Country Report: China (February 2023)
Chinese analysts continue to devote a great deal of attention to Southeast Asia and South Asia. They assessed diverse conceptions of national security among various ASEAN member states. They also examined the evolution of the Quad and the implications for China–ASEAN relations. Chinese observers analyzed the implications for China of closer bilateral relations between Japan and Vietnam in the context of Sino–US competition and evaluated the impact of informal cooperation mechanisms recently created by China as part of its diplomatic outreach to South Asia. They also explored Japan’s “pan-securitization” of its China policy, arguing that an over-exaggerated Japanese sense of the threat posed by China is damaging the bilateral relationship. At a broader level, Chinese analysts condemned Sino–US competition and the United States’ Indo-Pacific strategy, and advocated for China to maintain strong relations with countries in Southeast Asia and South Asia in the face of what they perceive as efforts by the United States and Japan to force small and middle powers to “pick sides.”
The essence of Chinese writings on Southeast and South Asia in the latter part of 2022 was a growing sense of concern that the United States joined by Japan was undermining a strategy pursued by China to use the Belt and Road Initiative and other mechanisms to integrate these areas economically under China’s influence and prevent them from joining in either security or values-oriented arrangements at odds with China’s designs. Three customary responses had run into difficulty: (1) the confidence that US divisions and lack of resources would undermine its plans; (2) the mantra that differences in national interests and willingness to confront China would prove so divisive as to render such plans ineffective; and (3) the reassurance that China was on track to drive further wedges between the US and the states it was courting. All three of these themes are present in the articles reviewed but without the usual confident assertiveness. The advance of the Quad, despite India’s wariness of focusing on China by name, appears to have shaken China. Despite China’s own role in weakening ASEAN centrality, the impact was troubling, as countries such as Vietnam worked more closely with Japan and the US. Worrisome too is Japan’s linkage of economics and security, to which China is struggling to find an answer.
Conceptions of National Security in Southeast Asia
In Guoji Zhengzhi Yanjiu, 2022, no. 5, Zhao Yi examines the diverse conceptions of national security held by various Southeast Asian states. Zhao argues that it is not surprising that Southeast Asian states have different understandings of national security given their diverse religions, levels of socio-economic development, and political systems. Zhao argues that Southeast Asian states can be grouped into three categories: countries that consider both internal and external aspects of national security; countries that are primarily focused on internal security; and countries whose definitions of national security are based on their unique national characteristics.
Zhao asserts that Vietnam and Indonesia emphasize both internal and external dimensions of national security, and that this view of national security is rooted in their experience of fighting for independence following World War II. Both countries have significant military forces and demonstrate autonomy in their foreign policies. Vietnam’s conception of national security emphasizes both the potential threats posed by foreign aggressors and internal threats to domestic stability. As described by the Communist Party of Vietnam at its 13th National Party Congress in 2021, threats include both traditional and non-traditional security threats, encompassing both foreign threats to its territorial sovereignty and domestic threats to its economic, social, and political stability. Similarly, Zhao argues, Indonesia is also concerned with both external threats, such as those generated by territorial and maritime disputes with its 10 land and sea neighbors, and internal threats, such as those posed by domestic terrorism and ethnic separatism and by natural disasters.
By contrast, Zhao contends, a second group of Southeast Asian states (the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar) focuses primarily on domestic security, owing to a combination of their historical experiences, the legacies of the Cold War, and Southeast Asian regional politics. Since independence, the Philippines’ primary security focus has been on various armed anti-government forces (initially communist groups, and now including Islamist groups). As described in its 2018 National Security Strategy, the conception of national security has become more comprehensive, encompassing the well-being of the population, economic development, and environmental protection, in addition to the more traditional focus on national defense and regime survival. Although Zhao acknowledges that the 2018 National Security Strategy discusses the challenge presented by Sino–US competition, particularly as it relates to the South China Sea, Zhao argues that the Philippines’ conception of national security is still primarily focused on internal threats. Similarly, since independence the Malaysian government has sought to maintain domestic stability, initially from challenges posed by communist groups, and more recently from Islamist extremists. While its 2019 National Security Policy recognizes both internal and external aspects of Malaysian national security, Zhao argues that Malaysia, like the Philippines, has in practice predominantly emphasized domestic threats to its security. Thailand, whose history is characterized by infrequent international tensions but frequent coups, is focused primarily on protecting the monarchy as the key aspect of its national security.
