Pacific Rim Report No. 1, October 1995
The Empowerment of Asia
by Chalmers Johnson, Ph.D.
lecture presented here, inaugurating the Kiriyama Chair,
was delivered on October 4, 1995 by renowned East Asian scholar,
Chalmers A. Johnson, founding president of the Japan Policy
Research Institute and professor emeritus of political science
at the University of California Berkeley and San Diego campuses
where he held endowed chairs in Asian politics and taught
for 30 years (1962-1992).
Chalmers Johnson is the author of numerous articles and reviews and
has written 12 books on Asian subjects. The most well-known of his
works is MITI and the Japanese Miracle: The Growth of Industrial Policy,
1925-1975, which laid the foundation for the "revisionist" school
of writers on Japan. His most recent book is Japan:
Who Governs? The Rise of the Developmental State.
gratefully acknowledge the Kiriyama Chair for Pacific Rim Studies for
funding this issue of Pacific Rim Report.
Since the Cold War came to its unexpected end about five years ago, three main global trends have prevailed. One trend is a movement toward regional economic integration. Examples include the European Union, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the various proposals for some kind of free trade zone encompassing all of the Pacific, all of non-English-speaking East Asia, or all of Southeast Asia. A second trend is the movement toward subnational ethnic fragmentation, meaning the breakup of former states into new ethnic units. Examples include the disintegration of the former USSR, the former Czechoslovakia, and the former Yugoslavia along with heightened communal tension, often leading to violence, in many parts of the world. The third trend is a tendency to cling to the old Cold War system even when it no longer makes any sense and is a major economic liability. The power of this inertia and these entrenched interests is seen most clearly in Japanese foreign policy, in the United States's maintenance of a defense budget larger than that of all of its allies combined, and in the continued existence of NATO.
These three trends suggest that the post-Cold War world is witnessing a major challenge to the old state system, while new states, based on a combination of ethnic and economic interests, are slowly being forged. One characteristic of this period is a marked shift from strategic military power to economic and technological power, accompanied by a rise in technonationalism.
These trends do not appear uniformly around the world. In East Asia, the most obvious trend is the third - a tenacious clinging to the old Cold War system in which the United States provides the structure of military security while the various nations within this system seek to expand their economic capabilities. The Japanese-American relationship, in which the United States provides the security for a nation to whom it is simultaneously going deeply into debt, is the best example of this old order. The greatest new challenge to this old system in East Asia comes from the Korean peninsula, where the end of the Cold War has finally started to unfreeze the huge military commitments that accompanied North-South hostility and has put unification on the agenda.1
There have been, however, other subtle reactions in East Asia to the dissolution of Cold War bipolarity. Japan's main sectors of public opinion - the bureaucracy, business leaders, journalists, and intellectuals - have started to prepare the country ideologically for a strategic disengagement from the United States and a recasting of priorities in favor of an attempt to lead Asia. China is reacting to Japan's enormous economic influence by beginning to balance Japan's power and by exerting its own economic influence among the overseas Chinese. In the meantime, American policy continues to drift, reflecting inertia left over from the Cold War in military deployments and expediency in day-to-day policy governed by domestic political considerations.
While these forces are working their way into the consciousness of the peoples of Pacific Asia, the concrete situation is one of waiting for some incident that will make what is already intrinsic, extrinsic. Such an incident would reveal how the global balance of power has shifted in favor of Asia and how little prepared Americans are for coping with this development. No one, of course, knows what the catalyst will be. Perhaps it will be the reversion of Hong Kong to Chinese rule in 1997, but it could just as easily be an unscheduled event such as the sudden economic and political collapse of North Korea. Meanwhile, until the catalytic event occurs, what passes for strategic thought is largely public relations posturing, bureaucratic in-fighting over turf, and the pretense of competence by political officials in the main Pacific powers.
