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Resisting China’s Expansionist Designs

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The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting”.- Sun Tzu, the Art of war

Twenty Indian soldiers had lost their lives in a violent military confrontation with the troops of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China in the Eastern Ladakh region. Even though PLA faced at least twice the number of causalities as compared to their Indian counterparts, the territorial integrity of India came under question. This skirmish between both the forces threw open the Pandora’s Box of China’s expansionist tendencies. China has been trying a new version of colonisation by capturing smaller nations with their ‘debt-trap’ diplomacy. Being a responsible stakeholder in the Indo-Pacific region, it is high time for India to act against the Chinese aggression and use its diplomatic cum financial clout to resist the economic magnification of China using all available means.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the U.S had been enjoying a unipolar status in the global geopolitics. Since the beginning of 21st century China had been trying to become a viable alternative to the U.S. Due to the availability of cheap labour and ruthless control over its citizens, China emerged as an international manufacturing hub. With its expanding economy the red nation started a strange desire to occupy areas from its neighbourhood. China’s land greed can be better understood by the fact that the nation has boundary disputes with 18 nations while they share land boundaries with just 14 countries. Their territorial ambitions can be traced back to the very beginning of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949. Within a year of its formation Tibet was annexed to China through a military operation and eastern Turkestan (present-day Xinjiang) was forced to join PRC. China started constructing a highway connecting both Xinjiang and Tibet passing through Aksai- Chin territory in the Indian side. Pandit Nehru’s government took years to diagnose the Chinese intrusion and it was too late when India responded militarily. Following the Indian defeat in the 1962 war, China occupied 38,000 sq.km of land in the Aksai-Chin region. Intelligence outputs also suggest that the Chinese forces had occupied more land in the region through multiple intrusions in the past six decades.

India holds a major place in the Chinese economic ecosystem. China’s exports to India range from crackers to pharmaceutical raw materials. India has a trade deficit of $48.6 billion with China. Chinese phone manufacturers have a 71% share in the Indian smartphone market. Cheap cost, high-end technology and easy availability are the few reasons for customers’ preference for Chinese products. Following the military conflict, there were clarion calls for boycotting Chinese products. Even though a blanket ban on Chinese goods cannot be imposed due to international trading laws, step by step initiatives can slowly take us to that goal

In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping promoted the term ‘China dream’ which emphasised on national rejuvenation. This motto has been closely knit with their ongoing ‘Belt-Road Initiative’ (BRI) project of connecting over 70 counties through rail, road and air, and also improving their healthcare, infrastructure and communication sectors. A controversial periphery of BRI is China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in which China will invest over $46 billion. The proposed road passes through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) and is thoroughly opposed by India. The corridor ends at Gwadar port which is of high strategic importance in the Chinese doctrine of ‘String of Pearls’. This doctrine aims at encircling India in the Indian Ocean Region by building ports or earning access to ports of other nations sharing maritime borders with India. China operating Hambanthota port in South Sri Lanka through their debt-trapping method shows how strategically advanced the Chinese are.

Contrary to the popular perception, China should be seen as the principal opponent of India and not Pakistan. Pakistan, with its non-state actors, had been trying to destabilise India on the behest of China. The nexus between Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and China is well known in the international arena. On multiple occasions, China blocked India’s attempt to list Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azar as a global terrorist by the UN. Following the United States- Taliban peace treaty Afghanistan is staring at a massive political uncertainty. With the withdrawal of U.S troops Taliban could come back to power. The strategic location of Afghanistan is important for India as a passage to central Asia. Hence, China can block India’s access to Afghan using Pakistan which is an ally of the Taliban. India had to cut short its oil imports from Iran following the sanctions imposed by the U.S. The Chabahar port in Iran is of immense importance to India. Recently, there was news of a possible ousting of India from the Chabahar port project, if that happens it could be a big blow to our strategic efforts.  China has a significant role to play in turning Nepal against India. Nepal had released a new map showing Indian territories of Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura as theirs. In Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, China is developing submarine berthing and operating facility. China had also given loans worth millions of dollars to India’s friendly nations including Maldives, Myanmar and Iran. China with its surplus revenue is trying to create vassal states across the BRI route.

