Connect with us

East Asia

Can Japan, Russia find a way for reconciliation?

Published

on

The relations between Japan and Russia have been strained by two reasons:  four islands between them known as Kuril islands and US pressure on Japan not go for any credible alignment with their “common” ideological foes. Russia and Japan did not sign a formal peace treaty at the end of World War Two because of a dispute over islands in the Western Pacific, called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kuriles in Russia.

The islands were seized by Soviet forces at the end of World War Two and 17,000 Japanese residents were forced to flee. As no peace treaty was signed between Japan and Russia so far, the two countries are still technically at war.

The Kuril Islands stretch between the northernmost Japanese island of Hokkaido and Russia’s Kamchatka. The entire archipelago is currently administered by Russia, which received them after WWII under the 1945 Potsdam Declaration. Japan claims sovereignty over the two southernmost large islands of Iturup and Kunashir, as well as the Shikotan and Habomai islets, citing their history as Japan’s northern territories. Russia and Japan did not sign a peace treaty after WWII over the issue.

Moscow claims sovereignty over the islands based on the post-war agreement signed by the Allies in 1945. The pact stipulated the South Kurils became part of the USSR following the war which Japan lost.

Russia maintains that the Soviet Union’s sovereignty over the island was internationally recognized under the agreements signed after the WWII. While addressing the issue, President Putin stressed that signing a peace deal remains a priority for both countries despite “different views” on the matter. “We are united in one – the problem should be solved,” he said. Russian leader though noted that it should be done with full respect to the mutual interests.

Seventy years after the end of the Second World War, Russia and Japan have their eyes firmly on the rewards of peace as they negotiate a mutually beneficial solution to their dispute over the islands known in Tokyo as the Northern Territories and in Moscow as part of the Kurils.

Russian president Vladimir Putin’s visit to Japan in December last year marked a major thawing in relations. He and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have pledged to increase economic co-operation and improve access to former residents of the islands as they seek a long-term arrangement.

Relations between Moscow and Tokyo suffered an additional blow after Japan joined the ranks of the states imposing sanctions on Russia following the Ukraine crisis. In a bid to improve ties, Japan’s PM visited the Russian city of Sochi in May, where he made proposals, including the establishing of joint infrastructure in Russia’s Far East.

As of 2016 matters remain unresolved, and these disputes have effectively soured relations between the two countries. According to a 2012 Pew Global Attitudes Project survey, 72% of Japanese people view Russia unfavorably, compared with 22% who viewed it favorably, making Japan the country with the most anti-Russian sentiment surveyed. Since 2017, relations between Russia and Japan have improved.

japan01

Tension and improvement

Japan pursues a joint foreign policy along with NATO leader USA and in most issues Tokyo adopts the American approach as its own. This is the major reason why Russia and Japan have not been able forge strong ties as Washington opposes any link with the Kremlin.   

Russia and Japan have been unable to sign a peace treaty in order to realign the ties after World War II due to the Kuril Islands dispute. Over the past decades Tokyo repeatedly stressed that a peace treaty with Moscow is linked to handing back control of the territories.

The dispute has prevented the two parties from formally signing a peace treaty because Japan lays claim to four islands which became part of the Soviet Union when fighting ended in 1945. “Russia’s constructive engagement is essential in resolving global challenges,” Abe said. “Historically Russia has been a very important to Japan, and I think the situation is the same for Russia. It’s an important partner for stability in the Asia Pacific region,” Japan’s foreign press secretary Norio Maruyama told Euronews.

When Boris Yeltsin took power in Russia in late 1991 upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union, he took a stand in opposition to relinquishing the disputed territories to Japan. In September 1992, Russian president Yeltsin postponed a scheduled visit to Japan. The visit took place in October 1993. He made no further concessions on the Kuril Islands dispute over the four Kuril Islands (northeast of Hokkaido), a considerable obstacle to Japanese-Russian relations, but did agree to abide by the 1956 Soviet pledge to return Shikotan and the Habomai Islands to Japan. Yeltsin also apologized repeatedly for Soviet mistreatment of Japanese prisoners of war after World War II.

In March 1994, then Japanese minister of foreign affairs Hata Tsutomu visited Moscow and met with Russian minister of foreign affairs Andrei Kozyrev and other senior officials. The two sides agreed to seek a resolution over the persistent Kuril Islands dispute, but the decision of the dispute is not expected in the near future. Despite the territorial dispute, Hata offered some financial support to Russian market-oriented economic reforms, hoping for relative change in Russian attitude to the islands in Japan’s favor. In 1998, the newly elected Japanese Prime Minister Keizō Obuchi had focused on major issues: signing a peace treaty with Russia, and renewing the Japanese economy. However, he died soon afterwards.

On August 16, 2006, Russian maritime authorities killed a Japanese fisherman and captured a crab fishing boat in the waters around the disputed Kuril Islands. The Russian foreign ministry has claimed that the death was caused by a “stray bullet”. .On September 28, 2006, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia would “continue the dialogue with the new Japanese government. We will build our relations, how the peoples of the two countries want them to be.

The dispute over the Southern Kuril Islands deteriorated Russo-Japan relations when the Japanese government published a new guideline for school textbooks on July 16, 2008 to teach Japanese children that their country has sovereignty over the Kuril Islands. The Russian public was generally outraged by the action and demanded the government to counteract. The Foreign Minister of Russia announced on July 18, 2008 ” these actions contribute neither to the development of positive cooperation between the two countries, nor to the settlement of the dispute,” and reaffirmed its sovereignty over the islands.

In 2010, President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev became the first Russian president to take a state trip to the Kuril Islands. Medvedev shortly ordered significant reinforcements to the Russian defences on the Kuril Islands. Medvedev was replaced by Vladimir Putin in 2012. In November 2013, Japan held its first ever diplomatic talks with the Russian Federation, and the first with Moscow since the year 1973.

In recent years the relations got strained. In March 2014, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Japan imposed several sanctions against Russia, which included halting consultations on easing the visa regulations between the two countries and suspension of talks on investment cooperation, joint space exploration and prevention of dangerous military activity, obviously annoying the Kremlin.

On 3 Sep, 2016 PM Abe called on President Putin to “take responsibility” to boost the bilateral ties, while talking to the Russian leader on the second and last day of a major economic forum in the Far Eastern Russian city of Vladivostok. “Let us overcome all difficulties and leave the people of the next generation a world in which our two countries will reveal their powerful potential. Let’s put an end to this abnormal situation, which lasted 70 years, and together launch a new era in Japanese-Russian relations,” Abe said.

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe said Japan wants to resolve a territorial row that has over-shadowed ties with Russia since World War Two. “A peace treaty between Japan and Russia has not been concluded yet, even after 70 years have passed since the end of World War Two,” Abe told reporters in London. “It is an extremely unusual situation. Infinite possibilities are latent in the cooperation between Japan and Russia.”

During the gathering in Vladivostok, President Putin and PM Abe agreed to once again meet on December 15 in Japan. Resolving the territorial dispute and boosting economic cooperation is set to top the agenda of the gathering, the territorial dispute, however, did not move forward even an inch after the visit.

The second meeting between Putin and the Japanese prime minister this year, and Putin’s first visit to a Group of Seven nation since top Western powers and Japan slapped sanctions on Russia over the annexation of Crimea in 2014. The sense that something extraordinary might be in the air was boosted by reports in the Japanese media that the USA had repeatedly urged Abe not to meet with Putin, but the objections had been “brushed off” by Tokyo. “People are seeing this meeting as a possible breakthrough, but we see it as the beginning of an important new process,” says Sergei Markov, a past adviser to Putin. “Japan seems willing to change its direction and renew its relations with Moscow and we welcome that. But solving the territorial issue is not a simple matter; it might take decades.”

Expectation

Many experts believe that, for the first time since at least 1956, there could be an opportunity to formally end World War II between Russia and Japan, solve a long-running territorial dispute over the Kuril Islands, and through that new political relationship finally unlock a flood of Japanese investment into Russia’s undeveloped far eastern region.

Expectations have grown that Putin and Abe might formally end World War II animosity between Russia and Japan during their meeting, but the Kremlin warned that any progress in the ties is unlikely. Still, Russians see great opportunity to be had. The Kremlin is furiously tamping down expectations for the unusual summit meeting between President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a hot springs resort near Abe’s home town of Nagato. That’s not surprising, since the hopes that have been aroused are nothing short of breathtaking.

Political economy

Though the two restored diplomatic ties long ago, the spat has prevented the conclusion of a formal peace treaty and has been cited by successive Japanese governments as a reason not to enter into major economic cooperation with Russia.

The outlines of a compromise were reached soon after World War two in 1956 following the demise of Joseph Stalin, under which the then-Soviet government would relinquish the two southernmost islands in return for a peace treaty and normalization of relations with Japan. That deal was reportedly scuttled by pressure from Washington, which threatened to keep control over Okinawa if Japan went ahead with the exchange. After that the dispute hardened, and has become a staple rallying cry for nationalists in both Russia and Japan.

The economic relations between the NATO member and anti-NATO Russia have been very nominal. Although Japan joined with the Group of Seven industrialized nations in contributing some technical and financial assistance to Russia, relations between Tokyo and Moscow remained poor.

Russia and China for a long time long had tension over disputed territories. But Russia made up with its neighbor China by surrendering it the disputed territories. Possibly Japan also expects similar positive gesture form the Kremlin but does not want to come out of US clutches and the NATO that target Russia. Worse, Japan, on instructions from USA, slapped sanctions on Russia over Crimea issue. This cannot make Moscow happy.

Trade between Moscow and Tokyo has quadrupled since 2006. In 2013 trade between our countries reached a record-high [$34.8 billion. In 2015 the volume dropped by almost 40 percent due to falling oil prices, Trade turnover between Russia and Japan grew by 25 percent compared to last year in the first quarter of 2017, owing to the development of the political and economic cooperation. The export of food products, textile, rubber goods and cellulose products from Russia is actively developing. The volume of export to Russia increased by 14 percent, the supplies of the Russian goods to Japan grew, the growth stood at 29 percent. The investment attractiveness of Russia has increased because the Russian economy “set the course toward the recovery from the two-year-long decline

At a time when the return of even the two islands of Shikotan and Habomai appears hopeless, the fact that methods of travel for former residents of the islands have expanded, making it easier for them to visit the islands, is in itself welcome, even as they remain deeply resentful that no mention at all has been made of the return of the territories. On the other hand, they view the progress of joint economic activities with caution, for if these proceed, they will complicate requests for compensation in respect of assets left behind on the islands.

Meetings between Japanese and Russian diplomats are often accompanied by promises of large Japanese investment in Russia. The Putin-Abe summit in December 2016 was no different. Japan believes that investing in Russia demonstrates tangible benefits that could accompany improved relations between the two countries.[4] Russia is happy to accept foreign investment.  Russia is looking for Japanese investment in the Far East, while Japan hopes to recover the territories lost after WWII. However, Russia has repeatedly rebuffed Japanese claims. 

Main factors that limit the prospects of economic ties between Japan and Russia include, first, foreign investors of all nationalities find Russia a difficult place to do business, few attractive investment opportunities and Russian business is mired in corruption and red tape. .The Japanese government refuses to convince Japanese firms that Russia is an attractive place to invest. In fact,  the government does not promote  that at all. The Russian Far East is not economically important to Moscow, and infrastructure lags behind that of Russia’s most developed regions. Even if Japanese firms decided to significantly increase investment, there is no reason to think this would change the Kremlin’s political calculations that drive diplomacy with Tokyo.

Meanwhile, the development of the Nemuro region, which adjoins the Northern Territories, had been hampered by prohibitions on business and free travel between Nemuro and the islands. So joint economic activities that involve doing business with the islands, no matter what form they take, are much anticipated.

The two Asian neighbors agreed to jointly invest $1 billion in Japanese development of the Russian economy, along with other commercial ventures by Japanese firms. And the surviving former Japanese residents of the islands, who were forced to leave after the Soviet invasion, might be able to visit their ancestors’ graves.

