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East Asia

Japan’s quiet geo-economic rise

Masahiro Matsumura



In the turbulent world politics involving extensive international coverage, stable and humdrum Japan does not have much of a presence. Yet, Japan is the world’s largest creditor nation while continuously playing significant roles in trade, direct investment and economic assistance. Japan in the background has reinforced itself as a leading geo-economic power while having almost thoroughly eliminated its huge non-performing loans in the banking sector and other structural vulnerabilities over the so-called “lost two decades” consequent on its bubble burst in the early 1990s.

Emphasizing Japan’s world-largest public debts that amount to nearly 240% of its GDP is misleading given that its public assets amount to nearly 200% and that the holding of the government bonds by the Bank of Japan, practically, a part of the government, amount to more than 80%. This is consistent with the good stability of a strong yen and very low long-term prime rates.

On the other hand, the U.S. faces deepening structural vulnerabilities in stocks that have resulted from the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in 2008 and the ensuing financial crisis, while experiencing a transitory booming in flows. Also, the E.U. remains mired not only in serious structural vulnerabilities but also in a persistent recession. Consequently, both the U.S. and the E.U. have a significantly less free hand in foreign economic policy, while keeping themselves busy to obtain or retain comparative gains through their strategic interaction, most notably in trade.         

With the quantitative tightening of the U.S., the E.U., and, finally, the Japanese central banks, BRICS and other major developing economies encounter increasing difficulties in financing for investment and growth, compounded by the shrinking of their U.S. and European export outlets.

Particularly, the Chinese yuan is effectively pegged with the U.S. dollar, while China’s money supply in yuan is in fact based on its dollar reserves. Consequently, China is sliding into a serious recession, aggravated by the intense trade war with the U.S. No wonder that, last October, China made an abrupt about-face on its persistent anti-Japan policy, and concluded the currency swap agreement with Japan that would surely furnish China with 3 trillion Japanese yen (or less than 270 billion U.S. dollars) in the event of an acute liquidity crisis.

Looking closely at the recent Japan-China interaction, Japan’s quiet rise is more conspicuous. For several years prior to the official reconciliation of October 2018, the two countries appeared to geo-economically compete head-to-head, centered on aid and development according to China’s “One Belt One Road Strategy” and Japan’s counter-strategy, or “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy”.

China is undergoing serious setbacks because many recipient/investee states have cancelled, cut down or postponed China-sponsored development projects. These states have suffered China’s “debt trap”, and many of the projects have turned out be financially, environmentally, and socially unsustainable. China is increasingly constrained to finance development projects due to the hardly discernible yet significant dwindling of its dollar reserves that is statistically covered up by its foreign borrowings.

Certainly, China has succeeded in luring more than ninety developing and developed countries with its huge fabricated foreign reserves as show money to participate in the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. But, the country has failed to secure the AIIB memberships of Japan and the United States, respectively the world’s largest credit nation and the key currency nation with most developed financial and bonds markets. Without sufficient funds and staffs, the AIIB cannot but co-finance projects with the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to obtain a favorable credit rating necessary for financing though international financial markets. 

In contrast, Japan has demanded China to observe international standards in aid and development, and only agreed in October 2018 to selectively coordinate its policy with China only when the country meets these stringent conditions. There has been no major successful coordination case between the two to date. Given that many of traditional Japanese aid recipients are no longer low-income countries, the Japanese approach will necessarily focus more on high quality aid and development in terms of sustainability through the public-private sector cooperation. The approach will be superior to China’s, at least over a medium to long run.

Additionally, Japan plays a leading role to preserve the existing free and open international economic system. Against the tide of populism and protectionism, most notably U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America First”, Japan successfully led the formation of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership after the U.S. made an abrupt exit from an early TPP in the making, and concluded the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement.

In nutshell, Japan’s geo-economic power and influence will be outstanding, at least for a mid-term. Yet, the country is not free from serious risks and problems. For a short term, Japan’s rise will remain quiet and, perhaps, unnoticeable, especially because its geo-economic power and influence may be reduced by geo-political risks and crises, and because its vested bureaucratic interests hamper consolidation of its huge public debts and assets, which involves the great risk of a liquidity crisis. For a long term, Japan needs to find out a societal equation to cope with an unprecedented low birthrate and a high longevity rate. The world must stay tuned on humdrum Japan.

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

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East Asia

Power Projection of China



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?

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East Asia

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

Giancarlo Elia Valori



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.

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East Asia

US-China Global Rivalry and BRI

Irfan Khan



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.  

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