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China’s military doctrine with President Xi Jinping

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Which is President Xi Jinping’s military doctrine and his  “warfare rationale”?

With a view to well understanding the evolution of Chinese warfare studies to date, however, we need to study the tradition of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the vision that the Communist Party of China (CPC) had in the history of warfare doctrine.

Firstly, for China, the different terminologies used within NATO and, more generally, in Western military doctrines such as “global strategy”, “national security strategy” or “national defense strategy” are not separate concepts or ways of thinking, but are all subsumed in the Chinese general notion of “military strategy”.

Again in Chinese terminology, in simpler terms,the strategy “guidelines” are the political-military policy lines developed by the CPC leadership.

In these policy lines we can perceive the geopolitical threat that the CPCthinks to be closer and hence the likeliest type of future war that China must absolutely be ready to wage and fight.

The initial evaluations of the Chinese handbooks are the equivalent of the Western strategic assessment, while the analytical ones refer to the Chinese Armed Forces’ capabilities in relation to “present and future wars”.

According to China’s current strategic thinking, the science of military strategy is the study of warfarelaws and of the laws on the conduct of war, as well as the analysis of war predictions and the study of the most probable type of war in the future – all analyzed on the basis of past, present and future scenarios.

Our analysis, however, needs to begin at least with the military philosophy of Deng Xiaoping, who was the first Chinese leader to break with the philosophy of Maoist “people’s war”, in which the missing technology was replaced by the large dimension of masses in arms.

It is worth noting that, in Mao’s mind, all thiswas the policy line for being prepared to resist a nuclear attack with a subsequent invasion – a nuclear attack carried out, in all likelihood, by the USSR or the United States.

Indeed, the Two Worlds of Mao’s doctrine on foreign policy – the Third World was the world of Poor Countries, which were bound to be globally directed and led by Communist China.

Conversely, in Deng’s opinion, there was a shift from the primary perception of a global threat to the theory of local and “limited war” around China’s borders.

Deng Xiaoping’s “policy line” on war and defense envisaged above all land conflicts on the Northern and Eastern borders (the “Northern enemy”, namely the Soviet Russia, as Deng called it), but also sea clashes and surprise air attacks, with the subsequent necessary countermoves of the People’s Liberation Army.

What wasmissing in Deng’s military thinking – and that was Mao’s legacy – wasa specific doctrine of the nuclear weapon that – as Soviet Marshal Shaposhnikov also taught us – was “a weapon like the others”.

Jiang Zemin – after Deng – when the Four Modernizations (the last of which was exactly the military and technological one) redeveloped Deng Xiaoping’s model by envisaging “limited warfare under high-technology conditions”.

In that new context – the first real theoretical departure from  “Mao’s policy line” on war – Jiang Zemin envisaged  two primary intervention areas, the one near Taiwan and the one against all US networks in the Pacific, while the fall of the USSR made the traditional Chinese defense against the “Northern enemy” basically useless.

This was the first real maritime dimension of the Chinese doctrine, after Mao Zedonghad thought about an almost entirely terrestrial defense, on the basis of his Long March.

As early as the 1950s, however, the internal documents of the Central Committee identified the Philippines, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands and obviously Taiwan and even Japan, as future areas of Chinese invasion or hegemony.

Hence, in technological terms, Jiang Zemin’s new war meant a clash based on intercontinental missiles, fine electronics, multi-dimensional battlefields, sensors and intelligence.

The Central Military Commission, namely the highest Party’s body for defense matters, officially accepted Jiang Zemin’s policy line in 1992.

It is easy to imagine what the Chinese military decision-makers were observing and studying at thetime: the war in the Balkans; the first Gulf War of 1990-1991; the war in Rwanda; the “ten-daywar” between Slovenia and the Republic of Yugoslavia; the beginning of the Algerian jihadist insurgency; the outbreak of war in Somalia; the clashes in Georgia; the conflict on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan and some other minor conflicts.

The Chinese study of military doctrine always refers to concrete cases. In China’s traditional philosophy there is nothing resembling the Aristotle’s or Kant’s “categories”.

Hence, according to China and “Jiang’s policy line”, the war was bound to be won always by means of elite troops and preventive operations, although China has always refused to be the first to start a military clash- even a solely nuclear one.

The new local wars theorized and studied by Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin were supposed to be “quick battles to force quick resolutions”.