China’s much aggressive ‘wolf-warrior diplomacy’ can be better understood only by keeping their history in mind. After annexing territories they ran a ‘cultural revolution’ which was barbaric in nature. Critics of Mao were publically executed or sent to Laogai prison camps by branding them as counter-revolutionaries. Citizens were indoctrinated with party lessons and are still monitored through a strict surveillance system. People residing in China sees what their government wants them to see. Internet is censored with ‘the great firewall’. Facebook, Twitter and Google are all banned in China. In their Xinjiang province, Uighur Muslims are oppressed and they fall prey to the government’s ‘organ harvesting’. Dissidents of Chinese Communist Party, even while being in exile are physically targeted through operation ‘Fox Hunt’. Chinese government has recently passed several laws to curb freedom of people in Hong Kong which is China’s special administrative unit. Taiwan is also under the radar of Xi. Here India has to deal with a party or government which have created a utopia for its 1.4 billion people; hence strategy to checkmate China needs to be multifaceted.

India has to flex its muscle while dealing with China. China’s $14 Trillion economy makes it a major force to reckon with. China also controls much of the world’s supply chain; hence any disruption to it can create tremors in the global economy. Relocating the supply chain to trusted countries or democracies can reduce the transnational dependence on China for finished products. The recently formed informal alliance called the QUAD comprising of United States-Japan-Australia-India has put the onus on China in the Indo-Pacific region. With the QUAD extending its influence over smaller countries in the South China Sea with whom China has border disputes, the anti-China block can stand as a barrier against the Chinese aggression. China’s global dominance in 5G technology needs to be challenged and met with alternative options. For that cooperation among free democracies is essential.

 Recently, a small town in Gujarat ‘Morbi’ was in news for emerging as a toy manufacturing hub in response to the Prime Minister’s call for “Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (Self sufficient India). Similarly, manufacturing hubs for various products needs to be established in various parts of India, hence reducing and later eliminating our reliance on China. Millions of new employment opportunities can be generated in the manufacturing sector in India and thereby solving our unemployment crisis. Over a hundred companies have decided to shift their manufacturing bases outside China. Since India had been improving its position in the Ease of Doing Business index, many of them would be investing in India. Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn has announced investment of $1 billion to expand their iphone assembling unit in Chennai. Government of India’s infrastructural development and simplification of business approval process have helped India to emerge as a viable alternative manufacturing hub to China.

Following the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan and PLA’s muscle flexing, many nations have come forward to resist China’s belligerence. China is the second largest economy after U.S and has a strong military. Experts may differ on the accuracy of their war machines. But in the era of globalisation and mutual cooperation, any physical conflict needs to be avoided. Economics is a sharp weapon that nations including India can use to inflict heavy loss on China. Even though India of today has multiplied many folds from its position in 1962, but still we are a developing economy with a GDP of $3 Trillion. China’s expansionist mindset is not going to fade away. They have always claimed that even Arunachal Pradesh (Indian state) is a part of Tibet, which is a part of China. India should prevent the flow of capital through trade to China. By forming a strategic cum economic alliance as an anti-China block, India has high chance of improving its own economy and to safeguard its boundaries in case of any eventuality.

The writer is a political analyst and holds a masters degree in History from the Department of History, University of Hyderabad, India. He writes articles on topics pertaining to International affairs, History and Indian politics.

East Asia

Challenges faced by Japan to become a permanent member of UNSC

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Abstract: Through this report I will be addressing the challenges faced by Japan to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. This idea was first floated by Japan on the world stage in 2004 when the then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in his UN General Assembly speech outlined how Japan wanted to become a member and contribute to global security and world peace. Internally with the economic boom of the Japanese economy and the successful development of the country it was felt that Japan should now challenge for the permanent membership of the UNSC, but the factions within the LDP and especially those who support the pacifist nature of Japan do not wish for the country becoming a permanent member of UNSC. Japan in the late 90s and early 2000s has already become one of the largest contributors to the United Nations and other regional and multilateral groupings it even had sent it forces in the UN peace keeping missions and was an active ally of the United States supporting its every decision and contributing either through its military or through economic aid thus helping them earn the phrase “a bank with a flag”. It was the idea of the so-called realist hawks who wanted this idea to become a reality. In this following report I argue the challenges faced by Japan which is still acting as an impediment in its quest for a permanent seat in UNSC.

Background

Japan has steadily worked at obtaining a permanent seat on the UN Security Council for more than three decades (UNSC). Unfortunately, a variety of local and international obstacles have prevented it from realizing its long-standing goal. Japan has prioritized “UN-centered” diplomacy as a cornerstone of its foreign policy since its admission to the UN in 1956. As Japan became a global economic giant in the 1970s, it was expected to take on a bigger role within the UN system. Since the latter part of the 1980s, when Japan reached its economic zenith and its people felt the need for a “total Japan” contribution to world peace and prosperity, the country has been driven to become a real power player in international politics by becoming one of the select few privileged countries with veto rights at the UNSC. At this time, Japan also overtook the United States as the largest net giver of official development assistance (ODA), which improved Tokyo’s reputation among recipient nations all over the world. Tokyo came to the conclusion that winning a permanent seat on the UNSC should be the next step in gaining greater respect from the international community since it would give Japan more influence over creating a new international order. Many people said that the UN’s structure and operations needed to be changed immediately after the Cold War ended in order for it to become a vibrant organization fulfilling the primary goal for which it was formed.

However, there was no consensus on the method of such reforms among the actual actors or even those outside of international politics. Tokyo considered it acceptable to press for its desire to be recognized as a permanent member of the UNSC as various sectors of international society began to focus on various parts of the UN. Japan tried to convince others of the benefits of allowing Tokyo to play a significant role during the late 1980s and early 1990s—a pivotal moment for the UN. From a critical standpoint, it is nearly universally acknowledged that since its founding in 1945, the UNSC has grown more and more unrepresentative. The P5 (World War Two winner states) are a self-declared oligarchy that crafted the UN Charter to ensure their respective elevated positions. With the 9/11 attack and the US and West’s focus now on the global war against terror Japan thought it was the right time to pitch in this idea of becoming a permanent member of UNSC.

It was in 2004 when Japan formally expressed its interest to become a member of UNSC. In a speech delivered at the General Assembly on September 21, 2004, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi highlighted Japan’s intention to join the Security Council as a permanent member, saying that Japan’s commitment to global peace and security was a solid enough justification for membership.

Outside Challenges

Japan as a nation might lack hard power due to the Article 9 of its constitution which has the “No war” clause, but in terms of soft power Japan is a serious competitor. Given its non-military pacifist posture and the new realities of globalization, Japan views its soft power as the sole way available to exercise global influence. Soft power is linked to Japan’s long-term goal in the international community of promoting civil society, with its human and social resources. Japan is also an active supporter of peace and security missions of US though its troops do not participate in military actions but rather participate as logistic support and other non-action related activities. Although the nature of these factors varies, worldwide populations turned off by “hard power” and the “abuse of power” thus view Japan as a role model that is unique from the US and other Western countries and want it to be represented in the UNSC. Britain has previously pledged to support G4 alliance aspirations among the current P5 countries (Japan, Germany, India and Brazil). The European Union has refrained from expressing its position, despite France having expressed support for Japan’s application for a permanent seat on the UNSC. Russian resistance appears to have subsided over time, and it has no intention of opposing the veto rights of future UNSC members. However, many people continue to passionately oppose Japan’s mission, primarily its Asian neighbors. Recently, China has stepped up its opposition to Japan’s request. Furthermore, the proposed G4 reform plans leave more than 1.2 billion Muslims without any permanent representation on the UNSC, making this subject very contentious and harming the UN’s reputation in the Middle East’s flashpoints as well as among Muslims. The first significant effort against a proposed SC expansion was the “Uniting for Consensus” group, which was led by Pakistan, South Korea, and Italy. The majority alliance suggested increasing non-permanent membership to 20 members, however the unaltered five-nation permanent line-up to remain unchanged. Washington has categorically rejected the G4 proposal, essentially blocking Japan’s candidacy for permanent membership in the UNSC. From an American perspective, Japan’s formation of the G4 alliance for backing wide expansionist policies on the Council made the US “uncomfortable” and diminished Washington’s support for Tokyo’s application to become a permanent member.

