China will overwhelm us! Mmm…. Not so fast.

**Posted by Phineas

America is going through one of its periodic crises of confidence (1) in which large segments of the population are worried that our time is past and someone else will come to dominate the world. Roll up the flag, forget anything about being exceptional, and start learning Chinese; our new masters are on the way.

Ehhh… Hold on a minute there, Doc.

Those fears are predicated on our own economic problems (serious ones, not making light of them at all) and are compounded by a president and a ruling party that are trying to make us be people we aren’t and do things we’re almost genetically predisposed against. The strain and turmoil caused by all that makes us look at a rising power like China and think our run is done; it’s their turn, now.

Except they have serious, deep problems of their own. Among them are a housing bubble and a huge number of bad loans. Sound familiar?

Professor Niall Ferguson (2) recently toured out-of-the-way locations in China and saw the warning signs of a Chinese crash:

And yet … A closer look at the Chinese economy reveals that an astonishingly large part of what is going on today is investment in urban residential real estate, which is growing at more than 25 percent a year. The evidence was all around me as I drove through my sample of Chinese provinces. On the outskirts of every city I saw, there was a veritable forest of apartment blocks under construction.

These are the fruits of China’s own stimulus. When the Western economies first tanked in 2008–09, China’s communist rulers ordered the country’s banks to lend, lend, lend. The biggest borrowers were property developers and local governments.

With inflation above 6 percent and the stock market down, the new Chinese middle class has gotten in on the act. An unknowable proportion of these new apartments have been bought as investments by people who already own one or more. With new-property prices up about 20 percent in just two years, who can blame them?

Sound familiar? Yes, this looks a lot like a real-estate bubble—with Chinese characteristics. As for debt problems, Chinese bank loans were 97 percent of GDP in 2008. Now they’re at 120 percent.

This isn’t the only article to mention the vast money (and debt) being sunk into real estate in China in perhaps irrationally exuberant hopes of big returns. Check out this piece on China’s “ghost cities” (3)

Take the New South China Mall, in Dongguan. The Dateline crew took a tour of the place, which has been 99 percent vacant since it opened in 2005, and the result is one of the most depressing things I have ever watched. Six years after its creation, what is touted as the largest mall in the world sits almost empty. One of the very few stores that’s in business is a toy shop, where the wistful owner spends his days dusting children’s bikes that no child will ever ride. He is lucky if he makes one sale a day.

And it’s not just that mall that sits empty. So do rows of massive skyscraper apartment buildings and central business districts in new cities around the country. This is at least part of the reality behind the megacities the Chinese are creating. “All the shops in this mall are empty,” says reporter Adrian Brown, walking down an immaculate but deserted street in one of the new cities, this one in north-central China. “Not that that worries the government, because they’re simply more concerned with maintaining economic growth, and one way of achieving that is building cities like this one.”

According to Hong Kong-based real estate analyst Gillem Tulloch, who is interviewed in the piece, the housing units are priced well above what an average Chinese person can afford. The result, he says, is a housing bubble that is terrifying in size, “a property bubble like which I don’t think we’ve ever seen,” he says. “It will make the United States pale in comparison. It’s said that there’s around 64 million empty apartments…. It’s essentially the modern equivalent of building pyramids. It doesn’t add to the betterment of people’s lives, all it does is it promotes GDP.”

And all this building is supported by bank loans, the extent of which has started to worry Beijing to the point that they’re laying down new regulations, which has created an underground banking economy with its own set of bad loans on top of the already-vast public bad debt.

When their crash hits –and it will, inevitably– it will undoubtedly affect their global reach, just as ours is being hindered by our problems. Only, given the potential size of the bad debt, I suspect theirs will be far worse and far more disruptive, including affecting the stability of their political system, which has little experience with the ups and downs of market economics. (4)

So let’s not write ourselves off and turn China into SuperNation just yet; they may soon be finding they’ve swallowed economic Kryptonite.

via Real Clear World

RELATED: Don’t get the impression that I’m dismissing the strategic challenge and even threat posed by a rising, aggressive China. In my opinion, the dynamics resemble that of Imperial Germany’s rise before World War I, when the new power became the rival of the guardian of the old order, Great Britain. For something to chew on, consider that China has just launched its first blue-water aircraft carrier. Gee, I wonder who that’s aimed at? Meanwhile, this must-read article by J.E. Dyer looks at Chinese intentions in the South China Sea and, by extension, one of the world’s major choke-points, the Strait of Malacca. The Dragon and the Eagle are keeping an a wary eye on each other, believe me.