Instead of making the enemy enter deep into the Chinese territory – as Mao Zedong thought – and later holdingand gripping it as in a vice of masses in arms, Deng’s and Jiang’s new doctrine envisaged operations deep into the enemy’s territory.

Therefore emphasis was laid on very advanced technological preparation and on the elite troops’ abilities, as against the great masses of Mao’s time, as well as on undercover operations, the tactical and strategic element of surprise and deep combined actions.

Beyond the myth of all-out nuclear war -in which also  Mao believed and which, however, was a paper tiger –  Jiang Zemin’s new military policy line focused on the maximum lethality of weapons, on tactical precision and on the encirclement and tacit overcoming of the enemy, as well as penetration beyond the lines.

Later the CPC’s military and strategic thinking focused on the Revolution in Military Affairs, which the United States had developed in the early 1990s.

It should be recalled, however, that the first theory of Revolution in Military Affairs had been developed by Marshal Ogarkov in the Soviet Union, by laying emphasis on the robotization of the battlefield and the increasingly important role played by space technology and satellites as weapons in themselves and for tactical and strategic intelligence.

Jiang Zemin revised those Western and Soviet concepts and added a series of considerations on the political and social dimension of the conflict, but always in a framework of “regional war under conditions of high-technology and  computerization”.

After China had studied the war in Kosovo, the specific doctrinal concept was developed in 2004.

Chinahad also well studied the theories of “non-violent warfare” developed by Gene Sharp in the United States and later implemented them thoroughly in the “color revolutions” of Georgia and Ukraine, as well as in the case of OTPOR! in Serbia.

Specific emphasisis laid – although not explicitly – onpsychological warfare in the current Chinese military doctrines.

As clearly stated in the 2004 White Paper, China’s IT and cyber warfare consists mainly in “inflicting a heavy toll on the enemy, even the conventionally superior one, through a variety of tools ranging from the destruction of its satellites and missile systems to the use of electromagnetic pulse weapons to hit enemy ships or aircraft and even its civilian IT networks”.

At the time, the idea of ​​Chinese political and military decision-makers was the shift from “mechanization to ICTs  and computerization” leading to multiple asymmetric, non-contiguous and non-linear wars in the strategic clash region.

If we consider the provincialism characterising many “White Books” of the European Armed Forces at the time, what stands out is the vitality of the Chinese strategic thinking, certainly devoid of semantic ambiguities or pacifist concerns.

Conversely mechanization was the specific aim of the 2008 White Paper, when the CPC’s central power still supported the idea of ​​training the best military elites on the field and also acquiring the Command, Control and Intelligence (CCI) IT networks,in addition to acquiring the weapon systems most suitable for the 2008 new doctrine, which followed the doctrine of the official documents of 2004 and subsequent years.

According to the Chinese decision-makers, ICTs and computerization werethe Achilles’ heel of the weapon and command systems of Westerners or anyway of China’s possible enemies.

The “web” was supposed to be the PLA’s first attack frontin a situation of limited warfare or global confrontation.

Therefore, the Chinese decision-makers did not only seek  an efficient network for the Chinese CCI, but also a specific doctrine for the “electronic warfare” and the signs that it would be greatly developed in the following years.

Many of you may remember that, in those years, the Western interestin the Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW) emerged.

In the Chinese official doctrines from 2007 to 2010, we could note that specific attention was paid to the role that the Chinese Armed Forces could play in assisting the Chinese economy and society and in supporting the population during natural disasters.

In this regard, we cannot certainly forget the role played by the PLA against sabotage, internal subversion and factionalism with respect to the Party and the Chinese nation.

Hence we can envisage an internal military role of the Armed Forces which is far subtler and more careful than the usual one prevailing in Western countries – a role which is also predictive and proactive, not just ex post.

As you may have realized, all these considerations show that there is very clear submission of the PLA to the Party, but also the creation of a specific political role for the Chinese Armed Forces.

A role that is played through the Central Military Commission which,since 1990,has increased its importance within the CPC hierarchy.

It is in this political and strategic context that the global threats to the Chinese status quo really change: the USSR collapsed in 1991 – hence there is no longer the danger of a great invasion from the North, as the CPC’s leadership   had feared during the clashes on the UssuriRiver in 1968.

The Ussuri River war broke out when, a year before, the “Red Guards”  had besieged the USSR Embassy in Beijing and hence the USSR attacked the Chinese border guards right on the Ussuri River.

The USSR threatened the use of nuclear weapons against  China, but the United States threatened heavy repercussions against the Soviet Union if this happened.

Thiscurrently well-known data coming from the US archives make us imagine how natural was for China at the time to accept the US proposal for a new opening towards the United States to clearly oppose the Soviet Union.

It should also be noted that Mao’s famous theory “on the correct handling of contradictions among the people” was, in fact, an appeal to compromise with the Soviets, who supported the “Parliamentary way” – as also the Parties  depending on the USSR did – while China wanted a greater “anti-imperialist” and anti-colonialist struggle.

Other military resultswere also achieved between China and the Soviet Union in that political and ideological juncture: Khrushchev refused to actively respond to the US Marines’ operations in the Lebanon, besides refusing to support China when it began bombing the island of Quemoy still  occupied by Chiang Kai Shek’s Kuomintang, and later making it clear to everyone that the Soviet Union would never grant a nuclear bomb prototype to China.

This is the real military plot of a now very famous discussion – apparently scholastic and obscure – between the two Marxist powers of the world.

Therefore in 1991, the “Northern enemy”, namely the USSR, no longer existed and the fear of the great invasion had waned.

However, as the Chinese decision-makers rightly thought,  the no longer bipolar world increased – and certainly not  diminished – the likelihood of regional conflicts.

Nothing to do with the pacifist dreams or delusions not only of the unaware public, but also of Western decision-makers.

The sanctions imposed on China by the United States after the Tiananmen Square events; the ongoing Anglo-American controversy on human rights in China; the US support to Taiwan during the 1996 crisis, when the United States sent two aircraft carriers to the Formosa Strait, and the Tibet issue – as well as the Xinjiang issue, which is currently mounting between the US and European media influencers – and finally the commercial tensions between the United States and China, are all factors which made us think – in those years, but also at a later stage – that China’s “far enemy”, namely the United States, would remain – in fact – the only real enemy.

It was the US technology show in the two Gulf Wars of  1991 and 2003which definitely convinced the Chinese decision-makers of the new IT turn and direction the CPC’s National Armed Forces had to take.

Nevertheless the moment of truth came for China when the United States created the casus belli in Kosovo. For the Party’s and PLA’s decision-makers that proved how the United States wascapable of creating difficult situations by manipulating both diplomacy and the military equilibria of a wholeregion.

But what is President Xi Jinping’s current political-military vision?

In the official documents,Xi Jinping’s “policy line” regards not so much the analysis of new threats or the most  abstract doctrinal issues, but rather the list of things that the PLA must absolutely accomplish in a short lapse of time:

  1. a) to improve the ability of simultaneously coping with a wide range of internal emergencies and tactical or non-tactical military threats, which could endanger China’s sovereignty at terrestrial, sea and air levels;
  2. b) to support the harsh and specific protection of the unification of the Motherland – an essential factor for achieving the great Belt and Road Initiative;
  3. c) to ensure China’s security “in new contexts” – and here reference is obviously made to the protection of the financialand industrial system, besides the political one;
  4. d) to ensure the protection of China’s interest overseas – the truly new strategic asset of China as global economic power;
  5. e) to improve the efficiency of strategic nuclear and cyber deterrence, as well as the PLA’s possibility of successfully launching a quick and highly dissuasive nuclear counterattack;
  6. f) to increase the PLA’s participation in international peace-keeping operations – a full recognition of China’s role also at military level;
  7. g) to strengthen the protection of the Chinese homeland against separatism and terrorism;
  8. h) to improve the PLA’s ability to fully carry out its tasks during environmental and health crises – as was the case with the bird flu crisis in 2003 and in the following years.

Hence, with a view to winning a cyber regional war – the PLA’s first political and strategic goal – the utmost protection of strategic surprise is needed, also on the part of the CPC itself – in addition to the protection of China’s interest overseas, another primary goal of the Chinese leadership.

Moreover, the defense of interests “in other fields” refers to China’s expansion at the maritime, space and cyber levels.

An expansion going well beyond the territorial limits of China and of the areas such as Hong Kong and Macao.

In fact, China is currently looking for new military bases abroad, namely Chongjin in North Korea; Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea; Sihanoukville in Cambodia;Koh Lanta in Thailand;Sittwe in Myanmar; Dhaka in Bangladesh; Gwadar in Pakistan; Hambantotaportin Sri Lanka; the Maldives and the Seychelles islands; Djibouti; Lagos in Nigeria; Mombasa in Kenya; Dar es Salaam in Tanzania;  Luanda in Angola and Walvis Bay in Namibia.