Though the purpose of meetings is to explore ways that economic cooperation can be strengthened through a “special system” that would not undermine either side’s legal claim on the islands, there is skepticism in Russia about how benign Japan’s intentions truly are.

Moscow and Tokyo are currently working on creating a ‘green corridor’ to simplify customs procedures and boost trade.  Japan talked about joint Russia-Japan energy projects Sakhalin-1 and Sakhalin-2, and Russia’s crude oil supplies to the country.

Japanese companies have invested and operate in the Russian automobile and construction industries. About 14 percent of all Russian cars are produced in Russian factories by Japanese manufacturers. Imports of Japanese cars and industrial machinery have been significantly reduced as a result of Western sanctions against Russia. Japanese banks have problems providing export credit for equipment sold to Russia, while sanctions make it difficult to conduct business using US dollar transactions.

In 2014 Japan followed US sanctions with 23 visa bans on Russian citizens, including government officials. Russian ambassador to Japan Evgeny Afanasiev said the investment attractiveness of Russia has increased because the Russian economy set the course toward the recovery from the two-year-long decline

Russia in Asia

Major territories of Russia lie in European continent. Though it hates USA and American superiority manners Russia looks to European culture and civilization and is eager to join it.

Russia’s main foreign policy aims remain largely focused on its Western front — in Eastern Europe, in the Black Sea, and increasingly in the Middle East. Russia’s political elite keeps its money in Europe, educates its children in Europe, vacations in Europe, and assesses its geopolitical stature in relation to the USA.

For decades Moscow has been working to make its foreign policy goals West focused and it uses Asian links only to increase Russia’s leverage in negotiations with the West. With China, Russia is showcasing a strong alliance that can withstand any pressure tactics of USA and Europe. Russia has strengthened diplomatic, military, and energy ties with China. But the Kremlin has done so not because it is interested in Asia per se, but rather because it wants to show Western powers that it has other diplomatic options.

Thus Asia is not Russia’s priority but the West is to achieve that goal Russia is using all possibilities in Asia, China being the major Asian power. .

A significant strain in Russian foreign policy thinking interprets US alliances less as agreements between equal sovereign countries, and more as command-and-control relationships, with dictates coming from Washington. Russian foreign policy circles do not view Japan as an independent actor due to its security relationship with the USA.

The Kremlin places relatively little emphasis on its foreign policy in Asia. Many Russians believe that Japan’s security alliance with the USA means that Tokyo is not a fully independent diplomatic actor. Both factors mean that Moscow is not prepared to spend significant diplomatic energy or political capital in developing relations with Japan.

While Russian leaders regularly attend summits in the West, they often skip key meetings in Asia.[2] Moscow devotes far more resources to managing its relations with the West. That leaves little time for Tokyo

The perception in Moscow that Japan cannot make independent decisions reduces Russia’s willingness to spend political capital improving relations. Combined with the Kremlin’s general lack of focus on Asia, this means that Japan plays only a minor role in Russia’s foreign policy agenda.

Sino-Russian bilateral trade in the first ten months of 2015 touched $55.9 billion, a fall of 29 percent from the same period a year ago. From January to October 2015, China’s exports to Russia stood at $28.46 billion, a fall of 35.7 percent from a year ago, while Imports from Russia fell by 20.7 percent and stood at $27.45 billion.

 Japan wants improved ties with Russia today to hedge against China. But for Russia, the most urgent priority is good ties with China to hedge against Washington. For Tokyo, a key rationale for improving relations with Russia is the rise of China and Tokyo wants to reduce the importance of Russian links with Japan. . China’s power is increasing, and Russia is currently aligned with China on many questions of Asian politics and security. Improving economic ties between Russia and Japan would make Russia less dependent on China, thereby weakening Beijing’s position. From Japan’s perspective, the goal is not to forge an alliance with Russia but to ensure that Russia is not forced into a de facto alliance with China because Moscow lacks other partners in the Asia-Pacific region.

 The specifics of Tokyo’s defense build up make Russia worried. For example, Japan sees missile defense investment as crucial to mounting an effective defense against North Korean missiles. But Russia interprets Japanese investments in this sphere — which take place in close cooperation with the USA — as potentially part of US efforts to strengthen anti-missile capabilities along Russia’s border.

USA does not want any real improvement in Russo-Japan relations that would result in Tokyo relinquishing its ties with Washington which could spell disaster for NATO as well. USA has gone for punishing the Kremlin in a big way, though that would not make any real impact on Russian economy.

Little progress

The main reason why Japan could not achieve a peace treaty and resolution of territorial disputes with Russia obviously is the superpower- the Uncle Sam. USA doesn’t want to lose the Asian economic power Japan to Russia as that would weaken NATO terror operations across the globe. Washington is keeping a close eye on any developments in Japan-Russia relations, of course. 

The purpose of the April 24 teleconference between Abe and President Donald Trump was to keep the USA in the loop. What really was the outcome of the Abe-Putin summit talks on April 27?  Following the “success” of the Japan-Russia summit in December last year, the stated purpose of the visit was to move forward with the agreement reached at that summit, toward a resolution of the Kuril Islands (Northern Territories) issue, involving the question of disputed islands off the coast of Hokkaido.

Regarding the issue of visits to ancestral graves, former islanders will be transported by air on Russian chartered aircraft from Nemuro Nakashibetsu to Kunashiri and Etorofu. In addition, a new checkpoint will be opened to facilitate entry to the Habomai islets, an area that was previously difficult to access directly. On the issue of joint economic activities, a Japanese-Russian investigative group will be organized to conduct an on-site survey. Abe emphasizes that nothing is new. Air travel to the islands was in operation at one point in 2000. It was also possible to access the Habomai islets in the past.  Visits to ancestors’ graves by chartered aircraft are referred to as “special visits to ancestors’ graves,” and may be granted for a single visit only. No progress was made on the Kuril Islands issue itself. Putin spoke at length about the economy, making only brief reference to the “peace treaty” toward the end, which he said should be in a form that was advantageous for both countries. Abe too, as before, emphasized his accomplishments, praising himself for them, , with no mention whatsoever of the territorial issue..