Footnotes:
(1) I’m old enough to remember the 70s and 80s when Japan, Inc., was going to eat our lunch. How’d that turn out?
(2) Smart man, should be on everyone’s must-read list. Have fun as he rips Obama’s clueless foreign policy.
(3) Here’s a fascinating satellite pictorial.
(4) How China’s rulers will react to that crisis, however, should be worrisome.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

The next wave in death-penalty efficiency: mobile execution vans!

**Posted by Phineas

Okay, I generally favor the death penalty in a restricted number of cases and when there is overwhelming evidence of guilt: there are crimes so terrible that the only the death of the offender will bring justice. And it frustrates me no end when states like my own California let the number of death-row inmates awaiting execution skyrocket because of almost endless and often frivolous appeals. Justice delayed is justice denied.

But, as much as I favor speeding up the process (while respecting the legitimate rights of the condemned), even I became squeamish when I learned of China’s mobile execution vans:

“Makers of the death vans say the vehicles and injections are a civilized alternative to the firing squad, ending the life of the condemned more quickly, clinically and safely. The switch from gunshots to injections is a sign that China “promotes human rights now,” says Kang Zhongwen, who designed the Jinguan Automobile death van in which “Devil” Zhang took his final ride.”

Click through for a picture.

Somehow the idea of making execution as convenient as calling the mobile dog-groomer is a bit appalling, no?

The article points out that China executes three times as many people as the rest of the world, thus there’s pressure to make them more efficient. China also executes criminals for more crimes than most nations: while they recently took 13 off the list, there are still 55 capital crimes — including official corruption.

I wonder if the “death van” comes with air-conditioning?

via someone on Twitter. Sorry, lost the link.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Poor Obama. Presidents of China have it so easy by comparison…

**Posted by Phineas

One reason Chinese presidents have it so easy

Jeez, what a whiner. I seem to recall he wanted the job, real bad. In fact, he wanted it so much that he started running for it after only two years as a United States senator.

But now he finds it too tough and envies the Chinese President:

How Mr. Obama manages to do that while also balancing American interests is a question that officials acknowledge will plague this historic president for months to come. Mr. Obama has told people that it would be so much easier to be the president of China. As one official put it, “No one is scrutinizing Hu Jintao’s words in Tahrir Square.”

(Emphasis added)

Gee, I wonder why that is? Could it be because the Chinese government has an almost unbroken history of tyranny against its own people? That Hu’s predecessors are responsible for the deaths of tens of millions? That it doesn’t give a damn about individual liberty and, indeed, as the photo shows above, sends tanks against unarmed protesters demanding their unalienable rights? That is conducting a slow-motion ethnic cleansing in Tibet? Could it be because Hu isn’t accountable to his people, nor even to the legislature, but just to an elite oligarchy of Communist Party hierarchs?

No wonder he has such an easy time of it, and no wonder no one seeking his or her liberty cares a rat’s hind end what Hu Jin Tao has to say.

Okay, Mr. President. It’s time for a basic lesson in why people in Tahrir Square (or Tiananmen Square) might care about what you have to say. Not you as Barack Obama from Hawaii by way of Chicago, but you, Barack Obama, as President of the United States.

You are the Chief of State of a nation that, over the course of the last 235 years, has:

  • Fought for its own freedom
  • Fought a civil war to end slavery
  • Sent an army to Europe to defeat the German Empire in World War 1
  • Sent armies and navies around the globe to defeat Germany (again) when Europe was nearly crushed and at the same time to crush Japan in World War 2, saving the lives and liberties of hundreds of millions
  • Fought North Korea and China to preserve South Korea as a free country (Turned out pretty good)
  • Fought to preserve South Vietnam (Okay, that one didn’t turn out so good)
  • Fought to save Bosnians and Kosovars and give Iraqis and Afghans a chance at a better life

And on and on…

But if the military angle doesn’t get though to you, how about the moral? The nation that gives you such a hard time as president also gave the world the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, the Bill of Rights, the radical concept that sovereignty derives from the people and not their rulers, and that Mankind’s liberty is best preserved when his government is limited. (That last one bugs you a lot, doesn’t it?)

And we didn’t just keep it to ourselves; we proclaimed it the right of all humans everywhere and acted as a shield for those wanting those rights and as a loud voice for those whose voices were silenced by the guns of the dictators. Not perfectly, not always consistently, sometimes screwing up badly, but often enough and strongly enough that oppressed people around the world look to the American president for words of encouragement and aid, not the Chinese president. It wasn’t some jumped-up autocrat from Beijing who stood in front of one of the bleakest symbols of tyranny the world has seen, the Berlin Wall, and demanded that the barbarians who built it tear it down.

