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East Asia

Friend as Foe?

Masahiro Matsumura

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Even though sharing strong democratic values and strategic interests, Japan and its immediate neighbor, South Korea, have recently estranged themselves each other.

Certainly, South Korean presidents usually cut anti-Japan cards, but only after they become a lamed duck. To buoy up popular support, they take advantage of strong nationalism against pre-war Japanese colonialism. Yet, President Park Geun-hye, soon after in office earlier last year, began showing acrimony against Japan. More recently, she disparaged Japan directly to top U.S. and European leaders during her official visits. She went to Beijing to meet President Xi Jinping, but even refuses to meet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for rapprochement, instead escalating her rhetoric.

The friction appears to have transpired from the longtime territorial dispute of an islet, Tekeshima/Dokdo, and Second World War legacy issues over which South Korea insists Japan’s official compensation and additional apology. But the entrenched estrangement originates from their conflicting identities embedded to the existing Western inter-state versus the defunct Sino-centric systems. Neither Japan’s international-law approach revealing South Korea’s ignorance nor the latter’s history-question approach emphasizing the former’s insensitivity helps.

Since the mid-19th century, the Korean Peninsula has been a cockpit of continental and maritime great powers: China, Russia, Japan, and, for the last several decades, the U.S. Korea has been an object, rather than a subject, of great power politics.

With Imperial Japan’s victory over the Qing dynasty, the 1885 Peace Treaty of Shimonoseki brought about the first political independence of a unified Korea. Over two thousand years, Korea continually suffered successive Middle-Kingdoms’ invasion and interference, and survived their excruciating subjugation and exploitation through outright Sinicization and slavish submission to them. No wonder, historic Korea was entrapped in underdevelopment and poverty.

The Japanese victory stripped the last tributary state, Korea, from China’s orbit, necessitating the breakdown of the Sino-centric world system. True, Korea was emancipated from China’s yoke, but at the same time lost the solid base of its Sinicized identity. In the hierarchical Sino-centric order, Korea regarded itself superior to Japan on the basis of its geographic proximity to China, involving the early timing and higher degree of Sinicization. In contrast, Japan had strong self-esteem for an independent medium-sized civilization detached from the Sino-centric world, allegedly, under an uninterrupted line of throne since the beginning of its history.  

With its annexation of Korea in 1910, Japan modernized it across public health, education, infrastructure, economy, among others, and molded the fabric of its state and society. Throughout its rule that ended in 1945, the popular welfare significantly improved, but the transformation was so extensive that the Sinicized traditionalism and convention dwindled, putting the sense of superiority vis-à-vis Japan in jeopardy. Consequently, Koreans suffered a conflicted national identity involving the superiority and inferiority complex. To put it under control, they have to beautify dire history prior to the Japanese rule and deny Japanese contribution to the modernization, to the extent that their history-telling becomes a fantasy.
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South Korea’s security relies on the alliance with the U.S., which is buttressed by the U.S.-Japan alliance. Also, Japan needs South Korea, the tip of a dagger pointed at the mainland, as a stable security partner

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Even in today’s South Korean socio-economic life, including food, fashion, and other aspects in pop culture, the Japanese way of modern life remains paramount. This is reinforced by the central importance of predominant Japanese vocabulary in the Korean language and other enduring legacies of the prewar Japanese rule.

Thus, Japan is South Korea’s cultural arch-enemy unconsciously exerting irresistible assimilative modernizing power. With its established peaceful diplomacy, postwar Japan will never pose any security threat to South Korea, and instead provides intermediate products and services that are essential for the country’s final export products and, therefore, continued prosperity.

Embracing Japan, however, will inevitably thaw the die-hard Korean national identity that made it feasible to have survived even China’s bi-millenary yoke. This resembles Canada’s predicament vis-à-vis the adjoining U.S. that poses no security threat but exerts overwhelming assimilative effect on the basis of its economic, cultural, and political power and influence. South Korea’s relationship with Japan is far more complicated due to the abovementioned clash of civilizations.

Alas, South Korea’s behavior is simply incidental to rising China’s power and the relative decline of combined U.S. and Japanese power, which has apparently altered President Park’s strategic calculation rendering her to lean toward China. Whether such a calculation is tenable or not remains to be seen, but there in fact exists a rationale behind Park’s “Japan discount” policy under the growing shadow of a possible China’s regional hegemony. Now South Korea is on trial and error, though in an eccentric manner, to calibrate exactly where it has to stand in the regional dynamics of great power politics.

Hence, Japan should not react to Park’s anti-Japan initiatives, and emphasize two countries share strategic interests, at least until she mutes out. South Korea’s security relies on the alliance with the U.S., which is buttressed by the U.S.-Japan alliance. Also, Japan needs South Korea, the tip of a dagger pointed at the mainland, as a stable security partner.

To counter growing China’s aggressiveness, the U.S. and Japan have recently further strengthened the bilateral alliance, in tandem with their diplomatic alignment with major Asia-Pacific allies and friendly nations. China’s recent unilateral move to set an Air Defense Identification Zone in the East Asia Sea reinforces the primacy of security considerations. With a growing sense of diplomatic isolation, the South Korean public opinion is now slowly but steadily shifting to a realist thinking cognizant of the need to improve the relations with Japan

The international community, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, must take no side in the Japan-South Korea ruckus, and live patiently with it until strategic considerations will dictate Seoul’s Japan policy. Doing otherwise would aggravate the ruckus and harm regional peace and stability. In dealing with the issue, doing nothing as bystanders is the best policy.

MD Advisory Board Member Professor of International Politics and National Security Faculty of Law St. Andrew's University (Momoyama Gakuin Daigaku)

East Asia

The Strategic Stopover: President Xi’s state visit to Nepal

Sisir Devkota

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For starters, a Nepali styled dumpling, “momo” might have reminded President Xi, a cuisine closer to his taste buds than what Prime Minister Modi offered him a night before in southern India. Nobody would know if a “spiced extract tomato” served feelings like any kind of dumpling would excite a visiting Chinese head of state. There was a contrasting atmosphere in Kathmandu; President Xi proudly stated how Nepal-China friendship was extremely unique, one that has been positive since time. It was a deliberate statement to the Indians; friendship for China did not mean carrot and sticks. President Xi’s visit to Kathmandu, a major state tour by any Chinese president for twenty-six years does not need to be analysed from an Indian standpoint. Fortunately, for Nepal, it shall now.

Game point for the visiting Chinese president. Every word he spoke was cunningly tailored to ward off accusations regarding how the Indians would analyse his visit. The Indian government has had open insecurities about Chinese interests in Nepal. President Xi was not in any mood of justifications, rather he was questioning India’s approach towards Nepal, a self-declared natural ally of India. While the president was making his remarks in a cosy dinner affair, the Nepali authorities made sure of the fact that the Tibetans would not create any nuisance. Conversely, in India, they did.

President Xi’s visit to Nepal was built on a rather strong foundation of trust between the two nations. Nepal had openly snubbed the Indo-Pacific union; a US led strategic alliance that is trying to keep Chinese ambitions at check. Even if Xi had any reservations, Nepal’s bold move to approach China for the construction of railway lines until the Indian border is a testimony to Nepal’s unhindered foreign policy. As the dinner progressed, President Xi increasingly inflicted wound on Indian attitude towards Nepali sentiments. China wished for a “land linked” Nepal, a rhetorical change from how Nepal has a trying landlocked geography. A reminder to the Indians of how they had inflicted a land blockade on Nepal. The nature of script effected by both Nepal and China has an air of easiness about transforming bilateral ties in the coming future. The Chinese president brought more to the table than what the Nepali delegations were expecting to. His take away phrase, “we will do what we claim to” is proving to be music to ears in Nepal. Diplomatically, it also means that China will not do what it does not claim to. Another reminder of how India conducts its business.

The dragon is looking for a trusted ally in the region and Nepal has managed to tick all the boxes. Prime Minister Oli of Nepal will be all smiles after achieving a significant power capital to challenge the language with Modi’s unreliability. The state visit has also cut across deep lying misconceptions about Nepal’s relationship with China. Factually, it is different from China’s other interests elsewhere. Relations between Nepal and China are and have been significant than what Indians have perceived it to be like. After all, as President Xi mentioned, pre-historic relationship between China and Nepal would not remain unscathed in the absence of mutual respect and an attitude of friendliness. Both Nepal and China have realistically come to terms with their modern state of friendship. Suddenly, China has not only asserted its leverage in Sino-Nepal ties but it has come at a time of unwavering clarity for the Nepali government. Over the past years, Nepal’s foreign affairs has witnessed deceit, revelations and a need to transform its understanding of international relations. Prior to his state visit, President Xi JingPing did the unconventional. He wrote an editorial on how he felt about his long awaited state visit to Nepal. Game point for the Chinese President.

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East Asia

Trade War: An Infinitesimal View

Rana Danish Nisar

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In the post Cold War era, the US changed its policies, shifted its priorities and viewing China’s economic emergence as a great threat to its interests in coming decades. With a rapid economic growth, technological advancement and development of its armed forces, China became a future competitor of the US. Due to Chinese rapid economic growth, modernization of its armed forces as well as mounting position in Asian region and sea lanes of transportation, many American analysts take China as its future contestant. As a result, China remained a factor in the US all grand strategies. The ‘China versus the US’ indicate that Washington is taking potent steps against its threat (China). China perceives these steps as a part of the US policy of “hedge” to contain “the mighty China”. This writing tries to examine the ongoing trade war between the US and China in miniature view and suggest the options for China.

Trade wars have finally begun between the US and the China. Before little explanation of this Trade war, let’s discuss the concepts. A trade war is when a nation imposes tariffs on imports and foreign countries retaliate with similar forms of trade protectionism. It is side effect of protectionism that occurs when one country (country A) raises tariffs on another country’s (country B) imports in retaliation for country B raising  tariffs on country’s A imports. Besides this, a tariff is a tax imposed on imported goods and services. Trade wars also commence if one country perceives another country’s trading practices to be unfair. Trade wars are also a result of a misunderstanding of the widespread benefits of free trade. In addition, a tariff is a tax or duty that the government places on a class of imported goods (tariffs on exports are very rare). In theory, this makes the foreign products more expensive and therefore less desirable to consumers-boosting domestic makers of the product, which don’t have to pay the tax. The tariff is collected by customs officials and goes to the government. In addition, Protectionism refers to government actions and policies that restricts or restrain international trade, often with the intent of protecting local businesses and jobs from foreign competition.

The United States and China have imposed a tariff of 25% on imports worth $34 billion after exchanging several threats over the last few months. This marks the official beginning of what China dubs as “the biggest trade war in economic history”. While this trade war is far from the biggest the world has seen, it has the potential to cause some significant damage to the world economy. US President Donald Trump, who began the year by imposing tariffs on imported solar panels and washing machines, has vowed to possibly tax all Chinese imports into the US, which last year added up to a little over $500 billion. President Trump’s tariffs against China will likely resonate with voters who believe in his “America First” campaign and perceive the trade deficit with China as a loss to the US economy. China, not surprisingly, has responded by targeting American exports like soybean and automobiles, a move that could cause job losses in American states that accommodate Trump’s voter base. Other major US trading partners such as the European Union, Mexico and Canada have also slapped retaliatory tariffs on various US goods. On July 06, 2018 the Chinese products $34 billion worth, including goods, flat-screen televisions, aircraft parts and medical devices have faced tariff imposed by Trump administration. .The goods marked for tariffs will now face a punishing 25 percent border tax when they are imported into the US. The Trump administration initiated these tariffs after concluding an investigation into some of China’s ‘controversial trade practices’. The main motto behind the new trade barriers is to penalize China for doing things like forcing foreign businesses to hand over their most-prized technology to Chinese companies – many of which are state-owned – in exchange for access to their market. China immediately accused the US of starting “the largest trade war in economic history to date” and responded by imposing 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion worth of US goods, including soybeans, automobiles and lobsters. According to a spokesperson for China’s ministry of commerce, after Minutes the US tariffs went into effect,

“China promised not to fire the first shot, but in order to safeguard the country’s core national interests as well as those of the people, it is forced to fight back … the US will be opening fire on the whole world and also opening fire on itself.”

Additionally, the state-run Global Times wrote,

“If what the US wants is to escalate a trade war with China, then so be it. A little fighting may be the only way the Trump administration clears its mind and allows everyone to sober up.”

The aggregate amount of trade affected is moderate relative to the US and Chinese economies, but for the US, this is the most extensive import protection since the disastrous Smoot-Hawley tariffs in the 1930s. President Trump has threatened a 10 percent tax on a further $200 billion of imports from China.