Huntington's Analysis: A Clash of Civilizations
Samuel Huntington has recently argued that future wars and global tensions will no longer be based on conflict among states but on clashing civilizations - those broad cultural entities defined by history, language, ethnicity, and religion. Huntington claims to be searching for a framework that will capture and simplify the next phase of world politics, just as the Cold War did for the past half-century. He describes seven or eight of what he calls contending civilizations -Western, Confucian, Japanese, Islamic, Hindu, Slavic-Orthodox, Latin American, and (he is not quite sure of this) African. Each is marked, he says, by different understandings of the relations between citizens and the state, freedom and authority, parents and children, and God (or Gods) and human beings.2 Some East Asians, notably the outspoken leaders of Singapore, entirely agree with this analysis and find it convenient in explaining why their abuses of the human rights of their own citizens, or their neighbors' destruction of tropical rainforests to produce toothpicks and chopsticks for Northeast Asian restaurants, should not be criticized by others.
There are serious problems with Huntington's analysis, however. First, he knows next to nothing about the civilizations he has identified. Fouad Ajami, for example, has written a stinging critique of Huntington's characterization of and assumptions about the Islamic world. Second, Huntington characterizes China and Japan as belonging to different civilizations, although this contention may stem not so much from ignorance as the intent to stir up trouble.
The American establishment is deeply
threatened by Japan's growing economic power
and even more by its state-directed means of achieving it. Until recently
the American establishment tried to explain and deal with Japan by
arguing that it was an unthreatening part of (or converging with) the "West," much as the Nazis during World War II and the South Africans under apartheid defined Japanese as "honorary
But Huntington's analysis seems to
have another purpose. He separates Japanese
civilization from Confucian (Chinese) civilization because he believes
that Japan and China may soon fight each other over who will be supreme
in Asia, and that this will work to both the economic and strategic
advantage of the United States. He fails to consider the real possibility
that China and Japan will find it more profitable to cooperate, to
the possible disadvantage of the United States. His analytical framework
also places Korea in the Confucian/Chinese camp, whereas South Korea's
infrastructure and development strategy more
closely resemble Japan's and its democratic system moves it closer
to Western civilization. Like many Americans until quite recently,
Huntington also ignores North Korea and fails to consider what role
Korea will play after it is unified. In addition, he does not deal
with Southeast Asia at all, simply labeling it as either the "Malay subdivision" of Islam or a part of "greater China," but
not recognizing it as an independent entity
being tied together by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Some aspects of Huntington's forecast
of a clash of civilizations may well prove
accurate, but his particular formulation of it may be more ideological
(a defense of "the West against the rest," as
he puts it) or opportunistic (hoping for
a Sino-Japanese conflict) than analytical. Instead of Huntington's
approach, a better and more accurate approach may be to view post-Cold
War Asia historically. Such a perspective draws attention to the enrichment
and empowerment of Asia as the main trends affecting global politics
since the Cold War. It identifies a new center of gravity in international
power, and it recommends a recasting of the balance of power to reflect
An Historical Perspective
In 1960 the Asian economies represented approximately 4 percent of total world production. Thirty years later they represented a quarter and, based on current trends, will be a third of the global economy within a decade. Japan's net savings rate continues to trend above a fifth of GNP, some two and a half times the average for the other industrialized economies; and all Asia is saving in the 30 percent range. These savings rates, when translated into investment rates, mean that the world balance of economic power will continue its shift to Asia. They also mean that low-saving countries such as the United States will remain huge importers of capital. This capital will increasingly come from Asians and be made available on their terms, providing them with leverage in many fields.3
Equally significant, during 1993 Japan's trade surplus with other countries in East Asia for the first time exceeded its trade surplus with the United States. Using Japan's definitions and accounting methods, during 1993 Japan had a surplus with its Asian trading partners of $53.6 billion compared to a $50.2 billion surplus with the United States. These figures indicate that inter-Asian trade is now more important than trans-Pacific trade. They also suggest that Japan faces an economic imbalance with its immediate neighbors that is potentially more explosive than its long-term structural imbalance with the United States.
