Monday, January 25, 2010

Land of waning influence?

The New York Times ran a story a couple of days ago about Japan's warming relations with China. At the beginning it does a good job going to extremes, all but saying that Japan is going to nix its alliance with the U.S. in the short-term. However, at the end it redeems itself by accurately pointing out that despite the recent improvements in Sino-Japanese relations, there are still major differences between China and Japan (read Kim's paradise in North Korea).

I think that the end of the article is more realistic and the main point to walk away with. Japan and China are not going to be BFFs any time soon, as there are still deeply rooted memories of Japan's invasion of China and the atrocities its military committed. Also, they still have outstanding border disputes.

Closer ties between China and Japan are a good thing. The last thing the U.S. needs is an anxious Japan worried about China and effecting a change in Article 9 of their constitution. If that were to happen, China would no doubt ramp up its already ambitious military modernization. China benefits from continued U.S. security cooperation with Japan as it prevents such events from transpiring. Of course, this is applicable to the now. If in the future Chinese interests would be better served by a downgrading of U.S.-Japanese relations, Beijing could sweeten the pot for Japan. Although whether Tokyo would respond favorably depends on China's actions, Washington's treatment of Japan going forward, and if Sino-U.S. ties are tenuous.


  1. Chris -- Welcome to the Blogosphere! We'll have to have you guest post on http://demagoguesanddictators.blogspot.com we only hope you deem us worthy! After the recent semi-Shogunate esq visit from Japan to China, how do you view the future of their relations, especially with a Liberal Japan?

  2. In one word: slow. In the Asian culture trust is built up over a period of time between individuals, so add decades between China and Japan given their past. Liberal Japan at this point has no clear direction I feel, having been on the margins of Japanese politics. And even if it did, governments can only move as fast as their population is willing. I'm not sure that your average Japanese citizen is running to China's warm embrace at this stage. I think at this point Japan has no choice but to engage more with China because of economics and the new Japanese government recognizes this. Japan needs some serious economic growth and China is the place to be. At the end of the day, this is a good step but things could quickly turn sour with a visit to a certain temple, North Korea acting up, or infringement on their EEZ. Future relations between the two will be like spring in Massachusetts in April: warm with a chance of snow or low temperature.

    And yes, you guys are definitely worthy. It is I who am questionable in that regard.