If you can’t beat them, join them
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.
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.