During a bilateral summit meeting in Moscow on April 27, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to make concrete progress toward deepening trust, resolving the issue of the disputed Northern Territories – the Kuril Islands – and concluding a peace treaty. Japan and Russia agreed that a joint public-private survey mission would be sent to the Northern Territories as early as May to research how the two countries can pursue economic cooperation. Areas of research for potential cooperation include fish and sea urchin farming and ecotourism. This step is in line with Abe and Putin’s December agreement to launch talks on joint activities on the islands.

In addition to the Ukraine issue, which necessitated the imposition of sanctions on Russia by the Group of Seven powers, Japan and Russia now differ on other issues that previously posed relatively few conflicts, most notably North Korea and Syria. On the latter, Japan had no option but to support the US strike on Syria; and as for the former, Russia has blocked Washington’s call for action, adopting a stance that emphasizes a peaceful resolution of the North Korean issue.

Going forward, Japan has no choice but to continue to support the US stance, so the recent tensions in US-Russian relations will cast a dark cloud over improved relations with Russia. And given recent revelations, there is a high likelihood that relations between the United States and Russia will only become more complicated, and pressure on Japan will increase. Abe’s attempts to achieve better relations with Russia with no regard for how his actions may appear are now looking increasingly risky.

Relations between Tokyo and Beijing are very tense these days. Japan basically tries to go everywhere that China goes – Africa, Latin America – to try and counter Chinese influence. The growing closeness between Russia and China is of the utmost concern to the Japanese, so there is an obvious effort under way to offset that.

The Russian media is heralding more than 60 intergovernmental and commercial agreements set to be signed during the visit. But most of those appear to be “memorandums of understanding” – vague commitments to do something in future rather than finished plans. And it’s hard to see how Russia’s Far East, with its difficult investment climate and scanty infrastructure, could rapidly absorb any big inflow of capital.

Nevertheless, most experts say the core issues of territorial compromise and a peace treaty have remained elusive and all results so far are only in the form of a “face-saving declaration” at the end of summits. Public opinion in Russia is solidly opposed to exchanging any Kuril Islands for a peace treaty with Japan, a view expressed by 78 percent of Russians in a recent poll by the independent Levada Center in Moscow. Polls suggest Japanese public opinion is more open to a deal, but that growing numbers expect Russia to return all four Kuril Islands rather than just the two Moscow would be willing to discuss.

Russian foreign policy experts caution against any breakthroughs at the summits even amid a rapidly changing world picture. “Putin is at the height of his power and popularity, and he has a lot of political capital to spend”. US-Russia relations are expected to produce a thaw during the Trump rein.

Is a Russia-Japan ‘reset’ possible?

At a meeting in December Japanese PM Shinzo Abe and Russian President Putin agreed to take steps that might someday help resolve a 71-year dispute over a string of islands. They agreed to explore joint economic projects on the islands under a possible “special” legal framework that would, in the words of Abe, not “infringe on the sovereignty positions of either side.”

From the press conference Abe held with Russian President Vladimir Putin it is clear that, as with the summit in December, no progress was made on the Kuril Islands (Northern Territories) issue itself. The phrase “resolution of the territories issue” was not used once at the press conference.

Several territorial disputes between the neighboring countries generally take similar position, except India and Pakistan because they occupy another nation – Jammu Kashmir – over which both claim disputes. In many countries, a popular reaction to globalization has led to the election of leaders – such as in the USA – with a strong passion for nationalism. These leaders often demand greater sovereignty over the economy or, in some cases, territory. To cool these passions and prevent conflict, nations tend to find a common purpose. A good example was a recent summit between Japan and Russia.

Nationalists in both countries, which include Putin and Abe, insist on sovereignty over the islands. And after Putin took Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, he may have little inclination to give land to Japan. Yet both men, for strategic reasons, see advantages in working together on economic goals as they keep talking about ownership and control of the islands. Even the deepest gulf can look less worrisome if spanned by at least one bridge.

The nub of the dispute is four tiny islands off the northern tip of Japan that the USSR seized and annexed in the closing days of World War II. Russia refers to them as the “southern Kurils” while Japanese call them their “northern territories.”

What is new and different right now is that Abe has reversed the policy of previous Japanese governments, and allowed that economic cooperation could come before a resolution of the territorial dispute. For Abe, whose previous attempt to forge an opening with Russia was derailed when the West imposed sanctions against Russia after its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, it’s really important to use this window of opportunity now that the new government by Donald Trump assumed power at White House, to get some progress. The ideas about the changing Asia Pacific do not seem worked-out by the new Trump regime at all.

For Putin it’s a chance to demonstrate, by courting a G-7 country, that Russia is not isolated. The visit sent a strong message, not only to the West but also to China, that Moscow has other options. Japan may also be using the situation to send its own signal to China, which has enjoyed a fast-growing relationship with Russia amid the recent East-West tensions, that Moscow’s allegiance cannot be taken for granted.

Even if the spigot opens and Japanese investment is freed to invest in Russia, the potential is hard to gauge.

Observation

Russo-Japanese relations cannot be expected to improve tangibly unless Japan amends its policy of blindly following the US dictates and begin formulates its independent external policy. Otherwise, all economic invocations by trade etc would only keep the tensions under check. Keeping the vital territorial issue at bay would not help them stabilize the ties and end mutual tensions. Moscow expects a genuine change of mind in Tokyo and not just extending few carets – after all, Russia is not a third world country. 

Japan’s policy toward Russia highlights how difficult it is for Japan to have a foreign policy independent of the US preferences. Whenever progress is made in the Japan-Russia relationship, a black swan event, such as the Russian annexation of Crimea or the US cruise missile strike on Syria, threatens to undo it all.

Abe dreams of concluding the peace treaty that eluded his father needs to have his work cut out for him trying to balance demands from Washington and Moscow. Towing the US line for everything will not do any good in improving the ties with Moscow. .

