If you can’t beat them, join them

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

It was a long time ago when Masaru Ogawa, edi­tor of the Ja­pan Times for eight years till 1977, told me of his en­counter with U.S. am­bas­sador in Tokyo Ed­win O. Reis­chauer. Ogawa, a Ni­sei born in Los An­ge­les, told Reis­chauer, the son born in Tokyo of Pres­by­te­rian ed­u­ca­tional mis­sion­ary par­ents, he didn’t be­lieve the United States would come to the res­cue of Ja­pan if the Sovi­ets at­tacked Ja­pan with atomic bombs, though mu­tual de­fense is ob­li­gated in the U.S.-Ja­pan Se­cu­rity Treaty.

“Reis­chauer was shocked,” said Ogawa, who was 17 years my se­nior. The Amer­i­can author­ity in Ja­panol­ogy who taught at Har­vard be­fore he was as­signed to Tokyo truly be­lieved the United States would keep its prom­ise to fight against the Sovi­ets if Ja­pan was at­tacked. A young Ogawa re­turned to Ja­pan shortly be­fore the Ja­panese sneak attack on Pearl Har­bor and wasn’t forced into the Ja­panese Im­pe­rial Army through a timely in­ter­ces­sion of his ma­ter­nal un­cle, Gen­eral Kenji Do­hi­hara. Ogawa and I were agreed that the Amer­i­cans wouldn’t fight for Ja­pan, be­cause the Japs are Asians. Well, that’s the rea­son Pres­i­dent


Harry S. Tru­man de­cided to drop two atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Na­gasaki to end the Sec­ond World War.


But most of the Ja­panese be­lieve they are su­pe­rior Asians. Some of them even be­lieve they are — un­like the Chi­nese, Kore­ans, Malaysians, Kore­ans, Thais, Filipinos, and In­done­sians — off­spring of the ten lost tribes of Is­rael. Their con­vic­tion was re­flected in a dec­la­ra­tion by For­eign Min­is­ter Hachiro Arita in June of 1940. In his “In­ter­na­tional Sit­u­a­tion and Ja­pan’s Po­si­tion” speech, Arita pro­nounced the cre­ation of a Great East Asia Co-pros­per­ity Sphere (GEACS) as “a self-suf­fi­cient bloc of na­tions led by the Ja­panese and free of West­ern pow­ers.”

Prime Min­is­ter Ju­nichiro Koizumi tried to cre­ate a new GEACS in vain af­ter China had started dom­i­nat­ing the ASEAN Plus Three (APT or ASEAN+3). He wanted Ja­pan to be in the sad­dle as it used to be in place of a ris­ing China. His pro­tege, Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe, is fight­ing a los­ing war to keep Ja­pan’s lead­er­ship role in Asia.

Abe met Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping last week on the side­lines of an Asia-Africa sum­mit in Jakarta, In­done­sia, in com­mem­o­ra­tion of the Bun­dung Con­fer­ence of 1955. Xi said he hopes for Ja­pan to join the Chi­nese-led Asian In­fra­struc­ture In­vest­ment Bank (AIIB), though Ja­pan chose not to take part by the March 31 dead­line set by China for ac­cept­ing its found­ing mem­bers. Al­to­gether, 57 found­ing mem­bers were con­firmed. They would set gov­ern­ing rules and in­vest­ment ra­tios by the end of June through ne­go­ti­a­tions.

As a mat­ter of fact, China of­fered Ja­pan the post of a “toprank­ing vice pres­i­dent” of the AIIB, which would be­come op­er­a­tional at the end of this year. Jin Liqun, the in­terim head of the AIIB, who served as vice pres­i­dent of the Asian Devel­op­ment Bank (ADB) un­der Haruhiko Kuroda, now gover­nor of the Bank of Ja­pan, made the of­fer to Takehiko Nakao, the cur­rent ADB pres­i­dent, be­cause China needs Ja­panese ex­per­tise to man­age the planned bank. Nakao op­posed the AIIB on grounds that the Amer­i­can-led post­war norms of in­ter­na­tional fi­nance must re­main un­changed.

‘Sec­ond fid­dle’

The real rea­son Ja­pan does not want to join the AIIB is that the Ja­panese do not like to play the sec­ond or third fid­dle in the Asian- ini­ti­ated bank. A re­cent public opin­ion sur­vey in Tokyo showed more than 50 per­cent of the el­i­gi­ble vot­ers are op­posed to Ja­panese par­tic­i­pa­tion in the AIIB. More­over, Ja­pan has cho­sen to fol­low the United States that set the norms of in­ter­na­tional fi­nance at the U.N. Mon­e­tary and Fi­nan­cial Con­fer­ence at Bret­ton Woods in 1944.

Kiy­oyuki Seguchi, re­search direc­tor at the Canon In­sti­tute for Global Stud­ies, was a rare voice of courage to call for Ja­pan’s par­tic­i­pa­tion. He said if Ja­pan does not par­tic­i­pate, Ja­panese com­pa­nies will be in a dis­ad­van­ta­geous po­si­tion when com­pet­ing for in­fra­struc­ture con­tracts in the rest of Asia. More­over, he be­lieved Ja­pan’s in­flu­ence in an im­por­tant chan­nel di­rectly in­volved with re­gional eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion in the Asia-Pa­cific will de­crease, while the AIIB’s op­er­a­tions will be im­proved with Ja­pan’s par­tic­i­pa­tion as it has rich op­er­at­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in other sim­i­lar or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the ADB, which may be made an even bet­ter or­ga­ni­za­tion by the AIIB’s smooth devel­op­ment.

There can be lit­tle doubt that co­op­er­a­tion be­tween China and Ja­pan will bring huge benefits to Asia, and Asia’s devel­op­ment will also ben­e­fit Ja­pan. But Abe does not want Ja­pan to join the AIIB, for­get­ting the Ja­panese are Asians the Amer­i­cans and the Eu- ro­peans used to look down upon.

It’s only nat­u­ral for an ul­tra­na­tion­al­ist Abe to hate to see Ja­pan fol­low China, a mem­ber state un­der Wang Ching- wei of the GEACS like Manchukuo which the Ja­panese Im­pe­rial Army cre­ated in Manchuria where his ma­ter­nal grand­fa­ther Nobusuke Kishi was one of the top Ja­panese of­fi­cials to plan and carry out its industrial devel­op­ment. Wang knew full well China couldn’t fight Ja­pan, and so had his Repub­lic of China join the GEACS, along with the Ja­panese- oc­cu­pied Philip­pines, Thai­land, Burma, Malaysia, In­done­sia and In­dia. Time has changed. Though Ja­pan rose at one time as “Num­ber One” in the world af­ter its de­feat in World War II, China has risen as the world’s sec­ond largest econ­omy and is poised to knock out the United States as the top eco­nomic power of the world in a mere five years.

Ja­pan has to iden­tify it­self with Asia by join­ing the AIIB. Oth­er­wise it will alien­ate all Asian coun­tries. Abe should pocket his pride and let Ja­pan fol­low China, just as Wang did be­cause his China couldn’t fight Im­pe­rial Ja­pan. Abe should know the Ja­panese can’t fight the Chi­nese now. The Ja­panese had bet­ter join the Chi­nese, if they can’t fight and hope to win.

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