good neighbors with liquid fences

[estimated reading time 5 minutes]

kishida fumio has, as expected, solidified his hold on power as the new prime minster. of the four candidates, i agree with the party majority (which isn’t something i can usually say, especially when the party in question is the ldp) that he is probably the best choice for the future of the country. his policies are generally moderate in most ways and he’s not looking for a fight. that is far more important than many people give it credit for. and he’s not that old — while some who pass their seventh and eighth decades are willing to embrace new ideas, it’s not nearly as common. yes, i’d have liked to see something a bit different on offer but this is, after all, the ldp and wishes aren’t exactly what the government is generally made of. i mean, this is the government that made the unimaginably stupid decision to have an international sports competition in the middle of a raging health emergency and plunged the country into the most severe downward spiral in death and sickness it’s seen since the americans did it with atomic weapons.

which brings us to an interesting place for reflection. now at the beginning of a new leader’s very-public life (yes, i know, he’s been in public service for decades but few really paid much attention until the last few months in practical terms) there’s one issue at the forefront of international relations that needs to be considered. china. it’s on everyone’s minds and tongues and it’s been the limitless area of debate and whining on the internet (which is saying something as the internet is nothing if not a free-for-all of whining and uneducated fools trying to get rich by saying something hurtful, racist or shocking — usually all three). let’s take a cool-headed look at what could be good for the future, though.

i suppose the first question we have to answer is also the silliest. is china dangerous to japan?

the simple answer is no. the complex answer, though, is also no. could china invade japan and conquer the country? sure. absolutely. if you don’t think so, you haven’t been paying much attention the last sixty years or so. but that’s not the dangerous part. america could invade canada and mexico, too, but i don’t see many residents of ontario out there protesting against american military exercises because they’re afraid they’re going to lose their country when the gis march across the border. because they know america has no interest in annexing canada. china, i assure you, though you don’t have to listen to me and can ask anyone who knows anything about chinese politics and they’ll all give you the same answer, doesn’t want to take over japan.

it’s a country that already has too many mouths to feed, too many children to educate and too many elderly to take care of in their old age. it’s already got masses of land to administer and so much complexity it might be the most overworked and overwhelmed government in the world. it’s doing well enough with it but the last thing it needs is a new collection of islands and a diverse population to subdue. is china dangerous to japan? well, no. this should be obvious. if you’ve been contemplating a future where chinese warships show up in yokohama harbor and start shelling the docks preparing to offload troops, you’ve been watching too many fantasy movies. it’s just not going to happen. think it’s likely to go the other way and china wants to take over russia? korea? india? not a chance.

but, you say, china is dangerous in other ways. er… why do you care? if you’re safe, what does it matter? you’re afraid of chinese economic power but i have to ask you a simple question — why? we live in a world absolutely dominated by american economic might and it’s been destroying the entire world for generations — the free-market system is a disaster unless you’re the one with the capital and most of us simply don’t have the money to thrive in that situation so we end up on the painful end of the economic stick every time we try to do something as simple as buy a car or go to a doctor. japan isn’t controlling its economic future nearly as much as playing a small part in an american financial world.

militarily, it’s not impossible to foresee a world where there’s open conflict between the united states and china. but in such a scenario, do you really want to get involved? if you saw two bears fighting in the middle of the forest, would you run in and try to stop them? declare your intent to side with one or the other? you’d be a fool. and probably get your head ripped off by one or perhaps both bears. no, neither country is really likely to act like a bear. but getting stuck in the middle of a conflict between two superpowers is about as smart as sticking your head in the mouth of a lion who hasn’t had a good meal in a month.

china is where the goods come from. where the natural resources come from. where almost all the labor comes from. and where a good portion of the most advanced technology comes from — more and more as time goes on and china becomes more and more the world leader in artificial-intelligence and communications tech. with american industrial and technical power dramatically waning with every passing year and chinese dominance in almost every industry nearly permanently solidified, i propose a much different strategy in japanese relations with the world. walk away from the west. start playing nice with the neighbors.

america has been rallying countries to its cause for decades but the last couple of years have seen a dramatic increase in intensity — the saber-rattling of that mindless fuck with the orange hair covering his lack of brain under it followed by the incessant racist anti-asian whining of his successor in the guise of “national security”, as if china’s really interested in stealing california for its own purposes. the american government wants to control the world economic stage and it’s realizing more and more it’s not going to be able to keep doing that. it’s frightened and wants to use its oversupported and ridiculously-outlandish military budget to prop up its economic and social failures. and it would like japan, south korea and various other countries to back its play against the obvious alternative.

rather than fearmongering, though, it would be far more intelligent for japan to move in the other direction — openly seek friendship with its two closest neighbors both culturally and geographically. a three-way economic and military alliance between china, south korea and japan would be the best possible way forward for east-asian friendship. rather than the constant useless bickering about the freedom of the ocean and military exercises, why not turn a tacit enemy into an ally?

the common people of japan and south korea are not generally racist but they have spent decades being told about the dangers of china that simply don’t exist in the hope of making the country a bigger player in the western political and economic worlds. it’s time to stop that ridiculous charade. what we need is economic and cultural partnership with the larger east-asian world to work together to improve production, trade and national stability. we don’t need more conflicts. we don’t need more fighting. and we definitely don’t need to be dragged into a trade war — whether we’re on the winning side or not, it would be best to avoid the war and a united east-asia would likely not be nearly as inviting a target for such economic attacks as an isolated china. conflict between america and china will hurt the rest of the world. a thoroughly-supported and strongly-aligned international china, however, would be such a clearly-unassailable force in world economics and trade no such trade war would ever begin.

of course, i don’t see this happening in the next few months. but when the dust clears and the japanese people start to really pick up the pieces as the pandemic in the country finally ends and international travel, tourism and trade once again become the daily ritual and obsession, it is time to take a far more serious look at who our friends are. and i propose we treat everyone as friends and neighbors. but that we especially treat china that way. they’re not the bully we should be running from. they’re the strong figure standing on the other side of the water we’d do far better to embrace as family. thanks for reading!

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thank you for reading. your eyes have done me a great honor today.