Following the bilateral summit, Abe and Putin both called on North Korea and other countries to avoid behavior or rhetoric that could increase tensions around Pyongyang’s nuclear program and stated they had agreed to closely cooperate to try to help defuse tensions. Maybe, they have done it under US direction. The joint military exercises  near Guam involving Japanese, USA, French, and British forces are a sign of how Japan’s defense relationship with European partners can become institutionalized – a partnership that had long been seen as “exotic” and difficult to materialize.

As the Russo-Japanese territorial disputes do not look resolvable with each sticking to their own positions without any relaxation, Russia and Japan seem to have agreed on a move toward resolving a territorial dispute by first focusing on a common goal: joint development of the islands.  If it works, the agreement may be a model for similar disputes in Asia.

Several of Asia’s many island disputes have led to joint development of resources as a way to avoid direct confrontation over territory or to create political conditions for an eventual settlement. The Japan-Russia deal could become another model. The proposed joint development will bring the two peoples closer together, said Mr. Putin, and “help foster trust toward a peace treaty.”

That last point is critical. Moscow and Tokyo have never formally ended hostilities from World War II. And toward the end of the war, the then-Soviet Union took over the islands, which were long held by Japan. Among the Japanese, they are known as the Northern Territories. To Russians, they are the Southern Kurils.

Japan needs to kick the United States military out of its country. World War 2 ended a long time ago, time for the Americans to move along. Japan should have to look after itself now. The Japanese have not forgotten the rapes of their local women committed by the US military bases there as well as the trouble they are causing for the local communities.

The UK needs Russia after it leaves the EU as the goal all along for the European Union has been to form a superstate. It won’t be surprising if the UK and Russia would have a joint Naval exercise in UK waters

Russia is seen returning to Asia with stronger bonds with China, and improving relations with Japan are certainly on the agenda. Maybe no big surprises in the form of dramatic positives will emerge, but some kind of movement for sure.

Moscow and Tokyo are discussing the possibility of organizing cruises around the South Kuril Islands, the Kyodo news agency reports quoting diplomatic sources. This is a part of a plan to develop business links in the disputed territories.

Following the visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Japan in December last year, Moscow and Tokyo agreed to start joint economic activities on the islands. Putin will meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Vladivostok in September to continue the discussions. The countries plan to develop fishing, tourism, healthcare and ecology in the region.

For now, there is nothing to indicate how Abe’s key initiatives will subsequently unfold. Even if all the latest plans materialize, there is no guarantee they will be sustainable, and even if they are, it is doubtful that they will lead to the resolution of the Territories’ issue. Leaving aside the question of the future, it can be considered as a kind of gambit by Japanese government to show the public that things are now moving. The prospect of significantly expanded economic relations between the two countries is limited.

As a result of the tension between the economic giants the people living in the region feel being besieged by these powers.

Don’t they deserve a usual, if not honorable, life at all?

Continue Reading
Comments

East Asia

Power Projection of China

Published

on

A coin has always two faces, an analyst is ought to analyze the both sides.

China is considered as flag holder of soft power with a global agenda of peaceful rise. At moment, the world is facing a new emerging global order by the rise of multiple actors in the international arena. Now there are two school of thoughts who are proposing contradictory views like one wing regarded it as optimistic Sino rise who believes that China’s rise is peaceful. Its foreign policy is viewed as one of the most harmonious policy ever structured. They believe in the mutual cooperation and peaceful coexistence. Rise of China is an optimistic opportunity which is justified by different aspects. As African states were facing a massive number of problems at all levels, many super powers came and ruled the world but they didn’t bothered the prosperity of third world countries.

China started invested in African region and assured the chances of prosperity over there. Due to this economic integration of China in Africa, a demise of Indian influence in that has been observed as well. Their economic cooperation is based on model of helping underdeveloped countries by initiating the projects like Belt and Road Initiative. They are extending the helping hand to developing countries by selling products at cheaper rates. They respect the ideologies of other countries, for example, China didn’t celebrated Pig year in Muslim countries. Regarding Pakistan, here the optimistic view is prevailed at higher context. Pakistan’s policy makers favor Chinese investment in Pakistan, as it will help Pakistan in economic prosperity. China helps Pakistan at almost all of the international forum. Friendship of china and Pakistan is the strongest one to be observed. Pakistan can learn a lot from them. The proper use of diplomacy, image building, projection of soft power and individualism in ideologies and beliefs. Long term planning strategies can be learned from them. China is all weather friend of Pakistan but self-skills are significant, as there is a famous Chinese saying, “to serve a guest by fish is a good way but to teach them how to catch fish is the best way to serve them.”

On the other hand, there are supporters of pessimistic Sino rise who believe that China’s rise is threat for globe. This pessimism is oftenly prevailed by western analysts. They think that rise of China can disturb the existing world order. For example, China is competing with American economy in the international market. Balance of power is coin of international politics, so other actors are emerging now. But the rise and demise of powers after a certain time period is one of the laws of nature. Specially America is feeling threatened by this emergence of China as a super power which can be seen through events like Huawei issue over 5G technology, its sensitization, trade war between china and America, claim of copyrights by America etc. increasing influence of China in majority of states is posing the seriousness of issue. Chinese model of Confucianism is spreading as it has started practices in South Korea as well which is predicted through their cultural stimulus.  Pessimistic school of thought deny the authenticity of foreign policy of China, they consider that it is a mere framework which has nothing to do with reality.In reality China’s behavior is like relations having towards Taiwan, South China Sea etc. Interest of states are very important which may differ from each other. Lensing through these views, this unpredictable situation leaves a humans mind into a chaos, whether the rise of China is peaceful or just a myth?

Continue Reading

East Asia

The origin of the Four Modernizations and President Xi Jinping’s current choices

Giancarlo Elia Valori

Published

on

On September 13, 1971 Lin Biao tried to flee to the USSR with all his family, aboard a Trident plane of civil aviation, which had left with little fuel and no active radio contact.

The crash of the aircraft in Mongolia, where both Lin and his whole family died, was caused by the order given directly by Mao to shoot down the plane.

 What had happened, obviously in political and not in personal terms?

 The answer is simple: Lin Biao was very strongly opposed to the new agreement between China and the United States and hence had organized a military coup. For Lin Biao all the room for US geopolitics was to be found in what the Third International’s forces traditionally defined as “imperialism”.

 For Mao Zedong, imperialism was vital for both the USSR and the USA- and considering that he was far from the continent that was the prize for which of the two won the Cold War, namely Europe-he refused to make too many differences between the two.

 As a man of Tao and Zen, Mao treated an evil with another evil.

  Mao Zedong, however, also knew that a new economic relationship with the United States was needed, after the long economic crisis and the factional instability within the Chinese regime. The Soviet Union could certainly not give it economic stability and hence the “Great Helmsman” turned to the distant enemy rather than to the near quasi-friend.

 Nothing can be understood about China, including current China, if geopolitical choices are separated from economic, financial and industrial ones which, however, are subjected to the strategic “policy line” defined by the Party – a policy  line that is cultural and always based on a very long term.

 On September 29, 1972 the diplomatic relationship with Japan were resumed, along with those with the United States. An evident overlapping of different geopolitical lines which, however – in the minds of the Chinese decision-makers -were similar also from the symbolic viewpoint.

 In 1973 Deng Xiaoping reappeared in public, upon direct order by Mao Zedong.

 Those were also the years of the late definitive success of the “policy line” of Zhou Enlai, who had successfully gone through the Great Cultural and Proletarian Revolution, which had partly overwhelmed him, and led the 10thCPC Congress.

 That was the compromise which held the Party together, after Lin Biao’s elimination. An unstable agreement between the reformist “Right” (Zhou had spoken of “four modernizations” many years before, exactly in 1965) and the Left, silenced by Mao, that had crossed the red line of the Cultural Revolution and the failed communization of rural areas.

 In those years, also the Party’s Left lacked mass management of the people and the Party and had to agree with the other factions, while Mao mediated and also created “third wheels”.

  Create something from nothing – one of the Thirty-Six Stratagems of the Chinese Art of War.

 In 1973, just before the equilibrium between Zhou and the old CPC apparata broke again, Deng Xiaoping was fully rehabilitated and also became member of the Chinese regime’s deep axis, namely the Central Military Commission.

 In 1975 Deng was elected vice-President of the Central Committee and member of the Politburo Standing Committee.

 The connection between the reformists – if we can call them so – siding with Zhou Enlai, and the “centre” of the Party’s apparatus – that regained its roles and posts by ousting the Armed Forces -prevailed once again.

 Again in 1975, the National People’s Congress praised the “Four Modernizations” already proposed by Zhou and, in its final statement, hoped “that China would be turned into a modern and powerful Socialist country in the approximately twenty years before the end of the century”.

 Political transformation through the new economy, as well as preservation of the regime through political transformation itself.

 We could call it “the Tao of geoeconomics”. Acceleration of industrialization and modernization, but without creating the disaster of rural masses, who were objectively unable of providing the start-up capital for implementing any of the Four Modernizations. This was the real difference with the USSR of the 1930s.

 That capital had to be produced in innovative companies and be attracted from outside.

 At the time, however, the CPC was not yet firmly in the hands of any factions. In September 1975, the national Agriculture Conference saw the harsh clash between Deng Xiaoping and the old “Shanghai group” of the Cultural and Proletarian Revolution that, however, no longer controlled most of the Party.

 Zhou Enlai died in January 1976 and shortly afterwards, in Tiananmen Square, there were severe incidents, albeit with the constant presence of many wreaths reminding of Zhou.

 Later there were also strikes and unrest, until the capture and trial of the “Gang of Four” in Shanghai. It had inspired the “Cultural Revolution” and was then directly accused by Hua Guofen – the man appointed by Mao to lead the transition- of having prepared a coup.

 China’s transformation, however, began again from rural areas: at the second Agriculture Conference in Dazhai, in December 1976 – where various cases of corruption and “social polarization” were described and stigmatized- the discussion focused on the First Modernization, namely that of rural areas.

 When you regulate too much, a parallel and illegal market is created. This always happens.

 Obviously this also happens when total communization is applied to the economic cycle of rural areas.

 Certainly those were residues of Sovietism in the CPC’s  doctrine, but also of the a-dialectical implementation of Marxism-Leninism in historical and social contexts in which the analysis of the founder of “scientific Communism” had never focused.

 In fact, when you read the works and correspondence that Marx dedicated to the Russian agricultural issue, you note that the author of “Capital” foresaw a direct Socialist social transformation stemming from the maintenance of the social and community networks in traditional villages. It may seem strange, but it is so.

 This system operates only with a non-industrialized State that is scarcely widespread in the territory. Otherwise, the problem is that of capitalism in rural areas to generate the surplus of urban and industrial investments.

 Even in the Second Volume of “Capital”, Marx’s model is essentially this one.

 It is precisely on the agricultural issue that the stability and success of many Communist regimes isdefined and, not surprisingly, the first of Zhou’s and later Deng’s Four Modernizations was precisely that of agriculture.

 The topic characterized all Party’s organizations, but it was in late December 1978 that the Third Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee decided to decentralize the economy – another factor strongly different from the Leninist tradition – and even to liberalize it, in addition to a process of ideological revision, namely Gaige Kaifang that roughly means “reform and opening”.

 That was also related to the request for opening international trade based on the criterion of “mutual benefit” and equality between the various countries.

 Hence, also from the ideological viewpoint, Deng became the Supreme Leader of the Party – as well as of the State apparatus – and announced the Open Door policy.

 An extremely important fact was also the separation of the Bank of China from the People’s Bank of China, so as to serve as single State body for foreign exchanges.

 That was the start of the “Long March” towards the Four Modernizations, with an unusually united Party, and currently towards “Socialism with Chinese characteristics” , as well as – at geopolitical level -President Xi Jinping’s New Silk Road.

 In January 1980, the “four freedoms” – of work, people, goods and capital – were abolished.

 The new planning needed to manage all aspects of productive forces.

  That was explained by a covert war of the Chinese economy against the penetration of foreign capital and joint ventures, which in fact were immediately regulated by specific legislation enacted the previous year.

 The great British operation of economic control over the South-Chinese coasts was resumed from Hong Kong, but the Chinese government eliminated the possibility of such an action by Great Britain (and by the USA, at least partly).

 Hence the Party’s unity had to be reflected in a new context and, to some extents, in the whole society, so as to prevent the liberalized Chinese economy from taking the Party and Socialism away. A new rationale for the CPC’s Leninist unity.

 The new Act on contract law was enacted in March 1981, and in 1982 also the new civil procedure law was enacted, which became effective on October 1, 1982.

 In September 1983, at the 12th CPC Congress, there were three groups within the Party: the nostalgic Maoists, a small and narrow majority for Deng Xiaoping; the Orthodox group that still wanted a nationally planned economy, as in USSR -hence probably the heirs to Lin Biao; finally the real reformists.

 Deng won with a clear, but not overwhelming majority.

 Hence, everyone was waiting for the Four Modernizations to fail, so as to go back to the old routine of the Plan.

 As also happened in the USSR, it was often fully imaginary compared to the actual reality of the things done and produced.

 It was in 1983, however, that the Third Front strategy was implemented, i.e. Mao’s directive – drawn up as early as 1962 – according to which the national strategic industries had to be moved from the coasts – militarily and politically difficult to defend – to the internal areas. Without said Mao’s directive, the New Silk Road could not be understood even currently.

Hence 14 open coastal cities that were declared so in 1984, but with a new law on profits that served as mainstay of Modernizations: companies were asked to pay a certain share of profits to the government, but they could withhold some profits if they matched and exceeded the requirements of the contract with the State.

 In 1985 a new regulation also involved government bonds. The seventh Five-Year Plan began, underlining a “scale” approach, in which the coastal areas – gradually freed from traditional strategic companies – were driving the economic development, which later spread like wildfire even in the internal areas.

 It was the Hong Kong model that Deng Xiaoping’s executives copied and adapted.

 For a short lapse of time, Chinese analysts and Party planners also looked to the Singapore model, with the (single) Party of Lee Kuan Yew.

 It isby no mere coincidence that Shenzen was close to the former British colony, and often the Chinese attracted and favoured the companies of the British area towards the new Chinese coastal areas also characterized by free-market economy.

 Advanced and high-tech services in coastal areas, and lower value-added, but still inevitable, productions in internal regions.

 A new dualism, where rural overpopulation had to be gradually absorbed by inland strategic companies.

 A double geopolitical status of inland areas which, in many cases, is repeated also in the current Belt and Road Initiative.

 In 1986, the “open-ended” contracts for the manpower working in State-owned companies came to an end.

 In October 1987,the 13th CPC Congress was held, in which – for the first time – there was talk about the “commodity economy”, i.e. a two-tier mechanism, in which the market is matched and also “corrected” by the old national planning.

 A sort of re-edition, for internal use, of the formula “one country, two systems” implemented by China with the agreements for Macao and Hong Kong.

 In 1988, however, the 7thNational People’s Congress officially legitimized the private initiative (not the mere ownership) and enabled private individuals to buy State-owned companies.

 The term “People’s ownership” was also deleted, while individuals and groups, even non-Chinese ones, could buy land with a system similar to that of the British real estate leasing.

 Profits, wherever made, had to be reinvested in the company that originated them, before requesting any financing from the People’s Bank.

 The Special Economic Zones, modelled again on the Hong Kong system, became five.

 Hence innovation on the coasts and strategic companies in the central regions – mainly public ones, which still remained almost completely public.

 In April 1989, Jiang Zemin rose to power.

 Student demonstrations also began in Tiananmen Square, where, year after year, the various anti-regime organizations gathered: Falun Gong, the networks of many illegal parties, unrecognized union organizations and many “spontaneous” groups.

 And some old “Red Guards”.

 Zhao Ziyang, the Party leader already defenestrated by Jiang Zemin, was in fact at the centre of “spontaneous” organizations.

 The various Autonomous Federations of Workers -spread by location and not by industry – were legally created.

 Gorbachev’s visit took place in May 1989.

  That was the key moment of a long series of doctrinal, practical, cultural and historical differences that – from the very beginning – divided the two great Eastern heirs to the Marxist-Leninist Third International.

 What really mattered to the Chinese leadership was that the Russian crisis did not overwhelm the Chinese Communists: that was the meaning of the declaration signed by Gorbachev, which regarded the “peaceful coexistence” of the two Communist regimes.

 The leader of the Soviet Party was made fun of – not even so elegantly – not because he had reformed the Soviet economic system – in a way, however, that the Chinese deemed wrong – but for one reason only: he had relinquished the Party’s role in the reformist process, which the CPSU had to lead and guide for China, from the very beginning.

An “economicist” mistake, as the CPC’s ideologues said – yet another proof of the Marxist roughness of the “Northern enemy”, as Deng Xiaoping called Russia.

 Sarcastic sniggers on the lips of Chinese leaders. Then Gorbachev explained again his perestrojka and glas’nost, but the Chinese leaders, whose power was based on Party’s bayonets, kept on not taking him seriously.

 Days before the arrival of the Soviet leader, at least one million people had gathered in Tiananmen Square.

 The problems that the Chinese leadership had to solve in a short lapse of time were radical: the “hard” wing that was previously a minority prevailed and managed to convince Jiang Zemin.

 The Party and its authority – the basis of any transformation, even the most radical one – were re-established without much talk. It was impossible to think about a heir to the “Long March” that dissolved the Party within “society”.

 On May 19, the CPC decided to follow the hard line and the military forces reached the areas near the Square, from the outskirts of Beijing.

 Few hours later, the Square was completely cleared, but that was done the hard way.

 Shortly afterwards, at the 4th CPC Plenum, Jiang Zemin –  also following the experience of Tiananmen Square – returned to one of his old theories and developed the “Three Represents” model, i.e. the idea that the CPC’s power was based on its “vast representation” of the Chinese productive forces, of the cultural and technological avant-gardes and of the wide strata of population.

