idealistic rhetoric. It tends to be associated publicly with outstanding individuals—like Akio Morita of Sony—who personally dramatize the importance to Japan of a demonstrative commitment to morally desirable global goals. Often invoking the notion of "a new global order," the visionaries call on Japan—precisely because it is not burdened by geopolitical responsibilities—to be a global leader in the development and advancement of a truly humane agenda for the world community.

   All four orientations are in agreement on one key regional issue: that the emergence of more multilateral Asia-Pacific cooperation is in Japan's interest. Such cooperation can have, over time, three positive effects: it can help to engage (and also subtly to restrain) China; it can help to keep America in Asia, even while gradually reducing its predominance; and it can help to mitigate anti-Japanese resentment and thus increase Japan's influence. Although it is unlikely l<> ereate ;i Japanese sphere of regional inlluence, it might gain Japan some degree of regional deference, especially in the offshore maritime countries that may be uneasy over China's growing power.

    All four viewpoints also agree that a cautious cultivation of China is much to be preferred over any American-led effort toward the direct containment of China. In fact, the notion of an American-led strategy to contain China, or even the idea of an informal balancing coalition confined to the island states of Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, and Indonesia, backed by Japan and America, has had no significant appeal for the Japanese foreign policy establishment. In the Japanese perspective, any effort of that sort would not only require an indefinite and major American military presence in both Japan and Korea but—by creating an incendiary geopolitical overlap between Chinese and American-Japanese regional interests (see map on page 184)—would be likely to become a self-fulfilling prophesy of a collision with China.9 The result would be to inhibit Japan's evolutionary emancipation and threaten the Far East's economic well-being.

 

9. Some conservative Japanese have been tempted by the notion of a special Japan-Taiwan connection, and in 1996 a "Japan-Taiwan Parliamentarians' Association" was formed to promote that goal. The Chinese reaction has been predictably hostile.

 

    By the same token, few favor the opposite: a grand accommodation between Japan and China. The regional consequences of such a classical reversal of alliances would be too unsettling: an American withdrawal from the region as well as the prompt subordination of both Taiwan and Korea to China, leaving Japan at China's mercy. This is not an appealing prospect, save perhaps to a few extremists. With Russia geopolitically marginalized and historically despised, there is thus no alternative to the basic consensus that the link with America remains Japan's central lifeline. Without it, Japan can neither ensure itself a steady supply of oil nor protect itself from a Chinese (and perhaps soon, also a Korean) nuclear bomb. The only real policy issue is how best to manipulate the American connection in order to advance Japanese interests.

   Accordingly, the Japanese have gone along with American desires to enhance American-Japanese military cooperation, including the seemingly increased scope from the more specific "Far East" to a broader "Asia-Pacific formula." Consistent with this, in early 1996 in its review of the so-called Japan-U.S. defense guidelines, the Japanese government also broadened its reference to the possible use of Japanese defense forces from in "Far East emergencies" to "emergencies in Japan's neighboring regions." Japanese willingness to accommodate America on this matter has also been driven by percolating doubts regarding America's long-term staying power in Asia and by concerns that China's rise—and America's seeming anxiety over it—could at some point in the future still impose on Japan an unacceptable choice: to stand with America against China or without America and allied with China.

    For Japan, that fundamental dilemma also contains a historic imperative: since becoming a dominant regional power is not a viable goal and since without a regional base the attainment of truly comprehensive global power is unrealistic, it follows that Japan can best attain the status of a global leader through active involvement in worldwide peacekeeping and economic development. By taking advantage of the American-Japanese military alliance to ensure the stability of the Far East—but without letting it evolve into an anti-Chinese coalition—Japan can safely carve out a distinctive and influential global mission as the power that promotes the emergence of genuinely international and more effectively institutionalized cooperation. Japan could thus become a much more powerful and globally influential equivalent of Canada: a state that is respected for the constructive use of its wealth and power but one that is neither feared nor resented.

 

Pict 030 Overlap Between a Greater China and an American-Japanese Anti-China Coalition

  1. American-Japanese Anti-China Coalition

  2. Overlap with China as a Global Power

 

AMERICA'S GEOSTRATEGIC ADJUSTMENT

It should be the task of American policy to make certain that Japan pursues such a choice and that China's rise to regional preeminence does not preclude a stable triangular balance of East Asian power. The effort to manage both Japan and China and to maintain a stable three-way interaction that also involves America will severely tax American diplomatic skills and political imagination. Shedding past fixation on the threat allegedly posed by Japan's economic ascension and eschewing fears of Chinese political muscle could help to infuse cool realism into a policy that must be based on careful strategic calculus: how to channel Japanese energy in the international direction and how to steer Chinese power into a regional accommodation.