Certainly this program of military expansion and strategic repositioning under President Xi Jinping implies a series of anti-corruption actions that have also heavily affected the PLA, especially its highest ranks.

Therefore President Xi Jinping thinks that highly technically and operationally advanced Chinese Armed Forces are needed. They must above all be strongly and exclusively subjected to the Party, which has also been undergoing an anti-corruption probe for many years.

Mao Zedong’s Chinese dilemma “Reds versus Experts” is back again, but this time in the new global horizon imposed by Xi Jinping’s Presidency.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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East Asia

Importance of peace in Afghanistan is vital for China

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image source: chinamission.be

There are multiple passages from Afghanistan to China, like Wakhan Corridor that is 92 km long, stretching to Xinjiang in China. It was formed in 1893 as a result of an agreement between the British Empire and Afghanistan. Another is Chalachigu valley that shares the border with Tajikistan to the north, Pakistan to the south, and Afghanistan to the west. It is referred to as the Chinese part of the Wakhan Corridor. However, the Chinese side of the valley is closed to the public and only local shepherds are allowed. Then there is Wakhjir Pass on the eastern side of the Wakhan corridor but is not accessible to the general public. The terrain is rough on the Afghan side. There are no roads along the Wakhjir Pass, most of the terrain is a dirt track. Like other passages, it can only be accessed via either animals or SUVs, and also due to extreme weather it is open for only seven months throughout the year. North Wakhjir Pass, also called Tegermansu Pass, is mountainous on the border of China and Afghanistan. It stretches from Tegermansu valley on the east and Chalachigu Valley in Xinjiang. All of these passages are extremely uncertain and rough which makes them too risky to be used for trade purposes. For example, the Chalagigu valley and Wakhjir Pass are an engineering nightmare to develop, let alone make them viable.

Similarly, the Pamir mountain range is also unstable and prone to landslides. Both of these routes also experience extreme weather conditions. Alternatives: Since most of the passages are risky for travel, alternatively, trade activities can be routed via Pakistan. For example, there is an access road at the North Wakhjir that connects to Karakoram Highway.

By expanding the road network from Taxkorgan in Xinjiang to Gilgit, using the Karakoram Highway is a probable option. Land routes in Pakistan are already being developed for better connectivity between Islamabad and Beijing as part of CPEC. These routes stretch from Gwadar up to the North.

The Motorway M-1, which runs from Islamabad to Peshawar can be used to link Afghanistan via Landi Kotal. Although the Karakoram highway also suffers from extreme weather and landslides, it is easier for engineers to handle as compared to those in Afghanistan.

China is the first door neighbor of Afghanistan having a common border. If anything happens in Afghanistan will have a direct impact on China. China has a declared policy of peaceful developments and has abandoned all disputes and adversaries for the time being and focused only on economic developments. For economic developments, social stability and security is a pre-requisite. So China emphasizes peace and stability in Afghanistan. It is China’s requirement that its border with Afghanistan should be secured, and restrict movements of any unwanted individuals or groups. China is compelled by any government in Afghanistan to ensure the safety of its borders in the region.

Taliban has ensured china that, its territory will not use against China and will never support any insurgency in China. Based on this confidence, China is cooperating with the Taliban in all possible manners. On the other hand, China is a responsible nation and obliged to extend humanitarian assistance to starving Afghans. While, the US is coercing and exerting pressures on the Taliban Government to collapse, by freezing their assets, and cutting all economic assistance, and lobbying with its Western allies, for exerting economic pressures on the Taliban, irrespective of human catastrophe in Afghanistan. China is generously assisting in saving human lives in Afghanistan. Whereas, the US is preferring politics over human lives in Afghanistan.

The US has destroyed Afghanistan during the last two decades, infrastructure was damaged completely, Agriculture was destroyed, Industry was destroyed, and the economy was a total disaster. While, China is assisting Afghanistan to rebuild its infrastructure, revive agriculture, industrialization is on its way. Chinese mega initiative, Belt and Road (BRI) is hope for Afghanistan.