The most important fact about the post-Cold
War Asia-Pacific region is Japan's growing
economic dominance and the degree to which this is causing integration
among the nations of the region. The means of integration are trade,
direct investment, aid, financial services, technology transfer, and
the example of Japan as an Asian model of development. In general,
all the Asian nations depend on Japan for loans, technology, investment,
and foreign aid. They continue to depend on the United States as a
military counterweight to Japan and China, as a consumer market for
goods manufactured in Asia, and for higher education; despite their
increasingly shrill claims of having a different civilization from
the "West," the
elite of Asia still send large numbers of
their young adults to the United States for university and graduate
education. However, these dependencies - both on Japan and on the U.S.
- will change markedly within a decade. Whether they occur in accordance
with well-planned policies or violently like tectonic plates crashing
into each other is perhaps the main variable in considering the prospects
for peace and stability in the region and globally.
The enrichment of Asia is essentially a process that occurred during the Cold War and depended to one degree or another on the opportunities made available by its conditions. The empowerment of Asia, however, is a process with a much longer history. Seen in highly schematic terms, the 19th century was the time of the victimization of Asia, taking the form in China of the unequal treaties imposed by Western imperialism and in the rest of Asia, except in the buffer state of Thailand, of European, American, and Japanese colonialism. The 20th century was the time of revolt against this imperialism, including the Chinese revolution itself (the biggest revolution among all the cases); interimperialist wars that gave the subject peoples the opportunity to revolt; and wars of national liberation in Indonesia, Indochina, and Malaya. These wars are now over - except for the structural division of Korea - and only a few embers from them still smolder. Rich Americans have started to take luxury cruise tours to Vietnam, just as they have been going to China for the past decade, and the U.S. government has just established diplomatic relations with Vietnam. Vestiges of the old victimization and its consequences still linger in the soon-to-change status of Hong Kong, the not-soon-to-change status of Taiwan, the division of Korea, and the influence of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, but the shift from mere enrichment to empowerment is clearly on the agenda.
Key Issues in the Empowerment of Asia
Seen from the perspective of 1995,
the agenda accompanying the empowerment of
Asia includes many difficult problems, any one of which has the potential
for destabilizing the area and the world as a whole. The best informed
differ as to the exact contents of this agenda, but the following five
issues can be considered to constitute its core: (1) Chinese growth
rates, (2) claims of "Greater China" circulating among the
overseas Chinese, (3) Japan's need for but seeming inability to shift
to a consumer-driven economy, (4) the unification of Korea, and (5)
the terms of a future Asia-Pacific balance of power and the role of
the United States in maintaining it.
In the early 1990s China had a per capita income of $547, or 2.6 percent of that of the United States; and a total GNP of $603.5 billion, or 11.6 percent of that of the United States. China's population of 1.1 billion people, however, is more than four times that of the U.S. These numbers mean that China could fairly easily create an economy the same size as that of the United States while still having a relatively poor population in terms of per capita income. Given the size of China's population, if it achieved a per capita GNP even one-fourth that of the United States - approximately the level of Korea's today (approximately $5,000) - it would have an absolute GNP greater than that of the United States. Matching the per capita income of South Korea today is not an unrealistic goal for China, particularly with the high growth and savings rates achieved in recent years.4
Americans like to
believe that economic growth is desirable
in and of itself. They also believe that economic growth inevitably
leads to democratization. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative American
think tank, states this relationship as if it were a Newtonian law: "The
law of supply and demand is as immutable as the law of gravity: as
a country moves up the economic ladder, political freedoms almost always
follow."5 This remark is explicitly directed to the East Asian NICs (newly industrialized countries), and there is evidence supporting it in the on-going processes of democratization in South Korea and Taiwan.
What these American ideologues fail to understand, however, is that democracy is a peculiarly effective way of making decisions under conditions of significant social complexity or heterogeneity. Since economic growth will normally produce greater social differentiation, democracy is a logical response to these conditions; but if the heterogeneity can be mitigated - through fairly equitable income distribution, control of immigration, or an overarching ideology of uniqueness and exceptionalism, for example, practices that are becoming routine in East Asia - democracy may not be necessary for effective government, and the trade-off between economic growth and democratic government can be delayed or postponed. There are many current examples in East Asia of leaders claiming that because of cultural differences, Asians do not expect democracy to accompany national wealth.