A third group, Zhao contends, consists of two countries, Singapore and Brunei, which have unique understandings of national security based on a more profound sense of crisis and greater sensitivity to issues of national security. Since independence, Singapore has remained acutely focused on the survival of the state; although it is a high-income country, it recognizes that it has a small population and cannot achieve self-sufficiency. Consequently, since 1984 Singapore has embraced the notion that all Singaporeans must work together to ensure “total defense,” which includes psychological, social, economic, civil, military, and (since 2019) digital aspects of defense. Meanwhile, Brunei is unique as the only sultanate in Southeast Asia, and religious piety is a key aspect of its national security. It is concerned both with avoiding external threats that would impede its development prospects and with maintaining the absolute authority of the sultan and of Islam.
Generally speaking, Zhao argues, conceptions of national security have expanded from the immediate post-World War II focus on military and political security to the inclusion of economic concerns in the 1970s and the embrace of non-traditional security issues after the Cold War. After independence, Southeast Asian states widely accepted the concept of national security, but large variations in their cultural traditions and political institutions have led them to define national security in very different ways, particularly since the end of the Cold War. Zhao concludes that the concept of national security is rooted in a Western discourse that has spread across the world, and which now must be challenged to encompass a wider variety of factors that account for the national conditions and unique histories of states like those of Southeast Asia.
The Quad and Sino–ASEAN Relations
In Dongnanya Zongheng, 2022, no. 3, Huang Jie, Zheng Yingyu, and Huang Lili examine how the evolution of the Quad has influenced Sino–ASEAN cooperation. Huang, Zheng, and Huang argue that the Quad has undergone three phases. The first phase, led by Japan from 2004–2008, was officially in place for less than a year before the countries backed away and the mechanism went into “hibernation.” The second phase, from 2017–2020, was marked by the reactivation of the security dialogue, this time led by the United States as part of the Trump administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy. According to Huang, Zheng, and Huang, “Quad 2.0” had six key characteristics: it aimed to contain China; the meetings were upgraded to the ministerial level; the agenda was broader; the four countries were better able to coordinate operations; the parties stressed shared ideology over practical cooperation measures; and the mechanism was flexible and loose. The third phase, which began with the March 2021 virtual leaders’ summit and is ongoing, is characterized by the upgrading of the mechanism, its institutionalization, and its routinization. Huang, Zheng, and Huang argue that “Quad 3.0” is based on closer cooperation between the four countries to combat an “imagined” Chinese threat. It consists of a shift from emphasizing shared ideology to practical cooperation on issues such as supply chain security, climate change, and epidemic response; innovative cooperation paradigms; and expanding capacity, particularly through outreach to NATO and the EU.
Huang, Zheng, and Huang argue that each of the four member states has different national interests and priorities in play. They see the United States as an active leader with plenty of “heart” but insufficient power. While the United States instigated the revival of the Quad mechanism, drove the upgrading of talks to the ministerial—and then summit—level, and strengthened security cooperation among the four members, declining US hegemony and a damaged reputation leave the United States with insufficient power to promote the further development of the mechanism. Faced with political polarization and slowing economic growth, the United States has asked its partners to take on more responsibility. At the same time, the authors contend, the Trump administration’s effort to shift defense costs to US allies, the chaotic US withdrawal from Kabul in 2021, and the US decision not to intervene militarily in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine have diminished the credibility of the United States, decreasing the cohesion of the Quad.
Huang, Zheng, and Huang see Japan as a second important promoter of the Quad: the foundational concept originated during Abe’s first term and Japan actively promoted bilateral and trilateral dialogues among the Quad’s members both before and after the emergence of “Quad 2.0”. By supporting the development of the Quad, Japan not only demonstrates the value it places on its alliance with the United States, but also attempts to increase its influence in Southeast Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific. Yet, Japan also realizes that an overemphasis on the Quad makes it hard to avoid excluding small- and medium-sized Indo-Pacific countries, hampering Japan’s ability to achieve its vision of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific. Japan also values regional economic and social governance and is cognizant of China’s influence. Consequently, Japan claims that it does not want the Quad to target a “particular country” (namely, China).
Huang, Zheng, and Huang characterize Australia as an “active follower” of the United States. Despite Australia’s initially cautious approach toward the Quad, its support has grown in line with its increasing tendency since 2015 to characterize China as a threat. Huang, Zheng, and Huang argue that Australia is willing to follow the US policy direction because it views the U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific and the Australia–US alliance as key to Australia’s national security. Furthermore, the Quad supports Australia’s claim to “absolute dominance” in the South Pacific.
Like many analysts, Huang, Zheng, and Huang view India as the “weakest link” in the Quad, owing in large part to its ambivalence about the arrangement. Participation in the Quad allows India to strengthen its military capabilities and gain regional and international influence. Nevertheless, India’s apprehensiveness about the Quad limits the development of the mechanism. India’s long-time non-alignment policy has generated a desire for “strategic autonomy”; unwilling to pick sides, India will not pursue a formal military alliance with any of the members of the Quad. In this same vein, India does not want the Quad to target China, arguing instead that the mechanism must be inclusive and support a rules-based order. India resisted efforts to upgrade Quad talks to the ministerial level and has emphasized bilateral relations with Quad members over participation in the Quad mechanism.
From an institutional perspective, Huang, Zheng, and Huang identify both factors that advance the Quad’s development and contradictions that hinder it. They argue that the four countries share a desire to contain China, which forms a fundamental rationale for the Quad. The Quad members also share a commitment to “democratic values” (a phrase the authors place in quotes to indicate their skepticism of this claim). This shared ideology, they assert, is the basis for a collective identity, which has calcified into a zero-sum view of the world in which these “democratic” states are unified against a perceived Chinese quest for power.
Nevertheless, the authors contend, contradictions threaten to undermine the cohesiveness of the Quad. The four members’ level of commitment to containing China varies. The United States is the most committed, while Japan, India, and Australia seek to balance their participation in the Quad with their desire not to provoke China, not least because of the degree of their economic interdependence with China. The mechanism also has had a limited impact on economic cooperation among the Quad members, despite the announcement of initiatives such as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. Furthermore, although the four countries appear to be unified, they are divided on important issues, such as the Sino–Indian conflict, pandemic aid to India, and the Russia–Ukraine war.
Despite these contradictions, Huang, Zheng, and Huang argue, the cooperation mechanisms of the Quad will continue to strengthen as long as China’s power and influence continue to grow. Military and security cooperation mechanisms will be further institutionalized and joint military exercises will become more frequent, with the possibility that the countries might one day form a military alliance against China. Furthermore, the authors expect that the Quad will expand both its membership, as suggested by recent Quad+ initiatives, and the scope of the issues on which it facilitates cooperation.
Huang, Zheng, and Huang predict that the development of the Quad will limit the strategic space in which ASEAN can maneuver and will damage the foundations of Sino–ASEAN cooperation. By altering the regional balance of power, the development of the Quad will change the existing regional order and increase instability. It will undermine the principle of ASEAN centrality, by introducing an alternative regional institution, and undercut ASEAN unity through Quad+ outreach to specific ASEAN member states. The authors also anticipate that the development of the Quad will lead to the encirclement of China and increase tensions in the South China Sea, thereby undermining the regional peace and stability that is essential to smooth Sino–ASEAN cooperation. They caution that the increased pressure on ASEAN members to “pick sides” will diminish strategic mutual trust between China and ASEAN, as the Quad seeks to win over ASEAN member states to the side of “freedom.” They also warn that the Quad’s efforts to counter the Belt and Road Initiative and “de-Sinicize” supply chains may undermine Sino–ASEAN economic interdependence.
Huang, Zheng, and Huang conclude that China must strengthen its relationship with ASEAN to counter the attempts of the Quad to encircle and contain China. China should support ASEAN centrality and the existing regional order, effectively manage the South China Sea disputes so as not to give the Quad an opening to sow dissent, enhance strategic mutual trust between China and ASEAN, and strengthen Sino–ASEAN interdependence by linking the Belt and Road Initiative with ASEAN’s development initiatives.
In Dongnanya Zongheng, 2022, no. 3, Wu Yu and Wang Jizhou examine the implications for China of closer Japan–Vietnam relations in the context of great power competition between China and the United States. Vietnam and Japan established diplomatic relations in 1973. In the mid-1990s, Japanese investment began to flow into Vietnam, but political relations did not strengthen until the beginning of the twenty-first century. The two countries formed a strategic partnership, later upgraded to an extensive strategic partnership.
