Tokyo (and probably the whole world) was shocked when Bloomberg News reported on June 25 that:
“President Donald Trump has recently mused to confidants about withdrawing from a longstanding defense treaty with Japan, according to three people familiar with the matter, in his latest complaint about what he sees as unfair U.S. security pacts…
“… Trump regards the accord as too one-sided because it promises U.S. aid if Japan is ever attacked, but doesn’t oblige Japan’s military to come to America’s defense, the people said …”
The Abe administration immediately responded and dismissed such a possibility. Reuters also quickly reported that “U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday reassured Japan he was committed to a military treaty that both nations have described as a cornerstone of security in Asia …”
The US-Japan security pact may be modified but only insane people would believe that it would vanish in the coming future. Therefore, the China-Japan relation will not have any change in the near term. For example, Japan has sided with Washington in respect of the call for banning Huawei.
However, the interactive dynamics between these two East Asian powers are moving toward a co-operative rather than antagonistic mode.
At the inter-personal level, The Japan Times said on Feb 5, 2019 that “Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit Japan twice this year as Tokyo seeks a further improvement in relations with Beijing through a series of top-level meetings …”
“… Sino-Japanese relations have been improving amid U.S.-China trade friction. Abe, who became the first Japanese leader in nearly seven years to make an official visit to China last year (Oct 2018), has expressed a desire to lift bilateral ties to ‘a new level’ …”
It is a very important development because both Xi and Abe are now highly stable leaders, that is, firmly in the seat of political power. They both are capable, calculative and pragmatic. If they have the common will, they can turn impossible into possible.
At the inter-national level, there are two areas which must be examined carefully. One is the widening cultural divergence between the US and Japan. Although Japan has been suffering from lifeless economic growth for over 30 years (more or less) due to the US-Japan tension in the 1970s, the ruling LDP remains close with Washington, partly because Tokyo has no other choice to lessen the threat from China, and partly because many Japanese see America as a role model.
However, the rising tide of the white supremacy in the U.S. (began well before Trump’s presidency) is not just shrinking the trust between the white and the colored inside America, but also all over the world (not to go into further details since it is outside the discussion about China here).
Another area is the common need for growth and prosperity. While the development in Eurasia is offering a potential for century-long economic development and financial cooperation (e.g. the recent stock market connection), what is decisive is also their common hard-working cultural drive. Take a look at this Harvard Magazine July/August 2019 Issue essay’s conclusion:
“… By virtually any measure—wealth, power, prosperity—Japan and China by the twenty-first century had navigated their way to success. For all the trauma experienced along the way, they had done so time and again by engaging in what Vogel in earlier works has termed a “group-directed quest for knowledge.”
Both nations have demonstrated—and continue to demonstrate—a sublime capacity for society-wide learning, most often from practices observed abroad. What is more, they translate such learning into purposive and highly aspirational efforts at society-wide renewal, redefinition, and re-creation. From our own defensive crouch in the present era of “Making America Great Again,” we could do worse than open ourselves up to gleaning lessons from such an approach.”
The opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of China Daily Mail.