In the past the Chinese communist leaders have been wary of using market mechanisms for economic growth precisely because they feared the Americans were right, and that it would lead to the collapse of communist authoritarianism. One reason why China in recent years has accepted market mechanisms is evidence from the high-growth economies of East Asia, particularly Singapore, that authoritarianism (sometimes disguised by a facade of democracy) can be compatible with high levels of per capita income.6
During the Cold War it made sense for the United States to promote China's economic development because it reinforced the strategic triangle with the USSR. Today, by giving China most-favored-nation access to the American market, the United States is actively helping China become as big as the United States itself - but with no guarantee that its people will be satisfied with a per capita income only a quarter of America's or that democratic government will ever become unavoidable in the Chinese context. It is time to start thinking about the need to balance China's future power and to recognize that the relationship between economic development and democracy is not as certain as the law of gravity. It may well be that the only hope for integrating China into a peaceful global system is for its people to gain an economic stake in international commerce - this is the view of many of the most astute Chinese exiles - but support for China's high-speed economic growth also means that the Chinese must be given powerful incentives not to bully their neighbors.
One aspect of Chinese growth rates that may prove worrisome is the reemergence of strong economic ties between China and Russia. Because Anglo-American economists foisted onto the former USSR such an inappropriate model of capitalism, Russian politics have followed an increasingly pro-Asian trend. China has advanced from a lowly seventeenth place among Russia's trading partners before the onset of perestroika to second place today and is well on its way to replacing Germany as Russia's most important trading partner. Given American bungling of the aid and advice to post-communist Russia and Japan's reluctance to help without being compensated by the return of some or all of the Northern Territories, neither country has reason to expect much good will from Russia. A China growing at from 10 to 12 percent per annum will very quickly change the regional and global balance of power. A China growing at those rates and collaborating with a Russia embittered toward Japan and the West could constitute a major problem.7
The second major issue affecting the future of Asia is
the deeply destabilizing effects on all the
Southeast Asian nations of even the idea of "Greater China"- of China as a civilization rather than just a country - not to speak of any moves that might be made toward achieving its reality. Twenty years ago, in a comment that manages to be both cultural and racist, Eric Ambler wrote that the Overseas Chinese were "the
world's largest multinational corporation,
with the company's operating code programmed into the partners' genes."8 By
contrast, former Singapore prime minister
Lee Kuan Yew warns of the disasters that may follow if any overseas
Chinese attempt to answer calls of common culture. "The loyalty of overseas Chinese," he writes, "belong
overseas. The biggest contribution that younger
Chinese entrepreneurs and professionals outside China can make to mainland
Chinese culture is to be examples of the economic value of multiculturalism."9
The reason for Lee's anxiety is precisely China's talk about one big family of ethnic Chinese. Some Indonesian Chinese businessmen have been investing in mainland China in preference to Indonesia, and the old fears of a Chinese Fifth Column in Southeast Asia are once again influencing politics. Lee is fully aware that even the harmonious and languid Balinese in 1965-66 killed 80,000 to 100,000 people - a majority of them Chinese - in anticommunist massacres.10 There are about 20 million overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia, where they constitute the business and entrepreneurial elite. In addition there are the 21 million people of Taiwan, the 5.9 million residents of Hong Kong, and the 2.7 million citizens of Singapore.11
In Indonesia, where anti-Chinese feelings have been most explosive in the past and where the Chinese make up perhaps 4 percent of the population but control most big business activity, the tradition has been for Chinese to cultivate the ruling class, somewhat like the merchants in Tokugawa Japan cultivated the samurai. A typical example is the private Salim Group, led by Liem Sioe Liong, which has been allied with General Suharto ever since he came to power and which helped him overcome the food crisis he inherited from Sukarno.12
In most parts of Southeast Asia, with
the possible exception of Thailand, where
the Chinese have been assimilated more than elsewhere, the presence
- and success - of the Chinese creates significant political problems.