    Only in this manner will America be able to forge on the eastern mainland of Eurasia a geopolitically congenial equivalent to Europe's role on the western periphery of Eurasia, that is, a structure of regional power based on shared interests. However, unlike the European case, a democratic bridgehead on the eastern mainland will not soon emerge. Instead, in the Far East the redirected alliance with Japan must also serve as the basis for an American accommodation with a regionally preeminent China.

    For America, several important geostrategic conclusions flow from the analysis contained in the preceding two sections of this chapter:

   The prevailing wisdom that China is the next global power is breeding paranoia abonl China and fostering megalomania within China. Fears of an aggressive and antagonistic China that before long is destined to be the next global power are, at best, premature; and, at worst, they can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It follows that it would be counterproductive to organize a coalition designed to contain China's rise to global power. That would only ensure that a regionally influential China would be hostile. At the same time, any such effort would strain the American-Japanese relationship, since most Japanese would be likely to oppose such a coalition. Accordingly, the United States should desist from pressing Japan to assume larger defense responsibilities in the Asia-Pacific region. Efforts to that effect will merely hinder the emergence of a stable relationship between Japan and China, while also further isolating Japan in the region.

    But precisely because China is in fact not likely to emerge soon as a global power—and because for that very reason it would be unwise to pursue a policy of China's regional containment—it is desirable to treat China as a globally significant player. Drawing China into wider international cooperation and granting it the status it craves can have the effect of dulling the sharper edges of China's national ambitions. An important step in that direction would be to include China in the annual summit of the world's leading countries, the so-called G-7 (Group of Seven), especially since Russia has also been invited to it.

    Despite appearances, China does not in fact have grand strategic options. China's continued economic success remains heavily dependent on the inflow of Western capital and technology and on access to foreign markets, and that severely limits China's options. An alliance with an unstable and impoverished Russia would not enhance China's economic or geopolitical prospects (and for Russia it would mean subordination to China). It is thus not a viable geostrategic option, even if it is tactically tempting for both China and Russia to toy with the idea. Chinese aid to Iran and Pakistan is of more immediate regional and geopolitical significance to China, but that also does not provide the point of departure for a serious quest for global power status. An "antihegemonic" coalition could become a last-resort option if China came to feel that its national or regional aspirations were being blocked by the United States (with Japan's support). But it would be a coalition of the poor, who would then be likely lo remain collectively poor for quite sonic time.

   A Greater China is emerging as the regionally dominant power. As such, it may attempt to impose itself on its neighbors in a manner that is regionally destabilizing; or it may be satisfied with exercising its influence more indirectly, in keeping with past Chinese imperial history. Whether a hegemonic sphere of influence or a vaguer sphere of deference emerges will depend in part on how brutal and authoritarian the Chinese regime remains and in part also on the manner in which the key outside players, notably America and Japan, react to the emergence of a Greater China. A policy of simple appeasement could encourage a more assertive Chinese posture; but a policy of merely obstructing the emergence of such a China would also be likely to produce a similar outcome. Cautious accommodation on some issues and a precise drawing of the line on others might avoid either extreme.

    In any case, in some areas of Eurasia, a Greater China may exercise a geopolitical influence that is compatible with America's grand geostrategic interests in a stable but politically pluralistic Eurasia. For example, China's growing interest in Central Asia inevitably constrains Russia's freedom of action in seeking to achieve any form of political reintegration of the region under Moscow's control. In this connection and as related to the Persian Gulf, China's growing need for energy dictates a common interest with America in maintaining free access to and political stability in the oil-producing regions. Similarly, China's support for Pakistan restrains India's ambitions to subordinate that country and offsets India's inclination to cooperate with Russia in regard to Afghanistan and Central Asia. Finally, Chinese and Japanese involvement in the development of eastern Siberia can likewise help to enhance regional stability. These common interests should be explored through a sustained strategic dialogue.10

 

10. In a meeting in 1996 with China's top national security and defense officials, I identified (using occasionally deliberately vague formulations) the following areas of common strategic interest as the basis for such a dialogue: (1) a peaceful Southeast Asia; (2) nonuse of force in the resolution of offshore issues; (3) peaceful reunification of China; (4) stability in Korea; (5) independence of Central Asia; (6) balance between India and Pakistan; (7) an economically dynamic and internationally benign Japan; (8) a stable but not too strong Russia.

 

   There are also areas where Chinese ambitions might clash with American (and also Japanese) interests, especially if these ambitions were to be pursued through historically more familiar strong-arm tactics. This applies particularly to Southeast Asia, Taiwan, and Korea.

    Southeast Asia is potentially too rich, geographically too spread out, and simply too big to be easily subordinated by even a powerful China—but it is also too weak and politically too fragmented not to become at least a sphere of deference for China. China's regional influence, abetted by the Chinese financial and economic presence in all of the area's countries, is bound to grow as China's power increases. Much depends on how China applies that power, but it is not self-evident that America has any special interest in opposing it directly or in becoming involved in such issues as the South China Sea dispute. The Chinese have considerable historical experience in subtly managing unequal (or tributary) relationships, and it would certainly be in China's own interest to exercise self-restraint in order to avoid regional fears of Chinese imperialism. That fear could generate a regional anti-Chinese coalition (and some overtones of that are already present in the nascent Indonesian-Australian military cooperation), which would then most likely seek support from the United States, Japan, and Australia.

    A Greater China, especially after digesting Hong Kong, will almost certainly seek more energetically to achieve Taiwan's reunification with the mainland. It is important to appreciate the fact that China has never acquiesced in the indefinite separation of Taiwan. Therefore, at some point, that issue could generate a head-on American-Chinese collision. Its consequences for all concerned would be most damaging: China's economic prospects would be set back; America's ties with Japan could become severely strained; and American efforts to create a stable balance of power in eastern Eurasia could be derailed.

    Accordingly, it is essential to attain and maintain reciprocally the utmost clarity on this issue. Even if for the foreseeable future China is likely to lack the means to effectively coerce Taiwan, Beijing must understand—and be credibly convinced—that American acquiescence in an attempt at the forcible reintegration of Taiwan, sought by the use of military power, would be so devastating to America's position in the Far East that America simply could not

afford to remain militarily passive; if Taiwan were unable to protect itself.

    In other words, America would have to intervene not for the sake of a separate Taiwan but for the sake of America's geopolitical interests in the Asia-Pacific area. This is an important distinction. The United States does not have, per se, any special interest in a separate Taiwan. In fact, its official position has been, and should remain, that there is only one China. But how China seeks reunification can impinge on vital American interests, and the Chinese have to be clearly aware of that.

    The issue of Taiwan also gives America a legitimate reason for raising the human rights question in its dealings with China without justifying the accusation of interference in Chinese domestic affairs. It is perfectly appropriate to reiterate to Beijing that reunification will be accomplished only when China becomes more prosperous and more democratic. Only such a China will be able to attract Taiwan and assimilate it within a Greater China that is also prepared to be a confederation based on the principle of "one country, several systems." In any case, because of Taiwan, it is in China's own interest to enhance respect for human rights, and it is appropriate in that context for America to address the matter.

    At the same time, it behooves the United States—in keeping with its promise to China—to abstain from directly or indirectly supporting any international upgrading of Taiwan's status. In the 1990s, some U.S.-Taiwanese official contacts conveyed the impression that the United States was tacitly beginning to treat Taiwan as a separate state, and the Chinese anger over this issue was understandable, as was Chinese resentment of the intensifying effort by Taiwanese officials to gain international recognition for Taiwan's separate status.

    The United States should not be shy, therefore, in making it clear that its attitude toward Taiwan will be adversely affected by Taiwanese efforts to alter the long-established and deliberate ambiguities governing the China-Taiwan relationship. Moreover, if China does prosper and does democratize and if its absorption of Hong Kong does not involve a retrogression regarding civil rights, American encouragement of a serious cross-Strait dialogue regarding the terms of an eventual reunification would also help generate pressure for increased democratization within China, while fostering a wider strategic accommodation between the United States and a Greater China.

    Korea, the geopolitically pivotal state in Northeast Asia, could again become a source of contention between America and China, and its future will also impact directly on the American-Japanese connection. As long as Korea remains divided and potentially vulnerable to a war between the unstable North and the increasingly rich South, American forces will have to remain on the peninsula. Any unilateral U.S. withdrawal would not only be likely to precipitate a new war but would, in all probability, also signal the end of the American military presence in Japan. It is difficult to conceive of the Japanese continuing to rely on continued U.S. deployment on Japanese soil in the wake of an American abandonment of South Korea. Rapid Japanese rearmament would be the most likely consequence, with broadly destabilizing consequences in the region as a whole.

    Korea's reunification, however, would also be likely to pose serious geopolitical dilemmas. If American forces were to remain in a reunified Korea, they would inevitably be viewed by the Chinese as pointed against China. In fact, it is doubtful that the Chinese would acquiesce in reunification under these circumstances. If that reunification were taking place by stages, involving a so-called soft landing, China would obstruct it politically and support those elements in North Korea that remained opposed to reunification. If that reunification were taking place violently, with North Korea "crash landing," even Chinese military intervention could not be precluded. From the Chinese perspective, a reunified Korea would be acceptable only if it is not simultaneously a direct extension of American power (with Japan in the background as its springboard).

    However, a reunified Korea without U.S. troops on its soil would be quite likely to gravitate first toward a form of neutrality between China and Japan and then gradually—driven in part by residual but still intense anti-Japanese feelings—toward a Chinese sphere of either politically more assertive influence or somewhat more delicate deference. The issue would then arise as to whether Japan would still be willing to serve as the only Asian base for American power. At the very least, the issue would be most divisive within Japanese domestic politics. Any resulting retraction in the scope of U.S. military reach in the Far East would in turn make the maintenance of a stable Eurasian balance of power more difficult. These considerations thus enhance the American and Japanese stakes in the Korean status quo (though in each case, for somewhat different reasons), and if that status quo is to be altered, it must occur in very slow stages, preferably in a setting of a deepening American-Chinese regional accommodation.

    In the meantime, a true Japanese-Korean reconciliation would contribute significantly to a more stable regional setting for any eventual reunification. The various international complications that could ensue from Korean reintegration would be mitigated by a genuine reconciliation between Japan and Korea, resulting in an increasingly cooperative and binding political relationship between these two countries. The United States could play the critical role in promoting that reconciliation. Many specific steps that were taken to advance first the German-French reconciliation and later that between Germany and Poland (for example, ranging from joint university programs eventually to combined military formations) could be adapted to this case. A comprehensive and regionally stabilizing Japanese-Korean partnership would, in turn, facilitate a continuing American presence in the Far East even perhaps after Korea's unification.

    It almost goes without saying that a close political relationship with Japan is in America's global geostrategic interest. But whether Japan is to be America's vassal, rival, or partner depends on the ability of the Americans and Japanese to define more clearly what international goals the countries should seek in common and to demarcate more sharply the dividing line between the U.S. geostrategic mission in the Far East and Japan's aspirations for a global role. For Japan, despite the domestic debates about Japan's foreign policy, the relationship with America still remains the central beacon for its own sense of international direction. A disoriented Japan, lurching toward either rearmament or a separate accommodation with China, would spell the end of the American role in the Asia-Pacific region7 and would foreclose the emergence of a regionally stable triangular arrangement involving America, Japan, and China. That, in turn, would preclude the shaping of an American-managed political equilibrium throughout Eurasia.

   In brief, a disoriented Japan would be like a beached whale: thrashing around helplessly but dangerously. It could destabilize Asia, but it could not create a viable alternative to the needed stabilizing balance among America, Japan, and China. It is only through a close alliance with Japan that America will be able to accommodate China's regional aspirations and constrain its more arbitrary manifestations. Only on that basis can an intricate three-way accommodation—one that involves America's global power, China's regional preeminence, and Japan's international leadership—be contrived.

   It follows that in the foreseeable future, reduction of the existing levels of U.S. forces in Japan (and, by extension, in Korea) is not desirable. By the same token, however, any significant increase in the geopolitical scope and the actual magnitude of the Japanese military effort is also undesirable. A significant U.S. withdrawal would most probably prompt a major Japanese armament program in the context of an unsettling strategic disorientation, whereas American pressure on Japan to assume a greater military role can only damage the prospects for regional stability, impede a wider regional accommodation with a Greater China, divert Japan from undertaking a more constructive international mission, and thereby complicate the effort to foster stable geopolitical pluralism throughout Eurasia.

   It also follows that Japan—if it is to turn its face to the world and away from Asia—must be given a meaningful incentive and a special status, so that its own national interest is thereby well served. Unlike China, which can^seek global power by first becoming a regional power, Japan can gain global influence by eschewing the quest for regional power. But that makes it all the more important for Japan to feel that it is America's special partner in a global vocation that is as politically satisfying as it is economically beneficial. To that end, the United States would do well to consider the adoption of an American-Japanese free trade agreement, thereby creating a common American-Japanese economic space. Such a step, formalizing the growing linkage between the two economies, would provide the geopolitical underpinning both for America's continued presence in the Ãàã Kasl and for Japan's constructive global engagement."

 

11. A strong case for this initiative, pointing out the mutual economic benefits thereof, is made by Kurt Tong, "Revolutionizing America's Japan Policy," Foreign Policy (Winter 1996-1997).

 

    To conclude: For America, Japan should be its vital and foremost partner in the construction of an increasingly cooperative and pervasive system of global cooperation but not primarily its military ally in any regional arrangement designed to contest China's regional preeminence. In effect, Japan should be America's global partner in tackling the new agenda of world affairs. A regionally preeminent China should become America's Far Eastern anchor in the more traditional domain of power politics, helping thereby to foster a Eurasian balance of power, with Greater China in Eurasia's East matching in that respect the role of an enlarging Europe in Eurasia's West.

 

 

* Introduction * Part 1 * Part 2 * Part 3 * Part 4 * Part 5 * Part 6 * Part 7 *