A peaceful Afghanistan is a guarantee for peace and stability in China, especially in the bordering areas. The importance of Afghan peace is well conceived by China and practically, China is supporting peace and stability in Afghanistan. In fact, all the neighboring countries, and regional countries, are agreed upon by consensus that peace and stability in Afghanistan is a must and prerequisite for whole regions’ development and prosperity.

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Shared Territorial Concern, Opposition to US Intervention Prompt Russia’s Support to China on Taiwan Question

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image credit: kremlin.ru

The situation around the island of Taiwan is raising concerns not only in Chinese mainland, Taiwan island or in the US, but also in the whole world. Nobody would like to see a large-scale military clash between China and the US in the East Pacific. Potential repercussions of such a clash, even if it does not escalate to the nuclear level, might be catastrophic for the global economy and strategic stability, not to mention huge losses in blood and treasure for both sides in this conflict.

Earlier this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that Moscow continued to firmly support Beijing’s position on Taiwan as an integral part of China. Moreover, he also underlined that Moscow would support Beijing in its legitimate efforts to reunite the breakaway province with the rest of the country. A number of foreign media outlets paid particular attention not to what Lavrov actually said, but omitted his other remarks: the Russian official did not add that Moscow expects reunification to be peaceful and gradual in a way that is similar to China’s repossession of Hong Kong. Many observers of the new Taiwan Straits crisis unfolding concluded that Lavrov’s statement was a clear signal to all parties of the crisis: Russia would likely back even Beijing’s military takeover of the island.

Of course, diplomacy is an art of ambiguity. Lavrov clearly did not call for a military solution to the Taiwan problem. Still, his remarks were more blunt and more supportive of Beijing than the standard Russia’s rhetoric on the issue. Why? One possible explanation is that the Russian official simply wanted to sound nice to China as Russia’s major strategic partner. As they say, “a friend in need is a friend indeed.” Another explanation is that Lavrov recalled the Russian experience with Chechnya some time ago, when Moscow had to fight two bloody wars to suppress secessionism in the North Caucasus. Territorial integrity means a lot for the Russian leadership. This is something that is worth spilling blood for.

However, one can also imagine that in Russia they simply do not believe that if things go really bad for Taiwan island, the US would dare to come to its rescue and that in the end of the day Taipei would have to yield to Beijing without a single shot fired. Therefore, the risks of a large-scale military conflict in the East Pacific are perceived as relatively low, no matter what apocalyptic scenarios various military experts might come up with.

Indeed, over last 10 or 15 years the US has developed a pretty nasty habit of inciting its friends and partners to take risky and even reckless decisions and of letting these friends and partners down, when the latter had to foot the bill for these decisions. In 2008, the Bush administration explicitly or implicitly encouraged Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili to launch a military operation against South Ossetia including killing some Russian peacekeepers stationed there. But when Russia interfered to stop and to roll back the Georgian offensive, unfortunate Saakashvili was de-facto abandoned by Washington.

During the Ukrainian conflicts of 2013-14, the Obama administration enthusiastically supported the overthrow of the legitimate president in Kiev. However, it later preferred to delegate the management of the crisis to Berlin and to Paris, abstaining from taking part in the Normandy process and from signing the Minsk Agreements. In 2019, President Donald Trump promised his full support to Juan Guaidó, Head of the National Assembly in Venezuela, in his crusade against President Nicolas when the government of Maduro demonstrated its spectacular resilience. Juan Guaido very soon almost completely disappeared from Washington’s political radar screens.

Earlier this year the Biden administration stated its firm commitment to shouldering President Ashraf Ghani in Afghanistan in his resistance to Taliban advancements. But when push came to shove, the US easily abandoned its local allies, evacuated its military personal in a rush and left President Ghani to seek political asylum in the United Arab Emirates.

Again and again, Washington gives reasons to conclude that its partners, clients and even allies can no longer consider it as a credible security provider. Would the US make an exception for the Taiwan island? Of course, one can argue that the Taiwan island is more important for the US than Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ukraine and Georgia taken together. But the price for supporting the Taiwan island could also be much higher for the US than the price it would have paid in many other crisis situations. The chances of the US losing to China over Taiwan island, even if Washington mobilizes all of its available military power against Beijing, are also very high. Still, we do not see such a mobilization taking place now. It appears that the Biden administration is not ready for a real showdown with Beijing over the Taiwan question.

