Not “China Threat Theory” but “Theory of Cooperation between Japan and China”


October 21, 2001, Chinese President Jiang Zemin had a meeting with Prime Minister Koizumi during APEC summit in Shanghai, which was unusual for Japan and China relationship to have Japanese Prime Minister visit China twice within two weeks. Such tip-and-run summit diplomacy will create an impression that Japan gives great importance to the relationship with China. We have to observe the future movement to see if the relationship between the two countries goes forward toward restoration, however, I assume that there might be a clear acknowledgement of both summits that they do not want to worsen the relationship any more.

Why shouldn’t we worsen the relationship between Japan and China? In a word, it is because deterioration of the two countries does not contribute to both nations’ national interests. However, it is a pity that “China Threat Theory” has been advanced in Japan recently, against which “Japan Threat Theory” is blowing out in China. It is no more than cursing at each other. Yet, even they fight, the relationship between Japan and China will never been plunged into hostile relations. It is more like a cat-and-dog brothers who frequently fight but have no choice but living under the same roof and come to a compromise in the end. The relation of interdependence has been deepening rapidly as such.

Examining the interdependence of the two countries, trade value between Japan and China amounted $85.7 billion for the year 2000; Japan is the biggest trade partner for China, while China is the second for Japan with exceeding of 10% next to the U.S. of 25% of the total trade values. Influenced by the slowdown of the U.S. economy and the terrorist attack, Japanese trade with the U.S. has been decreasing greatly, which might make trade gravity of the two countries turn in a decade. Furthermore, direct investment has tended to shift towards China recently. According to a recent Nihon Keizai Shinbun, Hitachi Ltd. will invest $100 billion in equipment in five years and move production base to China. It may be an act at the risk of the company’s “survival” on China. On the other hand, as we witness that Japanese investment in Chinese stock market has rapidly increased six fold compare to the previous year, Japanese capital in capital market is moving from the market in New York to China with China’s entry into the WTO as a turning point.

In contrast to the advancement of the interdependence between the two countries, “China Threat Theory” has been put forward loudly in political circles. The other night, I had a chance to attend an election winning party for a new representative and was very surprised to hear him said to the audience augustly, “We have to respond to China with threat which has growing enormously. The ODA to China should be handled carefully.” I wonder advocating “China Threat Theory” enables to collect many votes from Japanese people.

Will “China Threat Theory” be national benefit for Japan? Though so called “China Threat Theory” indicates nothing else but military expansion and enormously growing economy of China, I wonder if the theory that takes the strengthening of Chinese military power as immediate threatening to Japan is correct. The military force of the U.S. is much stronger than that of Japanese, which defeated Japan by atomic bomb in the past. However, there are few Japanese who consider the U.S. as menace, rather, the U.S. is a “reliable country” for Japanese. Analogizing with this, even if the Chinese military power becomes stronger than Japanese, the threat may be weaken naturally as long as Japan establishes trust with China. The idea that connects ODA and China’s military buildup is not wise. A card of Japanese ODA matter is almost powerless in front of China’s arms buildup and if Japan mentions anything about such matters, it will generate more resentment from China and end up only losing reliance. For reference’s sake, annual military appropriation in China is approximately $12.6 billion, less than one third of Japanese of $44.7 billion and only one twentieth of the U.S.’s $265 billion. Chinese military power against Japan-U.S. alliance is like a child against an adult.

Taking the growing huge economic power of China as “Chinese Threat” may not be wrong, however, inflaming “China Threat Theory” will worsen the relationship of the two countries and not contribute to Japanese national interest after all. If cooperation with enormously growing China is strengthened, Japan may be able to share benefit from its development. It is true that Japanese companies have gained large profit by investing in China.

A Chinese scholar likened relationship between Japan and China as “double engine of a train in Northeast Asia” and it clearly demonstrates Chinese view about necessity of cooperation between Japan and China. It might be the time to establish “stable interdependence” between the two countries.

[Translated by ERINA]