In the context of intensifying Sino–US competition and US support for Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific concept, Vietnam sees Japan as key to establishing a strategic balance, while Japan views Vietnam as crucial for strengthening its relations with Southeast Asia. Accordingly, the bilateral relationship has evolved. High-level leaders from each country share positive impressions of the other, and bilateral maritime cooperation has deepened. Japanese overseas development assistance (ODA) to Vietnam is substantial, accounting for 30% of Japan’s total ODA. Japan sees its ODA as serving an ideological role by cultivating relationships with partners with which it shares “common values”, and has claimed that its ODA to Vietnam strengthens their bilateral relationship and promotes the Free and Open Indo-Pacific concept. Japan has also recently encouraged the relocation of businesses to Vietnam and other countries in Southeast Asia to diversify its supply chains. The two countries have focused on cooperation in emerging fields, including carbon neutrality and worker exchanges. In addition, Japan has trained Vietnamese peacekeepers and worked with the Vietnamese military to strengthen network security; Japan hopes this work will open up new opportunities for similar relationships with other ASEAN countries and build support for Japan’s quest to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
Security concerns are one important reason for this increased bilateral cooperation. Wu and Wang contend that China’s overtaking of Japan as the world’s second largest economy has led Japan to exaggerate the dangers of its current security environment, particularly in the East and South China Seas, causing it to pursue a more confrontational approach toward China; this has increased the strategic significance of Japan’s relationship with Vietnam. A second key factor relates to the two countries’ efforts to manage their respective relations with the United States. Since the mid-2000s, Japan has sought a more active role in its alliance with the United States. Meanwhile, US–Vietnam relations have warmed as the United States seeks to “win over” Vietnam in the context of Sino–US strategic competition and Vietnam tries to balance among the great powers. A third driver of closer bilateral relations is the promotion of trade and investment. Japan is Vietnam’s fourth largest trading partner and third largest source of investment. Although the trade relationship is unbalanced, Vietnam’s status as a populous country in Southeast Asia and Japan’s status as a highly developed country mean that economic cooperation will continue to be an important component of their bilateral relationship.
Despite the potential for shared security interests, Wu and Wang assert, several factors will limit the continued development of Japan–Vietnam relations. One challenge is that Japan has a much closer relationship with the United States than does Vietnam. Although US–Vietnam relations are warming, Vietnam has a strategic interest in a cooperative relationship with China and it will not want to join any Japanese effort to contain it. A second challenge comes from rising labor costs in Vietnam which will, in the long run, undermine the relocation of Japanese businesses to Vietnam. Moreover, as Vietnam develops, its domestic companies will increasingly compete with Japanese ones. A third challenge is whether the two countries will be able to successfully cooperate in areas like nuclear energy given Vietnam’s limited financial resources. A final challenge arises from public opinion. Although the Vietnamese public holds overwhelmingly positive views of Japan, Vietnamese living in Japan face discrimination.
Wu and Wang contend that closer Japan–Vietnam relations present challenges for China. They argue that Japan has pursued closer relations with Vietnam in an attempt to link disputes in the East and South China Sea, which in turn strengthens the United States’ hand. In their view, closer Japan–Vietnam relations advance US and Japanese efforts to encircle China. They further argue that improved Japan–Vietnam relations—which they view as motivated by Japanese and US attempts to use Vietnam to limit China’s development—complicate China’s bilateral relations by driving a wedge into otherwise stable China–Vietnam relations, further damaging already poor China–Japan relations, and decreasing already limited China–US mutual trust. Moreover, Wu and Wang assert, Japan’s efforts to woo Vietnam have turned Southeast Asia into a field for great power competition; they worry that Japan’s improved relationship with Vietnam will open the door to its improved relations with other Southeast Asian states, thereby expanding Japanese and US influence in the region and supporting their Indo-Pacific strategy.
To respond to these challenges, Wu and Wang argue, China must recognize that improved Japan–Vietnam relations support US efforts to contain China’s development and attempts to maintain Western hegemony; this is “unjust” and runs counter to the global trend toward rapid multipolarization. At the same time, China must approach the Japan–Vietnam relationship based on a strategic understanding of the Sino–US relationship: China must show the United States that efforts to limit China’s development through geopolitical competition will not succeed and that China and the United States have a shared interest in cooperation. Finally, Wu and Wang assert, China should promote bilateral and multilateral cooperation mechanisms to strengthen both China–Vietnam and China–Japan relations and decrease the pressure on China regarding Southeast Asia.
China’s South Asia Diplomacy
In Nanya Yanjiu, 2022, no. 2, Wu Lin assesses new informal cooperation mechanisms in China–South Asia relations. For many years, China’s relations with South Asian countries have operated mainly through bilateral diplomacy. However, the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and the complete withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan in 2021 presented China with an opportunity to pursue multilateral diplomacy in South Asia. China responded by introducing new informal cooperation mechanisms.