If the US does not put its whole weight behind the Taiwan island, the latter will have to seek some kind of accommodation with the mainland on terms abandoning its pipe-dreams of self-determination and independence. This is clear to politicians not only in East Asia, but all over the place, including Moscow. Therefore, Sergey Lavrov has reasons to firmly align himself with the Chinese position. The assumption in the Kremlin is that Uncle Sam will not dare to challenge militarily the Middle Kingdom. Not this time.

From our partner RIAC

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Russia-Japan Relations: Were Abe’s Efforts In Vain?

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Expanding the modest elements of trust in the Japan-Russia relationship, talking through reciprocal concerns before they lead to conflict, avoiding bilateral incidents, and engaging in mutually beneficial economic cooperation is the way forward.

One year after the end of Shinzo Abe’s long period of leadership, Japan has a new prime minister once again. The greatest foreign policy challenge the new Japanese government led by Fumio Kishida is facing is the intensifying confrontation between its large neighbor China and its main ally America. In addition to moves to energize the Quad group to which Japan belongs alongside Australia, India, and the United States, U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has concluded a deal with Canberra and London to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines which in future could patrol the Western Pacific close to Chinese shores. The geopolitical fault lines in the Indo-Pacific region are fast turning into frontlines.

In this context, does anything remain of the eight-year-long effort by former prime minister Abe to improve relations with Russia on the basis of greater economic engagement tailored to Moscow’s needs? Russia’s relations with China continue to develop, including in the military domain; Russia’s constitutional amendments passed last year prohibit the handover of Russian territory, which doesn’t bode well for the long-running territorial dispute with Japan over the South Kuril Islands; and Russian officials and state-run media have been remembering and condemning the Japanese military’s conduct during World War II, something they chose to play down in the past. True, Moscow has invited Tokyo to participate in economic projects on the South Kuril Islands, but on Russian terms and without an exclusive status.

To many, the answer to the above question is clear, and it is negative. Yet that attitude amounts to de facto resignation, a questionable approach. Despite the oft-cited but erroneous Cold War analogy, the present Sino-American confrontation has created two poles in the global system, but not—at least, not yet—two blocs. Again, despite the popular and equally incorrect interpretation, Moscow is not Beijing’s follower or vassal. As a power that is particularly sensitive about its own sovereignty, Russia seeks to maintain an equilibrium—which is not the same as equidistance—between its prime partner and its main adversary. Tokyo would do well to understand that and take it into account as it structures its foreign relations.

The territorial dispute with Russia is considered to be very important for the Japanese people, but it is more symbolic than substantive. In practical terms, the biggest achievement of the Abe era in Japan-Russia relations was the founding of a format for high-level security and foreign policy consultations between the two countries. With security issues topping the agenda in the Indo-Pacific, maintaining the channel for private direct exchanges with a neighboring great power that the “2+2” formula offers is of high value. Such a format is a trademark of Abe’s foreign policy which, while being loyal to Japan’s American ally, prided itself on pursuing Japanese national interests rather than solely relying on others to take them into account.

Kishida, who for five years served as Abe’s foreign minister, will now have a chance to put his own stamp on the country’s foreign policy. Yet it makes sense for him to build on the accomplishments of his predecessor, such as using the unique consultation mechanism mentioned above to address geopolitical and security issues in the Indo-Pacific region, from North Korea to Afghanistan. Even under Abe, Japan’s economic engagement with Russia was by no means charity. The Russian leadership’s recent initiatives to shift more resources to eastern Siberia offer new opportunities to Japanese companies, just like Russia’s early plans for energy transition in response to climate change, and the ongoing development projects in the Arctic. In September 2021, the annual Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok did not feature top-level Japanese participation, but that should be an exception, not the rule.

Japan will remain a trusted ally of the United States for the foreseeable future. It is also safe to predict that at least in the medium term, and possibly longer, the Russo-Chinese partnership will continue to grow. That is no reason for Moscow and Tokyo to regard each other as adversaries, however. Moreover, since an armed conflict between America and China would spell a global calamity and have a high chance of turning nuclear, other major powers, including Russia and Japan, have a vital interest in preventing such a collision. Expanding the still very modest elements of trust in the Japan-Russia relationship, talking through reciprocal concerns before they lead to conflict, avoiding bilateral incidents, and engaging in mutually beneficial economic cooperation is the way forward. The absence of a peace treaty between the two countries more than seventy-five years after the end of the war is abnormal, yet that same unfinished business should serve as a stimulus to persevere. Giving up is an option, but not a good one.

From our partner RIAC

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