Sometimes I feel like I'm living in some sort of geopolitical time warp, or a teacup carnival ride, based not on whirling teacups, but whirling countries, all spinning around on an out of control machine called Brzezinski's Folly. Brzezinski's folly is a machine that runs on the assumption that, America being the "sole remaining superpower", it can and should attempt to run the rest of the world, no matter what the cost...
...even if the cost means pushing powerful allies like Germany and Japan away.
Case in point: yesterday, you'll recall, I blogged about my long-held, seldom-voiced suspicion that some sort of covert warfare has been going on between the USA and Germany for quite some time. I finally have been talking more openly about that suspicion, since it seems to be being confirmed by various German and European leaders, not the least of whom is Chancellorin Merkel herself.
But in sifting through this week's emails, the other shoe dropped, in this article shared by Mr. J.C.; and as you read this, when was the last time you saw the Chinese Premier shaking hands with the Japanese Premier, and both men were smiling?
I cannot get out of my head what a monumental symbol this picture is, notwithstanding the contents of the article itself. We cannot approximate the earthquake it signals, especially in the Orient. There is bad blood between China and Japan... the Rape of Nanking, the Japanese invasion and occupation of Manchuria and the establishment of a Japanese puppet state there under the de facto control of Field Marshal Terauchi. Then the plundering under Operation Golden Lilly. Nor was it all one-sided: the Chinese entry into the Korean war - Korea being a former Japanese colony - Mao's bluster and threats...
For this to happen is a major event. But as readers of this website know, it has been a long time coming, and was about to happen a few years ago. There was talk of a state visit of Emperor Akihito to Beijing, then... Fukushima happened. I do not need to recount the more-than-suspicious chain of events, because readers of this website are well aware of them.
Shinzo Abe has, in his tenure as Japanese Premier, accomplished some truly amazing feats of diplomacy. He has managed, with his counterpart Mr. Putin, to side-step the thorny issue of the legal status of the Kuril islands, to begin actual economic development of them, jointly with Russia. That was a major hatchet, not only to bury, but to turn into something economically beneficial.
Now there is China, and its Silk Road project:
I want to focus on some paragraphs in this article, for I tend to see things very differently than does Mina Pollman, author of the article:
Japan would, of course, prefer a U.S.-based regional order and has thus been leery of OBOR. But after watching the United States retreat under President Donald Trump – most dramatically by pulling the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – it is understandable that Japan is considering alternative options, such as limited cooperation with China.
Abe specifically stated that one of the conditions that would have to be met for Japanese participation in OBOR is “harmony with a free and fair Trans-Pacific economic zone,” in reference to the requirements, including labor and environmental regulations, painstakingly negotiated in the 12-country TPP deal.
Abe also noted that it is “critical for infrastructure to be open to use by all, and to be developed through procurement that is transparent and fair. … I furthermore consider it essential for projects to be economically viable and to be financed by debt that can be repaid, and not to harm the soundness of the debtor nation’s finances.”
Japan’s concerns about OBOR’s lack of transparency mirror its criticisms of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) – which Japan is also considering joining, after resisting it for so long. With rumors that the United States might join, Japan may find the idea more attractive. (Emphasis added)
While the article makes it sound as if Japan's turn to China is a result largely of the recent administration's policies, I suspect - strongly - that this turn has been considered by (if Ii may so put it) the mandarins in Tokyo for some time. The instability that the USA has fostered in recent decades as a result of Brzezinski's Folly, along with an economy that can only export GMOs and war has caused a "rethink" of relations from Tokyo to Berlin. The Trump administration and the TPP are the excuse and crisis of opportunity that were seized to do what they had long been thinking. Again, in this respect, it is crucial to recall that Japan was attempting to make these overtures before the Abe government took power.
Mr. Abe's two-step here has been carefully conceived. Unlike the previous Japanese government, Mr. Abe decided to rearm, and to change the part of the Japanese constitution that put an upper limit based on percentage of GDP to defense spending. This, publicly, was done to reassure Washington that Japan was going to "do its part" for Pacific rim security. But Mr. Abe's unstated goal, I contend, was to send messages to North Korea and China, particularly the latter. While a symbolic gesture, the message is clear: we can rearm, if we want to... now, let's talk... Japan's rearmament, in other words, was as much about perceived growing weakness and instability in Washington, as it was about helping Washington.
Me. Abe's position is further enhanced by his agreements with Russia, not just with the Kuril islands, but more importantly, by the extension to Russia, by Japan, of the use of its financial clearing agency in the Pacific, widely used in the region. This, readers of the website may recall, happened a couple of years ago, in the aftermath of the imposition of sanctions on Russia. In other words, Japan did not "play ball" with Washington, and put into place a major component of an independent financial clearing system with Russia.
It's that financial clearing aspect of the story that, I suggest in today's high octane speculation, is behind this story, and Japan's need for more "transparency" in the "One belt one road" project: for "transparency" read "Japanese participation" in whatever financial clearing arrangements the Chinese have in mind as an alternative to the West's "SWIFT" system. Additionally, "transparency" also means in other space-related matters and ventures, because China has made it abundantly clear that the "One road one Belt" is not simply confined to planet Earth.
See you on the flip side...