In the context of feasible effects on global economy, the trade war between the US and the China could push the world economy towards a decline and it could lead to a collapse of comprehensive as well as global trade. The deteriorate investment, disturb financial markets and sluggish global economy are the major negative outputs of this trade war. This trade warfare between the US and China could extend to worldwide in trade arena and to areas beyond trade. According to economical analysts, the trade conflict among one superpower and other rising power can create disturbance of global supply chains. In addition, the US products which are assembled in third world countries can also be affected. Without a doubt, due to the disturb supply chain, the US consumer could well end up paying higher costs for products. At the end but not least, this trade confrontation between two rivalries of 21st century could affect the world trade system and it could be trade cold war between both countries be like the cold war between USA and the USSR in 20th Century. A thoroughgoing trade war could lead to a collapse of global trade.

Additionally, this trade war could also effects Chinese economy, With the Dawn of 21st century, People’s Republic of China is in a very fair position in the context of Economy to face any economic tornado because in general, its economy is less dependent on exports, and exports to the US in particular. The value added in its exports to the US is less than 3 percent of its economy. In addition, China is at the end of many global value chains, which include inputs from the US, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. The Shanghai stock market is in main territory, down 23 percent from a high in January 2018. Still, the trade war comes at a bad moment in China’s cycle. The establishment have been tightening financial conditions and trying to restraint in financial risks, so that the economy is slowing, even before it takes a hit from trade. The Chinese currency has depreciated round about 4.3 percent against the dollar for the last past few months.

This is a natural market reaction to the US protectionism. Over the same period, the dollar has appreciated about 5 percent against a basket of major currencies. This is one of the ironies of the US which is trying to use trade taxes. They create uncertainty in the world and one result is that capital flows out of other economies to the US. In the short run, this raises the value of the dollar and largely undoes the protection. Historically, when the US introduces protection, it has typically not led to an improvement in the trade balance, rather the opposite. In the case of US-China trade, 25 percent tax means that about $50 billion of imports will be more expensive, and the US is likely to import less. But the other $500 billion that the US imports will be modestly cheaper because of depreciation and the US will import more. History suggests that the net effect on the trade balance will be minor. This is one reason that the direct effect on the Chinese economy is likely to be minor.

In addition, the effect of this trade war could be on the US economy. The US economy is humming along because of fiscal stimulus from tax cuts plus expenditure increases. Net job gains in June, 2018 were above 200,000, the pattern of recent months. In general, the trade war will destroy some jobs in export sectors and create some jobs in import-competing ones. This is a bad tradeoff because export jobs are generally of higher productivity and pay. The job churning is also disruptive — the lost jobs are likely to be in agricultural states and southern states with auto plants, whereas job gains are probably elsewhere. The Trump White House is betting that, given the overall strength of the economy, some localized pain will be tolerable and the get-tough policy toward China will be a political winner for the midterms. Economically, both the United States and China would lose from a trade war. Punitive tariffs would push up import prices, dent exports, cost jobs and crimp economic growth, so both sides would do best to avoid an outbreak of hostilities.

Here some options for China to retaliate this trade war. In this trade war with China, President Donald Trump wields one seeming advantage: the US could ultimately slap tariffs on more than $500 billion in imported Chinese goods. Beijing has much less to tax: It imported just $130 billion in US goods last year. Yet that hardly means China would be powerless to fight back once it ran out of US goods to penalize. It possesses a range of other weapons with which to inflict pain on the US economy. Here is a look at some of the options China has in this war:

The Chinese government should do trade in local currency. The visit of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Mr. Imran khan Niazi to China give very valuable and authentic suggestion to Chinese government to do trade with Pakistan in Yuan rather than the US dollar $. It will be a direct and indirect hit to the US, her fellows and dollar $ currency. After the successful agreement with Pakistan, China could do trade with other countries in Yuan. Be remembered that China is a chief exporter country of the world with 2263 trillion dollar $. In addition, recently China gives defeat to the US in the context of purchasing oil and makes herself as chief and main oil importer and customer of the world. China could do trade with KSA, KUWAIT, IRAQ, IRAN, QATAR and other oil producing countries in Yuan but the US don’t want this. If the China would successful to do trade with oil producing countries in Yuan than the dollar will decrease its worth and market value at least. The US impose sanctions on European companies to do trade with Iran and other oil producing countries but reciprocally the European countries give intimidation to boycott the US  dollar. In addition, Russia would play vital role as recreationist and would give Red carpet to all. This downfall of dollar will make crash in World Bank and IMF also. Chinese government this step would create a greatest tension for the US and dollar.

China should do check and balance regarding the US companies in China. China’s state-dominated and heavily regulated authorities could disrupt the US companies by withholding licenses or launching tax, anti-monopoly or other investigations. Chinese controlled media should play vital role. The state-controlled media have encouraged consumer boycotts against Japanese, South Korean and other international products Last year, Beijing destroyed Korean retailer Lotte’s business in China after the company sold land in South Korea to the Seoul government for an anti-missile system opposed by Chinese leaders. Beijing closed most of Lotte’s 99 supermarkets and other outlets in China. Seoul and Beijing later mended their relations but Lotte gave up and sold its China operations.

To counter Trump’s “America First” approach, Beijing can appeal for support to US allies and other countries. Trump’s unilateral actions have allowed China to position itself as a defender of free trade despite its status as the most-closed major economy. That could help Beijing win over governments that have criticized Trump for acting outside the World Trade Organization. Chinese leaders have tried – so far without a major success – to recruit European and other governments as allies. More broadly, Chinese commentators have suggested Beijing also could disrupt diplomatic work over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes or other initiatives. But political analysts say that would risk setting back work Chinese leaders see as a priority.

In concluding remarks, No country can hope to impose tariffs without affecting its own trade and industry as well as economic interests in this contemporary world. Apart from disadvantage, countries that rely on foreign imports can be disturbed due to higher prices for goods, tariffs and supply chain of producers. So both the competitors of this globalized world, the US and China, are doing no good to their own economic fortunes by engaging in this tit-for-tat tariff battle after blamed each other for the ongoing trade warfare. According to the US Federal Reserve meeting the economic uncertainty, decline of private investment and delay of investment plans have been happened due to this trade war. Besides this, the economic giant China will also be equally affected. This current trade confrontation between the US and China also threatens the rules-based global trade order. It could also isolate the US, which has refused to settle differences through serious mediations, negotiations. If global trade tensions continue to simmer, it may not be too long before countries resort to other destructive measures such as devaluing their currencies to support domestic exporters. The world economy, which is on a slow path to recovery, can do without such unnecessary shocks.

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East Asia

The West, Sinophobia and Cooperation

Irfan Khan

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Interestingly, populace they are inhabitant of whether West or East pole share having almost common issues like weak productivity growth, proliferation of sophisticated war weapons and climate dangers; however, except for a few issues which, in particular, people of West considers most panic and hazardous. Policy-makers of the West are indulging themselves with a narrative that China’s rise would threaten capitalist economic model and the very survival of the West liberal democracy. Is it so?

Not at all. What must be ponder here is the fact that international capitalists model has stopped functioning, which have witnessed 2008 financial crisis. The leading investors and tycoons, unfortunately, have not been maintaining a steady balance between profitability and investments: profits are becoming increasing while no apparent increase in investments has been recording. Its consequential effects are lowering trends in productivity across the globe; which, in response, has been adversely affecting the prosperity of people across the globe. Establishment and corporate-based politics put the nations in a competition with each-other, that affect masses; as it is underpinned by observing myriad portion of budgets are going into military weapons.

British colonial hegemony culture, and US-led conflicts since last few decades, morphed world into most devastating state, perhaps. In this scenario, China’s rise seeds a hope to the indigent and penurious economies, which the West is fury of.

The current dispute between the US and China in terms of trade and technology, and if European take side, would morphed to a more dramatic state; where the health of the global economy will likely to be damaged. It is safe to say and notwithstanding predictable that this  trade would be converted to a new hottest-cold war, which may force the emerging multipolar world to split into financial bipolar form.

How long will this bubble not burst? It will be likely to head the world towards a global conflict.

However, here’s one good news or perhaps token. West-Policy makers, instead of spreading Sinophobia, should assure that they can be living comfortably with China. It is because, so far so good, China has been depicting a cooperation and advancement, irrespective of humanity, ethnicity and religion. What’s more the West propaganda that China is appearing as geopolitical actor is equivocal; because it never influences and impose their culture on any nation.

Embracing a different economic model, China, is plausibly on a runner-up position to the US and experts claimed it will surpass the USin the next decade. Whether it’s 5G tech. Or leading status of green energy, or ultra-scales exports or its leading developments for the nations having indigent economies are hallmark achievements in recent history. The US and the West should, I propose, consider China’s rise a piece of cake, and welcome its come out while securing its interests under the umbrella of cooperation. This logic, while posing no threat, seems to be long term functional.

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