By ISHIDA RYUJI
Japan's economy has been stagnant for nearly 30 years, yet it still has ambitions to be a military superpower
SONG CHEN/CHINA DAILY
A joint strategy document was delivered after the Japan-United States Security Consultative Committee (2+2) meeting in Washington on Jan 12, 2023. It was based on three defense documents issued by the Japanese Cabinet in December 2022, namely the National Security Strategy, the National Defense Program Guidelines and the Mid-Term Defense Program.
The Japanese government has clearly taken China as a hostile country in these documents, indicating that its Self-Defense Forces will strengthen their cooperation with the US military to target China. To this end, Japan has hiked its military budget and improved its counterattack capability, which goes far beyond the established policy of its so-called purely defensive defense posture, since the capability to hit enemy bases is not allowed.
While claiming that the security environment is deteriorating, the Japanese government is attempting to change the status quo by force and is therefore doubling its military expenditure.
If the economic growth of countries in the "Indo-Pacific" region is regarded as a "challenge to the international order", all the developed countries in the region should be regarded as a "threat". Yet Japan's rapid economic growth in the 1960s was praised instead of being seen as a threat. The so-called free and open international order pursued by the West would be neither free nor open if it did not include India and China. Only by positioning the fast-growing developing countries as emerging partners rather than threats, can regional peace and stability be effectively guaranteed.
Japan's military build-up to counter China's rise is in essence an attempt to create enemies unilaterally by not allowing the development of a new power that might threaten the vested interests of the West.
In this regard, the US and Japanese governments have always disregarded the fact that the Japan-US alliance has overwhelming military strength in the Asia-Pacific region. The US and Japan have sought to legitimize the reinforcement of their military presence by hyping up China's "extensive and rapid military build-up". However, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, China's military expenditure in 2021, which was the second highest in the world at $293.35 billion, was only about one-third that of the total military expenditure of the US, which was the highest at $800.67 billion, and Japan, which was ninth in the world at $54.12 billion. It is true that China's military expenditure has been increasing since the 2000s, but it is necessary to put that in the context of the need to modernize its military and the continuous development of its economy. In fact, China's military budget increases have remained in the range of 1.3 to 1.6 percent of its GDP since 1995, far below its economic growth rate.
There is no doubt that the US' military spending is considerably greater than that of any other country in the world, with its military expenditure accounting for 3 percent to 4 percent of its GDP. Japan is now about to double its quota of 1 percent to 2 percent of its GDP, and will become the world's third-largest military power. The country's economy has been stagnant for nearly 30 years, yet it still has ambitions to be a military superpower. That is not commensurate with its economy. And the US military can take full advantage of its newest base on Okinawa, which is located at China's "throat". If there is any military threat in East Asia, it is not from China but from the Japan-US alliance.
China's policy is not hostile to the US and Japan, and it has not formed any military alliances targeting any other country. Japan and the US, by contrast, no longer disguise the nature of their military alliance. Military alliances require enemies to be fabricated if there is no real threat, which is what the US did with the Soviet Union and what it is now doing with China. On the other hand, since the mid-1950s, China has always followed the diplomatic principle of non-alignment and pacifism and insisted on not having military alliances. In the face of containment and blockade, China did not take the initiative to identify the US and Japan as enemies and conduct a targeted military build-up. The containment and blockade of the US-Japan alliance are entirely unilateral hostility, which has never changed.
China's Foreign Ministry on Feb 22, 2023, issued the Global Security Initiative Concept Paper, a vision of peace proposed by China to the world at a critical moment given the situation in Ukraine. Compared with the "strategy document "between Japan and the US in January, China's aspirations for peace and the pursuit of global interests are evident.
In the process of promoting the implementation of the Global Security Initiative, China will adhere to mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation. In contrast to the idea of forming military alliances that are hostile to or antagonistic toward specific countries, the Global Security Initiative embodies an aspiration of pursuing peace and a community with a shared future.
China and Japan signed their Treaty of Peace and Friendship in 1978. Although that treaty remains in force, the "strategy document" of Japan and the US made no mention of it. Japan's current policy blatantly ignores the first article of the treaty: "The Contracting Parties shall develop relations of perpetual peace and friendship between the two countries on the basis of the principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit and peaceful co-existence".
While China is strictly implementing the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, Japan and the US are building up their military force so as to intervene in the Taiwan question. It is they that are the greatest challenge to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
The author is an associate researcher at the School of Humanities at Shanghai Jiaotong University. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily.