• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

CounterPunch needs you. piggybank-icon You need us. The cost of keeping the site alive and running is growing fast, as more and more readers visit. We want you to stick around, but it eats up bandwidth and costs us a bundle. Help us reach our modest goal (we are half way there!) so we can keep CounterPunch going. Donate today!
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Rapprochement at APEC: Japan and China Trade Insults for Trade

Beijing.

Strange. A White House never shy about proclaiming its achievements, real or imagined, has been uncharacteristically reluctant to inform the world about one of its major successes.

Modesty? No, more likely those who toil on Pennsylvania Avenue were probably blindsided by the speed with which China and Japan overcame their mistrust and decided to trade insults for, well, more trade.

The rapprochement, occurred before the Papua New Guinea Apec summit that ended in rancor after its failure to produce a joint communique because of tensions between the United States and China over trade and security issues. This was the first time that Apec leaders were unable to agree on a formal written declaration. Officially, this was because the US wanted the declaration to call for the World Trade Organization to be reformed putting China in the position of championing the status quo. Unofficially, the two countries view each other with growing mistrust. They were never going to agree.

Both view the Indo-Pacific region as their battleground. At the moment the battle is for ideas and influence but could at some future date live up, literally, to its description.

Mike Pence, the US vice-president demanded at Apec that China “change its ways” on trade, intellectual property and human rights, and ridiculed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “one belt, one road” multinational infrastructure initiative as a “debt trap” for the greedy and unsuspecting.

But Xi will not be too bothered. Unlike Barack Obama, who “pivoted” to Asia, China realises Trump is pivoting on the golf course. His commitment to Asia is less than wholehearted.

No one knows this better than Xi who has gone out of his way to improve relations with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.

At the end of October Abe was wined and dined by Xi after an elaborate reception at the Great Hall of The People in Beijing. It was of huge significance.

It is not an exaggeration to say that these two countries came close to conflict on a number of occasions in the past six years over disputed islands. Neither was it unusual, especially at this time of year, for anti-Japanese criticism to be given full volume in China as the anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre approaches.

The massacre and mass rape occurred in Dec 1937 and the first indications that a new diplomatic front was being opened appeared last December when the level of anti-Japanese commentary in the Chinese media was far less than in previous years. We know now that discussions were well underway for Abe’s visit and that there would be no repeat of his visit in 2014 when Xi did nothing to hide his displeasure, distaste even, at shaking Abe’s hand in front of the world cameras.

So, why the shift?

With the clogging of the trade pipes to the US it was vital that China locks in and secures Japanese trade, not least its supplies of precision tools and know how. No one in Beijing expects ties with America to improve any time soon, regardless of the press releases focusing on a common future, win-win situations, the usual guff, that are bound to emerge from the G20 in Buenos Aires next month.

Japan too, is feeling bruised by Washington. When Trump came to office he withdrew the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This trade agreement, covering 12 countries would cement US involvement in the area. And Trump has treated North Korea and Russia as erstwhile friends while shunning or criticizing America’s proven allies.

But doesn’t Abe risk being crushed by the panda’s embrace?

Japan wants to invest. Its central bank is sitting on assets greater than the value of the Japanese economy. It needs to place it somewhere and China Belt and Road is crying out for Japanese cash and expertise.

Greater investment opportunities in China will lessen maritime tensions but not so much that Japan’s defense budget of $46 billion approx will stall for the first time in seven years. The hawks in Tokyo are happy. From Beijing’s viewpoint, Apec does not matter, at least not that much. Washington is distracted, its allies in the region are not exactly putting up a united front and better relations with Japan and an increase in investment from Tokyo are a real possibility. Early skirmishes on the new battleground of the 21st century are going well for China.

More articles by:

Tom Clifford is a freelance journalist and can be reached at: cliffordtomsan@hotmail.com.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

Weekend Edition
May 24, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Iran, Venezuela and the Throes of Empire
Melvin Goodman
The Dangerous Demise of Disarmament
Jeffrey St. Clair
“The Army Ain’t No Place for a Black Man:” How the Wolf Got Caged
Richard Moser
War is War on Mother Earth
Andrew Levine
The (Small-d) Democrat’s Dilemma
Russell Mokhiber
The Boeing Way: Blaming Dead Pilots
Rev. William Alberts
Gaslighters of God
Phyllis Bennis
The Amputation Crisis in Gaza: a US-Funded Atrocity
Jonathan Latham
As a GMO Stunt, Professor Tasted a Pesticide and Gave It to Students
Binoy Kampmark
The Espionage Act and Julian Assange
Kathy Deacon
Liberals Fall Into Line: a Recurring Phenomenon
Jill Richardson
The Disparity Behind Anti-Abortion Laws
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Chelsea Manning is Showing Us What Real Resistance Looks Like
Zhivko Illeieff
Russiagate and the Dry Rot in American Journalism
Norman Solomon
Will Biden’s Dog Whistles for Racism Catch Up with Him?
Yanis Varoufakis
The Left Refuses to Get Its Act Together in the Face of Neofascism
Lawrence Davidson
Senator Schumer’s Divine Mission
Thomas Knapp
War Crimes Pardons: A Terrible Memorial Day Idea
Renee Parsons
Dump Bolton before He Starts the Next War
Yves Engler
Canada’s Meddling in Venezuela
Katie Singer
Controlling 5G: A Course in Obstacles
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Beauty of Trees
Jesse Jackson
Extremist Laws, Like Alabama’s, Will Hit Poor Women the Hardest
Andrew Bacevich
The “Forever Wars” Enshrined
Ron Jacobs
Another One Moves On: Roz Payne, Presente!
Christopher Brauchli
The Offal Office
Daniel Falcone
Where the ‘Democratic Left’ Goes to Die: Staten Island NYC and the Forgotten Primaries   
Julia Paley
Life After Deportation
Sarah Anderson
America Needs a Long-Term Care Program for Seniors
Seiji Yamada – John Witeck
Stop U.S. Funding for Human Rights Abuses in the Philippines
Shane Doyle, A.J. Not Afraid and Adrian Bird, Jr.
The Crazy Mountains Deserve Preservation
Charlie Nash
Will Generation Z Introduce a Wizard Renaissance?
Ron Ridenour
Denmark Peace-Justice Conference Based on Activism in Many Countries
Douglas Bevington
Why California’s Costly (and Destructive) Logging Plan for Wildfires Will Fail
Gary Leupp
“Escalating Tensions” with Iran
Jonathan Power
Making the World More Equal
Cesar Chelala
The Social Burden of Depression in Japan
Stephen Cooper
Imbibe Culture and Consciousness with Cocoa Tea (The Interview)
Stacy Bannerman
End This Hidden Threat to Military Families
Kevin Basl
Time to Rethink That POW/MIA Flag
Nicky Reid
Pledging Allegiance to the Divided States of America
Louis Proyect
A Second Look at Neflix
Martin Billheimer
Closed Shave: T. O. Bobe, the Girl and Curl
May 23, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Belligerence of Empire
Ralph Nader
What and Who Gave Us Trump?
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail