Want to know how badly China has bungled its foreign affairs?

Posted by: Phineas on December 10, 2012 at 3:01 pm

**Posted by Phineas

The Philippines says it supports Japanese rearmament:

The Philippines would strongly support a rearmed Japan shorn of its pacifist constitution as a counterweight to the growing military assertiveness of China, according to the Philippine foreign minister.

“We would welcome that very much,” Albert del Rosario told the Financial Times in an interview. “We are looking for balancing factors in the region and Japan could be a significant balancing factor.”

The unusual statement, which risks upsetting Beijing, reflects alarm in Manila at what it sees as Chinese provocation over the South China Sea, virtually all of which is claimed by Beijing. It also comes days before an election in Japan that could see the return as prime minister of Shinzo Abe, who is committed to revising Japan’s pacifist constitution and to beefing up its military.

Anyone who knows anything about the history of World War II in the Pacific knows the brutal, almost unspeakable suffering the peoples of East Asia suffered under Japanese occupation. The Philippines alone lost roughly one million people. Many who survived were nonetheless subjected to torture and starvation, or knew those who were. That’s still in living memory for many Filipinos, making it understandable why they would fear a militarily powerful Japan, and why Rosario’s announcement is such a shocker.

Walter Russell Mead comments:

Today, the Philippines is thought to be one of the countries most subject to Chinese pressure. It has a weak economy and a small military. That a country like this is rallying against China rather than joining up with it, and doing it in such a dramatic way, tells us a lot about what is going on in Asia and the effect Beijing’s foreign policy is having on its neighbors.

China has been anything but deft in its handling of its neighbors, making aggressive claims to islands in the South China Sea, possession of which would give it control of potentially vast oil wealth under the sea bed. This, however, has also had the effect of frightening its neighbors and leading them to seek allies from amongst old enemies.

And now the Philippines, worried by Beijing’s ambitions, wants a rearmed Japan to balance China. (How soon will they be inviting us back into Subic Bay, I wonder?)

This has implications for Japanese politics, too. Japan has a general election in a few days, and the expected winner, Shinzo Abe, has advocated changing Japan’s highly pacifist, restrictive constitution to allow for greater military spending and a larger overseas role for Japan’s military. Concerns about China, where nationalist anti-Japanese protests have become a regular occurrence, and a growing approval of Japanese rearmament from her former enemies could give Abe’s party a boost, in which case we could expect to see Sino-Japanese relations become much more strained.

Obama has made a “pivot to Asia” a focus of his administration’s foreign policy. That’s actually logical (1), but no one should underestimate the challenges Washington faces there.

Footnote:
(1) Yes, I’m surprised. Given the general incompetence Obama, Clinton, and the rest of the Smart Power team have shown in foreign affairs, they’ve generally done a good job in East Asia. I’m sometimes tempted to think it’s the doing of some Undersecretary acting on his own, hoping the bosses won’t notice…

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

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6 Responses to “Want to know how badly China has bungled its foreign affairs?”

Comments

  1. Tregonsee says:

    It sounds as if they are making the best of a bad deal. Imperial China is clearly the biggest threat to them. America is fading, some would say by design. Australia is rising, but Japan is the only really plausible counterweight. Interesting times indeed.

  2. Drew the Infidel says:

    It has been known for quite some time there are elements in Japan (as well as Germany) who wish to revive their fantasy of world domination. Why should the islamists have all the fun? However, there are many in the Pacific Rim who do not relish the prospect, chiefly Korea. That Japan has yet to own up to war crimes committed against the Koreans during WWII is a festering issue. As an added complication, the terms of the postwar treaty and the Neutrality Acts will have to be addressed.

  3. Tango says:

    ….no, the once mighty US Seventh Fleet will not be returning to Subic Bay. We lack the ships and the manpower. And even if there was political resolve for it (and there clearly is NOT) – we don’t begin to have the money.

    As for Japan, they know they cannot rely on the U.S. – especially in the current era – for their security. They will be obliged to ramp up their defense spending. Problem is, Japan’s economy hasn’t been healthy for nearly twenty years.

  4. Slow POKEY says:

    I like it, it’s about time Japan took it’s place in the world. The Japan and the world of the 40s is long gone and it’s a complex global economic and political environment Japan must face.

  5. Nothing fixes bad blood like a new common enemy. Japan and the PH have had increasing good relations over the past few decades. If a stronger Japan means a less bossy China, so be it!

  6. Having lived a combined time of 18 years now in both Japan and the PI, I can tell you the Filipinos are genuinely concerned about the aggression’s and outright bullying going on in that general area and that Japan is NOT really in a good position to come to our aid here in the Philippines.

    There was some talk a while back about Subic reopening and Guam continues to be built up but you can count on NOTHING but more problems from this moronic administration and the ENTIRE WORLD knows it except the majority of idiots in America with their hands out grabbin *free stuff*.