This is why it is in the interest of the Pacific countries, including
Japan, to curb China's overseas claims. As Lee Kuan Yew puts it, "Ethnic
Chinese who come from such sensitive countries should take care that
their investments in their own nations do not diminish as a result
of their China investments. And they would do well to use the same guanxi [personal
connections] to increase China's trade with, and investment in, their
home countries. This is possible and indeed probable within 10 years."
The third issue in the empowerment of Asia is the need for Japan to replace the United States as the major market for the manufactured goods of the rest of Asia. The historic contribution of the United States to the economic development of East Asia has been as the market for its high-quality, competitively priced consumer goods - first those of Japan, then of the NICs, and most recently of Southeast Asia and mainland China. Japan, then China, and then Taiwan are the three leading sources of the American trade deficit, causing many Americans who are well informed regarding the problem to conclude that the American trade deficit is 100 percent a Japan and East Asia problem.
This role of the United States as East Asia's primary market is coming to an end, not because the United States is about to close its doors, but because the output of Asia has simply grown too large. Equally important, the United States also needs to correct its own domestic imbalances and restore savings and investment, which means it must cut consumption and reduce its trade deficits. The best way to do this may be to impose surcharges on Japanese products entering the American market, such as Japanese luxury automobiles. Such surcharges should be placed only on Japanese products because it is chiefly Japan that needs to open its market, and because the United States wants to promote places such as Korea in the emerging balance of power in Asia. The United States also needs to impose high local-content requirements on everything sold in the North American market. Japan knows these things. In early 1992 Sakutaro Tanino, then head of the Asia Bureau of the Japanese Foreign Ministry, commented:
Reaganomics are mentioned, their negative
side is emphasized because the policy produced the twin deficits [trade
and budgetary]. But it is also a fact that because of it the United
States emerged as a great absorber of East Asian products. But if the
present U.S. government is set to seriously tackle its financial deficits,
things will not go as before. In the future, the problem will become
who will absorb this region's products and support the prosperity of
the East Asian economy. I think it will have
to be Japan."13
Not too long from now, Japan must become a net importer of manufactured goods from Asia. If it fails to do so and forces Asian manufacturers to seek out low-end markets in Europe, where the new economies of Eastern Europe are also trying to gain a foothold, it will create massive instabilities in its own region and around the world.
To shift from an essentially producer-driven economy to a consumer-driven economy, Japan will have to undertake major, wrenching reforms. These include a total overhaul of the land-use laws, a massive program of deregulation, an opening up to the full pressures of international competition, and an end to the restraints on consumer-centered domestic demand. Can Japan make these changes and is it prepared to make them in an acceptable time frame?
On the first question, the whole experience of the Hosokawa government, August 1993 to April 1994, is instructive. Despite promising reforms that even General MacArthur could not deliver, particularly changing the relationship between Japan's elected politicians and its permanent state officials, Hosokawa essentially did nothing. After he resigned as prime minister, he was followed by a cynical coalition of socialists and conservatives who are determined to do nothing except buy time. The Japanese and the Americans now know that domestic reform in Japan will not come either quickly or without continued internal and external pressure.
On the timing of change, the Japanese appear to believe that they still have a few years left in which to maneuver. It seems likely that two turning points will be the American presidential election of 1996, by which time the United States's relative economic decline may be so marked as to require an end to its business-as-usual trade policies, and the reversion of Hong Kong to mainland Chinese sovereignty in 1997, when the region and the world will begin to discover whether China can absorb a whole NIC or whether the process of absorption will be the other way around. Another turning point may be the current Japanese banking crisis. These will be the years when Japan must either take leadership in Asia or else face life in a hostile environment as a big, fat Kuwait that no longer has many foreign friends.
The future of Korea is the fourth critical issue in the empowerment of Asia. The two most strategically important areas of East Asia in terms of the maintenance of peace and stability are Korea and Vietnam. They are the buffer states between the three main power centers of Asia: Japan, China, and ASEAN. They are as critical to the balance of power in Asia as Poland and Belgium were in Europe after the Congress of Vienna. Of the two, Korea is the more important and problematic because it is still divided, because half of it is one of the richest and most productive places on earth, because both halves have the capacity to become nuclear powers, and because 35,000 U.S. troops are still based in the southern half of the peninsula, the Republic of Korea. All of the major foreign powers are deeply entangled in Korea. China and Russia now have diplomatic and economic relations with both halves of the country; the Japanese government collapsed in April 1994 in large part because its ruling coalition could not agree on a policy toward Korea; and the U.S. has recently negotiated an agreement with North Korea to exchange modern nuclear reactors for suspension of its nuclear weapons program, for which South Korea and Japan must pay the bill.
China is the foreign power with the longest history of intervention in Korea and is probably the most satisfied with the present situation. Its relations with both halves of a divided Korea most closely approximate the historical conditions that maximized Chinese influence and leverage. Japan is alert to developments in Korea for various reasons. It is embarrassed by the fact that its own residents are the chief supporters of the late Kim Il Sung's failing regime in the north to the tune of between $600 million and $1 billion in hard currency per annum; it fears nuclear proliferation throughout the area; and in a more general sense, Japan is aware that Korea was the one Asian nation over which it was able to gain complete control. Its stance toward Korea, including its apologies for past oppression and the exploitation of Korean women during World War II for the pleasure of its troops, is crucial in establishing a measure of trust not merely in Korea but in all the other Asian nations. Russia is concerned because it still has a treaty with North Korea and because its growing community of interests with China may cause it to defer to Chinese preferences.
The United States probably has a greater interest in a successfully unified and independent Korea than any other external power. This is because Korea will play a key role in the future balance of power in Asia, and it is in the United States' national interest to promote and maintain such a balance as part of its own military and economic security. The United States knows, only dimly to be sure, that its last three big wars, only one of which it won, began in East Asia, and that the only two powers on earth that could threaten its security either militarily or through technonationalism are China and Japan.14 For these reasons the United States must remain deeply involved in Korean affairs, even though it needs to alter the nature of its current involvement.
Beginning in 1950
and continuing to the present, American military
involvement on the Korean peninsula has reflected the United States's
global concerns, and never exclusively concern for Korea itself. The
United States became involved in the Korean conflict because of that
war's potential impact on the worldwide balance of power, principally
the USSR and the PRC. The United States was
insufficiently sensitive to those aspects of the Korean conflict that
had the quality not just of communist aggression but also of civil
war. It was also indifferent to the considerable legitimacy enjoyed
by the North Korean regime because of its guerrilla struggle against
the Japanese and its adoption of communism as a form of nationalism,
the role similarly played by communist ideology in the Chinese and
Vietnamese revolutions. In addition, U.S. officials did not pay sufficient
attention to the numbers of former collaborators with the Japanese
who joined the American-sponsored government in South Korea in the
Forty years later, when the issue of communism has become largely moot, these old rivalries among Koreans remain potent. The North Korean regime has been a failure economically. It thrived only by exploiting the Sino-Soviet dispute and lost its viability when communism collapsed in the former USSR. The option of joining the East Asian economic system on
the same terms as the Chinese is open to Pyongyang, but the implications of reform and opening the region to the outside are almost certainly the elimination of the father-to-son Kim dynasty and its pretentious cult of personality. The United States was unable to ease the dilemma of the late North Korean leader by acknowledging his old nationalist credentials, as Nixon did with Mao, because the South Korean regime, regardless of its past, has evolved into a successful democracy. Nonetheless, the 1994 visit to Pyongyang by former President Jimmy Carter provided Kim Il Sung with some of the symbolic legitimization he sought before passing from the scene and made the transition to Kim Jong-il relatively uneventful.
One can successfully
contend that the United States has no alternative
other than to live patiently with Kim Jong-il, while preparing to assist
South Korea in every way possible should the northern regime begin
to collapse. The United States does not have military options in Korea,
except to prepare prudent defenses. However, its ground forces should
be withdrawn because they are a major provocation on the peninsula,
they have no military function, their involvement
in combat in a situation in which Japan remained neutral would put
intolerable strains on American relations with Japan, and they are
useless as a bargaining chip. In 1989 the Pentagon testified to Congress
that "South Korean forces are capable of defending themselves against any threat from the North that does not involve either the Soviet Union or the People's Republic of China," and
this remains true at the present time.16
South Korea has two times the population and 16 times the productive power of North Korea, whereas North Korea is said to suffer from shortages of every kind and even starvation among its people. Talk of sanctions against North Korea is unrealistic because any sanctions, such as a blockade, would require the enthusiastic support, both on the ground and in the United Nations, of the Republic of Korea, China, and Japan, which would be impossible to obtain. The only strategy, therefore, is to let time pass until the economic situation in the north worsens or the U.S. and Japan begin to incorporate North Korea into the East Asian capitalist system, or a combination of both. A sudden unification is also possible. Disaster will result only if preparations are not made, above all, to help pay for unification and to avoid the mistakes of economic policy that followed the collapse of the USSR. Thus far the U.S. has every reason to be pleased with the negotiations to open North Korea's nuclear experiments to international inspection and to bring North Korea into commercial contact with the rest of East Asia. The U.S. still doesn't know, however, whether Kim Il-sung died a natural death. All this country knows for sure is that he saw Jimmy Carter and died!17
and the role of a unified Korea in the East
Asia of the future leads directly into the final issue: the forging
and maintenance of a balance of power in East Asia. The main contingency
affecting such a balance is relations between Japan and China. In an
interview published in the house organ of the Japanese Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, one of Japan's best strategists, former ambassador
Hisahiko Okazaki, seems to echo in less strident terms the views of
Samuel Huntington. Okazaki comments, "I think that China will
never be truly close to Japan even in the future."18
As earlier indicated, the possibility must be entertained that Huntington and Okazaki are wrong. Japan has been courting China for several years now with an imperial visit, apologies for wartime aggression, loans and other economic inducements, and a very soft stance on Chinese human rights issues. When Japan's justice-minister-for-a-day, Shigeto Nagano, in May 1994 blurted out that he still did not acknowledge the reality of the rape of Nanking or the forced conscription of sex slaves for Japanese troops, he was quickly dismissed and every Japanese diplomat in Asia went around issuing apologies. The possibility remains that China and Japan, which are today enjoying a flourishing commerce, may reconcile their differences much as the United States and Great Britain became friends after a century of antagonism. If Huntington and Okazaki are wrong, then a balance of power is unnecessary. Cooperation between China and Japan will ensure peace and stability in the region, and the United States can quit paying the defense bills of many of the Pacific nations.
If Huntington and Okazaki are right, however, then there is a continuing role for the United States in helping to maintain a balance of power in Asia. There are many different formulations of what such a balance might look like.19 If Russia and India are too preoccupied internally to participate, as seems likely, then the balance will be among China, Japan, and ASEAN, with Korea and Vietnam serving as buffers and the United States shifting its influence to maintain the balance. The only two nations to whom the United States should extend guarantees for their security are Korea and Vietnam - as well as Taiwan if it seeks U.S. protection from a forcible Chinese takeover. As the only Pacific nation with an ability to project power, the United States's great asset and its major role will be the deployment of naval power.
Such a policy would obviously require closer American relations with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam now that the U.S. has finally recognized Vietnam diplomatically, greatly enhanced attention to ASEAN, and a new type of commitment to Korea. In all of these places the United States desperately needs new policies and new deployments of different types of military forces. There is nothing conceptually difficult about such a policy. Nevertheless, the policy actually in existence at the present time is a disaster. Simply to keep 100,000 American troops in East Asia for the next 20 years regardless of the facts that they cannot afford a bowl of noodles if they leave their bases and that no one in Asia believes that the United States would actually use its forces reflects the time warp in which Washington's thinking is still caught.
The two main actors in the future of
the Asia-Pacific region are China and Japan.
How their relations will evolve is as clouded by contingencies as the
capacity of the United States to articulate and execute a new, post-communist
policy toward the region. It is certain only that with the empowerment
of Asia, its international relations will no longer be structured in
terms of "responses to the West" (or any other set of external
powers) but in terms of intra-Asian visions
and rivalries. Whether the result is an Asian renaissance, disaster,
or muddle, it will be made in Asia by Asians and for Asians, with
Americans playing a secondary role. That is, after all, what empowerment
means. It is time to start thinking in those terms.
1. For a further discussion of these
trends, see Chalmers Johnson, "Rethinking Asia," The National Interest (Summer 1993): 21-28. BACK TO TEXT
2. See Samuel P. Huntington, "The
Clash of Civilizations?" Foreign Affairs 72, no. 3 (Summer 1993): 22-49. BACK TO TEXT
3. The leading authority on the shift
of economic power to Asia is Kenneth Courtis,
strategist for Deutsche Bank Capital Markets (Asia), based in Tokyo.
See the regular reports from his bank and, for example, "Japan's
Tilt to Asia Gaining Momentum," Nikkei Weekly, March 28, 1994; and Critical Intelligence 2,
no. 5 (May 1994). For the trade figures,
see "Surplus in Asian
Trade at Record High," Nikkei Weekly, February 28, 1994. BACK TO TEXT
4. For these figures, and a stimulating
analysis, see Richard K. Betts, "Wealth, Power, and Instability:
East Asia and the United States after the
Cold War," International Security 18, no. 3 (Winter 1993-94): 34-77, especially 53. BACK TO TEXT
5. Andrew B. Brick, "Trade Begets
Democracy in China," The Heritage Foundation Executive Memorandum, no. 346 (December 2, 1992). BACK TO TEXT
6. Cf. William H. Overholt, The Rise of China: How Economic Reform Is Creating a New Superpower (New York: Norton, 1993), p. 331ff. BACK TO TEXT
7. James Clay Moltz, "From Military Adversaries to Economic Partners: Russia and China in the New Asia," paper
presented to the annual meeting of the International
Studies Association, Washington, D.C., March 29-April 1, 1994. BACK TO TEXT
8. Eric Ambler, The Siege of the Villa Lipp (New York: Random House, 1977), p. 184. BACK TO TEXT
9. International Herald Tribune, November 23, 1993. BACK TO TEXT
10. For these figures, see Journal of Asian Studies 52, no. 4 (November 1993): 1088. BACK TO TEXT
11. The best, up-to-date source on this subject is James Fallows, Looking at the Sun: The Rise of the New East Asian Economic and Political System (New York: Pantheon, 1994), pp. 291-93. BACK TO TEXT
12. See John Bresnan, Managing Indonesia: The Modern Political Economy (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993). BACK TO TEXT
13. "To Ajia hendo e chikasuimyaku" (Subterranean
Influences toward Change in East Asia), Gaiko Forum (February 1992): 15. BACK TO TEXT
14. On technonationalism, see Richard J. Samuels, Rich Nation, Strong Army: National Security and the Technological Transformation of Japan (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1994). BACK TO TEXT
15. See Bruce Cumings, The Origins of the Korean War, 2 vols. (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1981, 1990). BACK TO TEXT
16. Los Angeles Times, April 8, 1994. BACK TO TEXT
17. See Chalmers Johnson, "Korea:
from Battlefield to Buffer," The National Interest (Fall 1995): 2-13. BACK TO TEXT
18. Gaiko Forum (October 1992): 7. For an excellent summary of Sino-Japanese tensions from a Chinese perspective, see chapter 1 of Shih Chih-yu, China's Just World: The Morality of Chinese Foreign Policy (Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 1993). BACK TO TEXT
19. For instance,
see Richard J. Elings and Edward A. Olsen, "A New Pacific
Profile," Foreign Policy, no. 89 (Winter 1992-93): 116-36. BACK TO TEXT