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Japan must prepare as the U.S. and China dig in

13 2 0

It is tempting to see the hardening of U.S.-China relations as a temporary phenomenon, a product of unique features of contemporary international politics, the Donald Trump presidency in the United States in particular. Resist that temptation.

The U.S. consensus about the nature of its relationship with China has shifted to the right; it is difficult to find anyone who dissents from the view that the two countries are locked in an intense competition that threatens to spiral into a new Cold War.

This in turn validates the Chinese belief that the U.S. is determined to thwart its rise and encourages a nationalism and readiness to sacrifice on behalf of the nation that harkens back to the Long March. Together, these two perspectives virtually ensure that the U.S.-China relationship will become more confrontational. Japan must prepare for the impact.

The new U.S. approach to China was laid out in the December 2017 National Security Strategy of the United States. The NSS argued that the world had entered an era characterized by great power competition. While this competition is multidimensional, its primary focus is economic and the chief U.S. competitor is China.

This approach differed from its predecessors in two critical ways. First, it shifted the locus of security concern from terrorism and rogue states, which had dominated U.S. security thinking since 2001, to great powers, which had been viewed primarily as partners combatting those threats. Second, it embraced an expansive notion of national security that is potentially indistinguishable from economic security. As a consequence, economic engagement, which had historically provided the ballast for the U.S.-China relationship has been weaponized.

The list of U.S. grievances is long. Vice President Mike Pence looked at the big picture in a speech to the Hudson Institute last year, charging that Beijing is “using political, economic, and military tools, as well as propaganda, to advance its influence and benefit its interests in the United States. … To win the commanding heights of the 21st century economy, Beijing has directed its bureaucrats and businesses to obtain American intellectual property — the foundation of our economic........

© The Japan Times