Wu highlights several of these new cooperation mechanisms. The China–Afghanistan–Pakistan Dialogue is the most successful. Since 2012, the three countries have developed a 1+3 cooperation model, guided by a foreign ministers’ dialogue and supported by dialogues on strategic issues, counterterrorism, and pragmatic cooperation. A second mechanism, the China–Afghanistan–Pakistan+ cooperation initiative, was first proposed in 2019 and seeks to build on the trilateral dialogue. It has largely consisted of virtual meetings to address the Covid-19 pandemic. A third mechanism consists of Chinese efforts to create new institutions to provide regional public goods; examples include the China–South Asia National Emergency Material Reserve at the Chengdu International Railway Port and the Poverty and Development Cooperation Center at Xi’nan University in Chongqing. The China–Myanmar–Bangladesh Trilateral Dialogue is another mechanism, which was established in 2017 in the context of the Rohingya refugee crisis; it has focused on the repatriation of Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh, pandemic response, and poverty reduction. A final example is the Meetings of Foreign Ministers of the Neighboring Countries of Afghanistan, established to address the security situation and other economic and humanitarian concerns after the US withdrawal in 2021.
Wu sees the development of these informal mechanisms as evidence of China’s embrace of the multi-dimensional institutions characteristic of a rules-based world order. Wu asserts that these informal mechanisms have already started to form some of the aspects of a “network,” which consists of relatively stable institutions and the norms that define their interconnections. These informal mechanisms are focused on the construction of a South Asian regional cooperation framework, seek to consolidate the foundations for cooperation, and link non-traditional security issues and the Belt and Road Initiative. They are premised on political trust and norms regarding the peaceful resolution of disputes and the development of security. They have created a model by which China supplies public goods to its South Asian neighbors.
Wu argues that these informal mechanisms have reshaped regional understandings of the role China can play in providing security and have created new regional institutions that advance cooperation and promote a shared regional identity. Several exogenous factors have driven China to adopt this diplomatic approach toward South Asia, including the challenges South Asian countries have faced during the Covid-19 pandemic and the opportunities this presents for China, competition with the United States for influence in South Asia, a desire to stabilize relations with its South Asian neighbors in the context of Sino–Indian competition, and geopolitical changes produced by instability in Afghanistan. At the same time, China’s new approach toward South Asia is also driven by more internal motivations. This new diplomatic approach advances Chinese efforts to promote the “high-quality development of the Belt and Road Initiative” in the face of some regional hesitance and supports Chinese efforts to shape a regional order conducive to long-term stability. Wu concludes that, although these new informal multilateral mechanisms are unlikely to replace the importance of regional bilateral diplomacy in the short-term, they may help China to counter geopolitical challenges and maintain a more stable regional environment in the future.
“Pan-securitization” and Sino–Japanese Relations
In Riben Xuekan, 2022, no. 6, Cai Liang argues that Japan has over-securitized its policy toward China. This “pan-securitization” occurs when the concept of security is expanded to refer to issues beyond those traditionally considered to be components of security (such as territorial sovereignty and military capabilities) through a process that reflects a subjective, rather than objective, view of the world. Following the Cold War, countries tended to expand their conceptions of security to encompass challenges at the individual, state, and global levels and to include a range of traditional and non-traditional security threats (the latter including issues like climate change or economic issues). Often, under the influence of nationalism, countries have exaggerated these threats, generating pan-securitization. Cai argues that the tendency toward pan-securitization has become more prominent in EU, US, and Japanese policies toward China in recent years. Given the complicated historical and geopolitical relationship between China and Japan, Japan is particularly inclined to view its relationship with China through a security lens.
Cai asserts that under the influence of pan-securitization, Japan has tended to take a security perspective on regional affairs, economic assurances, values, and ideology, viewing them all from the perspective of “China threat theory.” Japan’s National Security Strategy describes three aspects of the national interest: the security of the country and its people, the country’s prosperity, and the maintenance of a world order grounded in common values. The pan-securitization of Japan’s national interest is evident in three main aspects. First, Japan tends to view divergent security issues as uniformly urgent and important, leading to a persistent sense of insecurity and motivating Japan to take measures such as expanding its military capabilities and pursuing multilateral security arrangements like the Quad. Second, Japan has shifted economic and trade relations from “low politics” to “high politics,” rendering it less willing to pursue cooperation or compromise its interests. Third, Japan has rigidly defined the world according to a binary value system of “good” and “evil,” labeling countries that do not share its “universal values” as divergent. Shared values have become the basis for its alliance relations, which are aimed against countries with different value systems (namely, China).
Although a pragmatic Japanese policy toward China would, Cai contends, emphasize engagement and prioritize collaboration on a regional economic and trade architecture, Japan must conduct its relationship with China in the context of the US–Japan alliance. Japan perceives a unique opportunity to expand its regional and international influence and its military capabilities, given shifts in US policy. Like the United States, Japan views China as a challenge to the rules-based liberal world order. This approach has impacted Japan’s policy toward China. Cai asserts that Japan has taken an exaggerated view of China’s position on the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, perceiving the dispute as a Chinese encroachment on sovereign Japanese territory and as evidence of China’s pursuit of regional hegemony, rather than as a more mundane territorial dispute. Japan (incorrectly, in Cai’s view) sees China’s positions on the South China Sea and Taiwan as similarly aggressive attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo. In addition, Japan has shifted from collaborating with China on economic and trade policies to pursuing agreements with “like-minded partners” that integrate security and economic objectives. Furthermore, Japan has rejected China’s development path as problematically divergent from the so-called “universal values” Japan upholds and has positioned itself as part of a democratic camp that opposes China. Cai views Japan as a willing partner of the United States in their joint efforts to encircle and contain China.
Although Japan cannot have the global influence of the United States, Cai asserts, it can play a key role as a middle power in the Indo-Pacific. With regard to security, Japan has taken an active role in helping the United States to contain China. US–Japan alliance relations have shifted, enabling a more expansive role for Japan’s Self-Defense Forces. Japan is a strong supporter of the US Indo-Pacific strategy, and has been expanding relations with the members of the Quad, Southeast Asian states, and European countries to advance it. Similarly, Japan also supports US efforts to check Chinese economic power. Although Japan was previously more willing to work with China on the construction of regional trade agreements, such as RCEP, it now increasingly emphasizes economic security. For example, Japan is pursuing technological innovation in a variety of cutting-edge fields with the members of the Quad and diversifying its supply chains in ways that exclude China. Japan is also committed to the liberal rules-based world order, leading it to unite with the United States against China from a values perspective as well. Cai contends that this is apparent in Japan’s increasingly vocal support for Taiwan.
Cai cautions that Japan’s policy toward China puts the two countries at risk of falling into a “pan-security trap.” By defining a wide range of bilateral issues as urgent security threats, Japan risks generating a negative spiral that will further decrease mutual trust, escalate crises, and destabilize the bilateral relationship. Cai particularly condemns three key aspects of Japan’s current approach. First, Cai argues that Japan’s support for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific is just an attempt to benefit from continued US hegemonic power, and that Japan will inevitably lose if it allows itself to become a pawn in great power competition between China and the United States. Second, Cai is critical of Japan’s efforts to decouple from China and seek stronger economic relations with other partners, arguing that the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework is unlikely to deliver on its promises and that Japan has much to lose economically from pulling back on its investment in China. Finally, Cai is dismissive of Japan’s claims to support Taiwan on the basis of “universal values,” arguing that “universal values” are merely a Western attempt to impose its worldview on a diverse world, and that Japan is motivated less by values than by a desire to contain China.
Cai concludes that China should respond through “de-securitization.” This, predictably, entails redefining security to align with the “comprehensive national security concept” advocated by Xi Jinping. Cai urges China to make its red lines clear by warning Japan not to intervene in the Taiwan issue or inappropriately compare it to the Ukraine “situation.” Furthermore, while urging Xi and Kishida to work together to promote economic cooperation and public exchanges, Cai also urges Chinese diplomats to publicly criticize Japan for the hypocrisy of claiming to advocate pacifism despite having supported the US war in Iraq. Cai takes a less aggressive stance on economic issues, arguing that diplomatic relations can be separated from cooperation on economic and environmental issues that impact public well-being. (Cai’s more moderate stance here is seemingly motivated by a desire to continue to attract Japanese resources.) In apparent contrast to Cai’s suggestions for high-level leaders, Cai advocates for increased Track 1.5 and Track 2 exchanges between China and Japan, a dialing down of extreme anti-Japanese public opinion that impedes rational policy, and, more generally, a diplomatic approach that “changes confrontation into competition and changes competition into cooperation.” Cai characterizes this as a reasonable approach to an unreasonably alarmed Japan.