Another problem for Japan is how the world perceives its contribution to the UN. The term “chequebook diplomacy” is used to show Japan’s contribution in the global order which is a misperception. The main cause of this misconception is that Japan’s international position has, up until now, mostly been decided by its bilateral connections (especially security arrangements) with the US, meaning that the US has an influence over its UN diplomacy. Because of this, some people think that adding Japan as a permanent member would only give the US another voice on the Council and not alter the power dynamic.

Another hurdle or one might even tip it towards Japan’s favor would the fact that Japan is not a nation which possesses nuclear weapon while the current permanent members of the UNSC are all those nations which possess nuclear weapons. This gives Japan both an edge and a disadvantage in its bid for permanent membership in the UNSC. While the advantage is that if Japan succeeds to become a permanent member it might become the only nation which not only has an active army but rather has a self-defense force unlike the current existing member countries. This is also a tremendous achievement considering that Japan is surrounded by hostile enemies around it in the form of North and South Korea and China who not only object to Japan’s membership but also at times have test fired weapons close to the Japanese shores or are currently in a dispute in the South China sea.  With the hostile neighbors who oppose Japan due to its colonial past and still feel that Japan might act as an aggressor once it joins the UNSC acts as another hurdle to the Japanese membership.

A new trend which can be see as another hurdle to Japanese membership can be in the case of how no representation is to be seen in the G4 and in the permanent membership of UNSC from the continents of Africa and Middle east. While there is ample representation seen from the west these two places find no representation in either the G4 or the UNSC. This seriously raises the issue that a) neither any Muslim country representation is there and b) there is no continental representation for Africa. This also adds to the Japanese misery that South Africa which is another peaceful, economically well off and most importantly a democratic country like Japan and home of one of the most prominent leaders of 21st century does not get a representation.

The middle east which as a region is a) most prominent for world powers due to the rich energy resources it possesses b) has rich economies like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait finds no representation. With the ongoing Ukraine- Russia crisis and the global energy crisis it is important that this region gets representation in the UNSC. This also solves the crisis of no Muslim nation finding a representation in the UNSC since these countries are majority Islamic nations.  

Another contentious issue is the veto power given to the Permanent Members. Although they have stated they won’t use it until it is reviewed a few years down the road, the G-4 does not completely nullify the veto power for new permanent members. The African Group, however, is still adamant that the new members have complete veto power, which has in the past blocked reform proponents from coming to an agreement. The United Kingdom and several others agree with France’s demand for a voluntary suspension of the veto in circumstances of mass crimes. However, the United States is opposed to veto reform. China and Russia oppose limiting their ability to veto. Since extended permanent members are likely to be directly or indirectly involved in many of these crises, having too many permanent members with veto power may actually hinder the UN’s ability to deal with issues in many different regions of the world. Therefore, even if Japan becomes a member of the UNSC it would be moot considering how diluted the council might become if the set considerations are not met.

Internal Challenges

Japan is a constitutional republic, yet the bureaucracy has a significant impact on decision-making, to the point that officials in several ministries write and review legislation this acts as a burden for Japan in its bid in the permanent membership of UNSC. Japan is a pacifist country meaning that it believes that war and violence is unjustifiable. After the devastation faced by Japan in the World War 2 and the drafting of its constitution many within the country believe that Japan should refrain from wars. This pacifist constitution coupled with the way the various factions of LDP think and the opposition party possess a strong resistance internally for Japan to join UNSC. With the rise of revisionism in Japan and with people like Junichiro Koizumi and Shinzo Abe coming to power the revisionist stance about joining the UNSC and changes in the constitution with a specific focus to the Article 9 can be seen. Previously we have seen how there are substantial efforts to change the interpretation of the Article 9 but they all have been shot down by the opposition and factions of LDP. Factions like Heisei Kenkyūkai, Shikōkai, Kōchikai and Shisuikai and opposition parties like Rikken-minshutō, Nippon Ishin no Kai, Nihon Kyōsan-tō, Reiwa Shinsengumi, Shakai Minshu-tō and Minshutō make it very difficult for Japan to bring changes to the Article 9 and further up its bid in the UNSC.

Conclusion

The above listed challenges pose a real threat to Japanese bid to become a permanent member of the UNSC. As it’s said that charity begins at home so is in the case of Japan as well. Japan needs to ensure that every faction of the ruling LDP as well as the opposition parties come to a consensus about Japan joining the UNSC and changing its pacifist constitution. While trends can be seen towards people demanding a change in the constitution as found in the media polling such as Asahi Shimbun Polling which reported that “the gap between those who opposed and those who favored revision shrank to 3 percent, with 46 percent opposed and 43 percent in favor.” If such trends continue and with the continued (Council on Foreign Relations, n.d.) threats posed by China and North Korea are felt by the population of Japan coupled with a charismatic leader like the current PM Fumio Kishida, Japan would be able to change the pacifist Article 9 which would allow the country to come on an equal platform along with other G4 countries further allowing them to finish the pacifist era of post-world war Japan and allowing Japan to reach new heights.

On the global level as well once the internal issue of Article 9 is solved Japan would be allowed to contribute its forces to fight in the UN Peacekeeping missions rather than just sending them for humanitarian aid or logistical support. This would also in a way help diminish the idea of Japan being a “bank with a flag” at the global stage.

While to counter the image of Japan being under the umbrella of Washington, Japan has to start distancing itself from the shadow of US as it is harming Japan’s image at the global level further prohibiting its international relations in many ways. While the Japanese passport is the most powerful passport in the world sadly the Japanese diplomacy is not the strongest and this can be seen as Japan only has bilateral relations with the UN member states which are seriously getting harmed by Japan siding with US as was seen in the 1973 oil crisis where Japan also suffered due to its decision to side with united states in its support for Israel. This has also led to the fact that some countries like Russia apposing new additions to the permanent council as it says it’s going to corrode the powers of the permanent council. Also, the tag that Tokyo is under Washington’s umbrella due to its influence on Japan’s decision making also limits the support for Japan in its bid. Countries like Russia and China are therefore skeptical of allowing Japan. Thus, PM Fumio Kishida and his successors need to become more independent and have to create a separate identity for the nation which is not that difficult considering the soft power of Japan. As per the BBC’ World Service poll 2021 only the nation of China and Pakistan are the two where there is more than 30% negative perception of Japan.

As for the expansion of the G4 and representation from continents of Africa and South America is concerned there is not much that Japan can do in this case. While there is representation for Asia in the form of China these 2 continents are the world’s emerging economies and do deserve a representation to make UN more representable which was not the case when UN was formed. In all in such a scenario the only thing which Japan can do is to keep on continuing with its cheque book diplomacy coupled with its soft power capability garnering more interest in its favor and turning the countries who currently oppose its entry into its favor like South Korea, Italy and Pakistan or the Uniting Consensus Group.

The claim for a Muslim nation from the middle east becoming a member of permanent council is a vague claim as an organization like UN is not a platform for the promotion of any religion rather it is an organization which works to promote world peace which does not require a religious angel to it.

Lastly, the backyard of Japan is never going to support its bid in the UNSC and nothing can change that reality. No amount of economic aid or soft power can counter this as the war crimes committed by Japan during the World War era are still very much etched in people’s memory. As per the BBC’ World Service poll 2021 China has a 71% negative opinion of Japan, South Korea has a 20% negative opinion and Russia has a 7% negative opinion about Japan. While this is an improvement from 2017 standards Japan still has a long way to cover in order to join the UNSC and it needs to start working on it internally only then should it focus on the external issues.

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East Asia

Territorial Disputes Between Russia and Japan: Will They Ever End?

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Russia and Japan have had a long history fraught with tensions over issues of power and domicile. The First Russo-Japanese war was fought from 1904 to 1905, when Russia backed out from its understanding with the Japanese, to remove military presence from Manchuria and de-escalate tensions over territorial expansion. The Japanese attacked the Russian naval base at Port Arthur. Post the battle of Tsushima, in 1905, the Treaty of Portsmouth was drawn up with mediation of US President Roosevelt, according to which Russia reneged on its expansionist objectives regarding East Asia, and allowed for Japanese imperialism to spread over the Chinese mainland and the Korean peninsula.

After the second world war, from all the major powers of the world, these two were the ones unable to formally adhere to any treaty prescribing the normalisation of bilateral relations . A key point of contention in this ever going conflict is the matter of the rightful domicile of the four islands in the Sea of Japan region- Kunashiri, Shikotan, Etorufu and Habomais, collectively known as the ‘Southern Kuril’ islands in Russia, and ‘northern territories’ in Japan .

Even predating the first Russo-Japanese war, territorial disputes between the two began as early as 1855, when the Treaty of Commerce, Navigation and Delimitation was entered into between the Japanese and Russian Empires in Shimoda, Shizuoka Prefecture, on which the treaty was named. This treaty allowed for the imports and exports of goods on the Japanese ports of Nagasaki, Shimoda, and Hakodate. In addition, the line designating the border between the two was established on the line between Etorofu and Urup. According to an additional clause, the island of Sakhalin (or Karafuto) would remain “unpartitioned” Another pact in 1875, gave Japan the opportunity to exchange 18 Kuril Island territories for the Sakhalin region under Russian control. Apart from the sense of strategic security these islands bring, the sea surrounding them continues to remain of great economic importance to the marine and fishing industry.

In 1941, amid the second World War , Japan and the Soviet Union signed the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact in April, which asked both parties to observe non-aggressive behaviour towards each other. In the Yalta conference held in 1945, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin reached a consensus that “the Soviet Union shall enter into war against Japan” on condition that “the southern part of Sakhalin as well as the islands adjacent to it shall be returned to the Soviet Union” and that “the Kuril Islands shall be handed over to the Soviet Union.” The San Francisco Peace Treaty was signed in the aftermath of the Second World War, according to which Japan was supposed to renounce all claim to the Kuril islands as well as the part of Sakhalin they had claimed through the treaty of 1875.

In 1956, Japan and the USSR came to an understanding aiming to cease all war aggression towards each other and restore their diplomatic and trade ties via a declaration of peace. This declaration became important as it was the foundation based on which future negotiations over territorial sovereignty would take place and is still taking place till now. Article 9 of the Joint Declaration stated that the Soviet Union “agrees to transfer to Japan the Habomai Islands and the island of Shikotan, [with] the actual transfer of these islands to Japan to take place after the conclusion of a Peace Treaty.”

During the period of the Cold War, Stalin refused to entertain any possible discussion regarding the disputed land. Nikita Khruschev, however, offered up the islands of Shikotan and Habomai to the Japanese, in an attempt to sway them away from the influence of the USA, however this did not materialise due to American intervention.  However, this did not sour budding diplomatic ties between USSR and Japan, but at the same time, there wasn’t much progress or regression either. Perhaps the USSR, became too focused on America and its most powerful and strategic allies and Japan, in the course of this, became an afterthought. In the decades before the Soviet disintegration, USSR remained firm in its stance of a territorial dispute not even having justifiable grounds, and claimed that these islands were rightfully part of their territory. The Soviet Union declared the matter no longer a viable topic of negotiation citing the outcomes of the Yalta Agreement (February 11, 1945), the Cairo Declaration (November 27, 1943), the Potsdam Proclamation (July 26, 1945; accepted by Japan on August 14, 1945) and the San Francisco Peace Treaty (September 8, 1951) in which Japan renounced south Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands. From the Japanese perspective,  the  Yalta agreement is illegitimate as Japan, the main party concerned was not a participant in this understanding between the Allied powers – the US, UK and the Soviet Union . The Japanese then, in retaliation,  again started building closer networks with the Americans.

It was only when Mikhael Gorbachev gained power that the Soviet State acknowledged the existence of such a dispute. Through negotiations with the Japanese, Gorbachev aimed to rebuild the soviet economy by laterally also discussing economic partnerships with the Japanese. This, in Boris Yeltsin’s time, was something that was faced with a lot of domestic resistance, and he could only bring the matter of a few islands of the Northern Kuriles to the table. Soon after, resistance on the Soviet front grew, and the talks were unfruitful. Thus, fresh from disintegration, the new Russian state now, instead focused on building an alliance with a party more aligned with its strategic interests: China.

By the dawn of the new millennium, the heads of state of both Moscow and Tokyo, Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Hashimoto, both weary of the actions of their traditional allies (China and the USA), once again embarked on an attempt to strengthen ties by resolving this territorial dispute. The Japanese proposed the handover of the Kurile territories in exchange for offering economic assistance, which once again did not find many takers within Russia, and negotiations once again broke down. In 2003, Japan’s Prime Minister and Putin gave their approval to a ten-point “action plan” with agendas not limited to bilateral ties and territorial dispute resolution. Since then, Japan and Russia have increased cooperation on a number of fronts, including fishing, shipbuilding, and other marine activities. Another reason why Japan stays interested in maintaining peaceful ties with Russia is because of the hugely lucrative opportunities for Japanese tech firms in Russia.

Another major impediment on the path to progress was when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. The Japanese publicly denounced Russia and urged its economic partner to adhere to the ways of a rules based world order. It suspended “consultation for easing visa regulations” and froze “negotiations of a new investment agreement.” Later that year, at the Asia Pacific Economic Summit in Beijing, Shinzo Abe  and Vladmir Putin once again sat at the negotiation table to revive bilateral ties.

Japan’s previous Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in an attempt to revive bilateral cooperation, proposed an eight-point economic cooperation plan, which had the ultimate objective of resolving the territorial dispute. It seemed like an integral move to make sure that Japan remains a key player in East Asia, in the face of deepening Sino-Russian ties.

Once again, the ongoing Ukraine Crisis has proved to be a dealbreaker in any possible negotiations that could have taken place between Russia and Japan regarding the Northern Territories or Kurile Islands, as Japan publicly condemned Russia once again for its ruthless invasion of Ukraine in a G7 meeting in early 2022. Currently, Russia, with Putin as head of state, is already agitated and overdrawn due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its repercussions, and the condemning punitive actions it is at the receiving end of by NATO and its allies. Similarly, it has also expressed its paranoia and need for security by posting naval fleets in the Sea of Japan.

In the long course of history between Japan and Russia, who are bound together by physical proximity, one can see that economic opportunities were always a way to strengthen bilateral ties. In today’s age, Japan has the technology and Russia has the resources, which, if put together, could bring in the next big thing in the energy sector. However, as with many other old territorial disputes, sentiments of national pride are deeply linked to these territories, making it even more difficult to come to a resolution. The people inhabiting the disputed land, too, root for this dispute to end so that they can enjoy the benefits of confirmed political identities. The indigenous people of this territory, the Ainu, had lived in isolation and were undocumented until the twentieth century. The people living on Sakhalin consider themselves stateless, and want to return home. However, given the ongoing and worsening Ukrainian crisis, it does not seem like either Japan or Russia will want to sit at the negotiation table anytime soon, and like many other instances in international relations, this issue too will remain unresolved for a few more years to come.

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East Asia

China: Past, Present and Future

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Image source: chanakyaforum.com

The Chinese are proud people and they have a rich history and culture of which they are so proud. Currently, China is the second largest economy in the world after of course the USA and it has a military power that many countries can be envious of but in recent times China is facing some downturns and economic pitfalls, as well as protests against Xi Jinping’s current regimes, covid lockdown which is kind of out of place in China, considering China has a hard grip over its citizens and has strict surveillance over the country even the super-rich and big private industry are not free from this tight grip.