 In other words, the Chinese society – and its economy, in particular – was reformed by bringing the elites together, part of whom were in Tiananmen Square, but also the large crowds still organized by the Party.

 A Confucian middle way that was particularly successful.

 Hence, Zhao Ziyang definitively lost the game within the Party that, however, was also inside the Tiananmen Square insurgency.

 Once the crisis was over, Deng Xiaoping left also the last very strong power in Jiang’s hands: the leadership of the Central Military Commission.

 Shortly afterwards – and there was nothing more symbolic than that event – the Stock Exchange of Shanghai reopened. A reopening that had been expected since the 1930s.

 Later also the Shenzhen Securities Exchange opened. In both of them, any securities – including those issued by the State – were traded, but there was only one deep logic: to acquire productive capital to generate strong and self-sustained development of the coasts and of the high value-added industries that had to compete on the world free market, without granting protection and aid that would go to the detriment of the deep productive structures of the internal regions.

 In 1992, Deng’s journey to Southern borders had a clear route, although the CPC’s leadership had always had some doubts about the “free economic zones”. The core of the issue was that the GDP had to be increased in the lapse of time between the 1990s and the beginning of the Third Millennium.

  It had to be rapidly increased from 6% to 10%.

 Without that “quantitative” assessment – just to use the old Communist jargon – there could be no “qualitative” transformation of Chinese society.

 Everything had to be done soon – well, but soon. That was the characteristic of Deng Xiaoping’s years – extraordinary years, in some respects.

 In a short lapse of time, the Party developed the concepts of “Socialism with Chinese characteristics” and of “market Socialism”, which are so important also in President Xi Jinping’s current policy line.

 There were also other changes that, in a few years, led to the current Socialism with Chinese characteristics, as advocated by President Xi Jinping. However, everything could be done from a legal view point began in those years.

 The transformation process of the Chinese economy is long, powerful and complex, but – unlike what is often said in the West – it is never a mere market mechanism or a naive adaptation of the Party or the State to the absolute Western rules of globalization.

 As early as the 1990s, China has decided to govern market globalization and not just being a part of it. It wants to lead the process so as to be – now that the end of the century about which Deng thought has long been over – the axis of globalization and the centre of the new global hegemonies.

Continue Reading

East Asia

US-China Global Rivalry and BRI

Irfan Khan

Published

on

Starting in 2001 from the low-cost industry, China has established most advanced technology today. To a first approximation, China is struggling at its best, to emerge as global power or super power, or in other words you might like to say about. However, in some respect, it still faces challenges, in domestic politics, military’s capability and most importantly what its equivocal vision of whether unipolar or multipolar world.

It sounds well that, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as of its first kind and biggest developmental project in the history, will open its trade, economy and influence, across the world.BRI is transcontinental and transitional, cooperation and connectivity-based long-term mega project to China and its allies but countries like US, Turkey and India have perceived it as geopolitical, economic colonialization. For the similar reasons, Turkey and India had not attended “Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation”, held in Beijing, China last month. BRI spreads across Asia, Africa and Europe, subsuming 68 countries. BRI countries, sharing 30% of global GDP, 62% of world population will find it advantageous and economic driver of change. In reality, BRI will decide of what shape the world would be in 21 century and the next super power. However, BRI’s perennial progress until its completions, is the real test of leaderships of Chinese and also of world. 

US as global leader, is being hamstrung by US-Russia rivalry, US-China fickle economic relationships, China’s openness to international market, Russia growing hegemony and categorially the “Globalization”. US’s influence as major economy, and supplier has been fading away each passing day. The quip, what I had struggled then, have lost now, is not an exaggeration about US.

China’s military capability is not so high compared to US. What if, China has to engage in a conflict for a long time same the US has been in Middle East. This is of much significance, to ponder.

Globally diplomatic and strategic campaign by US and its allies and security situation are main Challenges to BRI. For instance, Pakistan, a flagship partner of BRI, has been enduring insurgency, backed by multi-fold foreign agencies. Last year November attack on China’s consulate Karachi, bomb blast in Quetta, Baluchistan in April and recent Gwadar attacks mirror the security challenges to BRI. Stability in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s relationships with Afghanistan, India and Iran, would affect the progress of BRI.

China’s military capability is not so high and sophisticated compared to US. What if, China has to engage in a conflict for a long time same the US has been in Middle East. This is of much significance, to ponder. To circumvent proxies, if may any, China and its allies, must share a sophisticated intelligence—the most advance than ones the individual has today.  

Continue Reading

Latest

Hotels & Resorts43 mins ago

Hyatt Regency Brand to Enter the Portuguese Market with Hyatt Regency Lisbon

Hyatt Hotels Corporation announced today that a Hyatt affiliate has entered into a franchise and related agreements with Realtejo –...

South Asia3 hours ago

Pointless Colonial Massacres and Post-Colonial Wars and Killings on the Indian Subcontinent

Two colonial mass killings from the twentieth century are always remembered:  The Qissa Khwani Bazaar massacre on April 23, 1930...

Science & Technology5 hours ago

Are robots sexist? UN report shows gender bias in talking digital tech

Why do most voice assistants have female names, and why do they have submissive personalities? The answer, says a new...

Green Planet9 hours ago

WWF Launches Activation Hub to Help Prevent 10 Million Metric Tons of Global Plastic Waste

The global plastic pollution crisis is threatening the natural environment on which we depend – impacting oceans, communities, wildlife, and...

EU Politics13 hours ago

Erasmus+: a turning point in the lives of 5 million European students

New evidence shows that Erasmus+ makes students more successful in their personal and professional lives and helps universities to become...

Middle East16 hours ago

Iran vs. US: Bracing for war?

On May 8, 2018, President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better...

Defense18 hours ago

Turkey is the Guarantor of Peace in the Black Sea region

The wider Black Sea region—which brings together the littoral states plus neighbouring countries—is experiencing a rapidly shifting security environment that...

Trending

Copyright © 2019 Modern Diplomacy