China’s economic and Global political rise

Prior to 1978, China’s economy was in poor shape but after economic and trade liberalization in 1979 under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping China’s economic rise was meticulous in almost every case be it domestic or international. If we look back at the past from 1953 to 1978 China’s yearly economic growth was 6.7% but after the various economic reforms from 1978 to 2013 China’s economy grew by 9.5%. At the same time as having a growing economy, China was also growing its political influence throughout the world. During the cold war era, China was relatively a minnow in world politics but after the fall of the soviet union in 1991 China began to come to a more prominent role and this was largely possible due to the absence of any global hegemonic power except the USA also USA themselves to some extent helped China in their endeavours for example in 1972 then US president Richard Nixon and foreign secretary Henry Kissinger visited China and recognized mainland China that we know today replacing Taiwan and thus China replaced Taiwan as the permanent member at the UN security council this work of Nixon also led to loosening US economic and trade controls and finally giving China a seat at the WTO in 2001 all of this was done to combat the soviet union but led to the rise of China. This growth of China was pessimistically addressed by John Mearsheimer, the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago. According to Mearsheimer in an article titled “The Rise of China Will Not Be Peaceful at All” in The Australian, November 18, 2005 he wrote that ”If China continues its impressive economic growth over the next few decades, the US and China are likely to engage in an intense security competition with considerable potential for war. Most of China’s neighbours, to include India, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Russia and Vietnam, will join with the US to contain China’s power.” This is just what happened and we are seeing it with our very own eyes although Russia can be Regarded as a friend not per say but rather a well-wisher to China.

The present Status

Currently China is facing economic downturns as well as a series of protest regarding covid lockdowns. According to data given by Asian development bank economic growth of China is expected to be 3.3% amid covid restrictions and is projected to grow 4.5% in 2023. For the coming two years the Chinese growth will be significantly lower than the past this can be attributed to some factors such as Zero covid policy which has downgraded exports significantly also there is the loss of investors due to government crackdowns on tech giants such as ‘Alibaba.com’, according to BBC tencents recent quarter profit fell by 50% and Alibaba’s net income fell half. After being elected a record third time as president in October 2022 at the 20th CCP  congress xi is now giving focus on national security and this can be seen in his politburo standing committee and 24 member central committee which lacks economic expertise and faced departure of premier Li Keqiang who oversaw Chinese economy since the leadership of Hu Jintao. The current committee consists of mainly loyalists like Zeng Youxia who was the vice chairman of the central Military commission who are Xi’s allies and is expected to work to fulfill Xi’s security goals. China  is also facing an nationalist rejuvenation which any regard as ‘The return of Red China” , Kevin Rudd who is the president of Asia society and served as both prime minister and foreign minister of Australia discussed in his article in the ‘Foreign Policy’ Magazine that China is facing ideological shifts and taking policy that are far from economic and mainly focusing on security and military aspects which are somewhat different from the past and  is emphasizing on the Marxist-Leninist methodology it has even been stated in the annual work report of the party given during the congress that the party members are required to have idea on worldview and the methodology of Marxism-Leninism and apply this idea to understand the challenges of current times.

What does the Future Hold?

‘The Belt and Road initiative’(BRI) was Xi’s most prominent project during his first two terms and it can be speculated that in the next five years the project will be on the way to be fulfilled as China is aiming for more economic integration and political economic dominance in the Asian continent also there is the challenge of a economic downturn along with weak domestic demand and swelling debt. And there is the problem of aging population along with low birth rates, growing pension cost and social security expenditure, according to ‘World Economic Forum’ 18.9% which is 267 million people are above 60 years and this may rise to one-third of the population before 2050 and this can be fought by upgrading healthcare system, social welfare and make active aging integral part of economic growth linking health with wealth and common prosperity. Along with domestic challenges Xi’s China will face some global challenges also specially with USA and Taiwan. The Biden administration took recent steps to deter China from becoming world’s largest supplier of semi-conducters and then there is the threat of a war with Taiwan which was provoked by US house speaker Nancy Pelosi’s 2 august Taiwan visit after which created backlash from Chinese authorities and as a response to that China launched 11 ballistic missiles into the waters around China and the current situation is very much uncertain.

China is currently undergoing changes both economically and politically with rise of nationalism and Xi Jinping’s ambition to make China a global power. The world will certainly feel China’s rise in the years to come and wether Xi is in power after five years or not his impact will be felt in Chinese politics and throughout the world.

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