No, it was an American president, one you like to compare yourself to.

And that’s why people in the Tahrir Squares of the world care what you say.

Instead of whining that dictators have it easier than you, maybe you should stop and think about the role your predecessors have played and why the world would look to them for leadership in the cause of liberty. Maybe you’ll learn something.

Maybe you’ll even grow up a bit.

via Ed Morrissey

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Dissed at our own state dinner

Wow.

Chinese Pianist Plays Propaganda Tune at White House
US humiliated in eyes of Chinese by song used to inspire anti-Americanism

Lang Lang the pianist says he chose it. Chairman Hu Jintao recognized it as soon as he heard it. Patriotic Chinese Internet users were delighted as soon as they saw the videos online. Early morning TV viewers in China knew it would be played an hour or two beforehand. At the White House State dinner on Jan. 19, about six minutes into his set, Lang Lang began tapping out a famous anti-American propaganda melody from the Korean War: the theme song to the movie “Battle on Shangganling Mountain.”

The film depicts a group of “People’s Volunteer Army” soldiers who are first hemmed in at Shanganling (or Triangle Hill) and then, when reinforcements arrive, take up their rifles and counterattack the U.S. military “jackals.”

The movie and the tune are widely known among Chinese, and the song has been a leading piece of anti-American propaganda by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for decades. CCP propaganda has always referred to the Korean War as the “movement to resist America and help [North] Korea.” The message of the propaganda is that the United States is an enemy—in fighting in the Korean War the United States’ real goal was said to be to invade and conquer China. The victory at Triangle Hill was promoted as a victory over imperialists.

According to the article, the pianist claims to have chosen the piece himself. Regardless of whether he did or was told to play it by Beijing, the Chinese government certainly knew its significance. And so did the millions in China who saw the performance via Phoenix TV, which, like many media outlets in Hong Kong, has strong Chinese Communist Party connections and knew in advance what would be played.

To twist the knife on this humiliating insult, the White House knew this song would be played, but apparently no one in charge bothered to check into its significance — or they knew it, but didn’t want to risk offending their loan sharks guests by prohibiting it.

How embarrassing. Obamateur Hour strikes again.

via Blue Crab Boulevard

LINKS: Moe Lane would be chewing out the Chinese ambassador right now. Big Peace has the relevant clip from the propaganda movie the song is featured in.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Did Obama throw Japan under the bus?

**Posted by Phineas

It sure smells that way. During the state visit of Chinese tyrant President Hu Jintao, a Chinese blogger asked a key White House official about America’s position over a territorial dispute with Japan:

The United States recognizes no claims to the sovereignty of a set of islets in the East China Sea, an adviser to the U.S. president said Friday.

“The U.S. does not have position on the question of sovereignty regarding the issue of the Diaoyu Islands,” Benjamin Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications in the White House, said in a video conference with Chinese bloggers set up by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

He was responding to Chinese blogger Ma Xiaolin, who questioned the United States taking the side of Japan on the issue by including the islets under the Japan-U.S. security treaty.

“We do not recognize the sovereignty claims by neither China nor Japan,” Rhodes said.

But, as L. Douglas Garrett points out at Competing Hypotheses, that highlighted statement simply isn’t true:

First, that isn’t historically correct. The U.S. in fact was the author of the postwar partitioning of territory in the area, and specifically mandated their return-by-transfer as part of the Okinawa reversion to Japan. P.R. Chinese and ROC claims to the area postdate that.

Second, it isn’t correct as extant policy. The status quo is expressly covered in the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty (1960 Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security with the United States, under which the territory is specified as part of the territory of Japan to be defended, as amended since reversion).

Keep that in mind: the United States is obligated to take military action should some nation (i.e., China) try to seize them by force.

Japan calls the islands the Senkakus and maintains that they were terra nullius (“land belonging to no one”) when annexed in 1895, during the First Sino-Japanese War. China, on the other hand, claims those islands were coerced from it as part of the treaty that ended the war. There are good background pieces on this dispute here and here. Though themselves uninhabited, the islands are important to both nations (and to Taiwan) for the control they give over the surrounding sea lanes and potentially large underwater oil and gas fields. A recent incident in which the Japanese Coast Guard seized a Chinese fishing trawler off the islands last September brought this dispute to the forefront, again.

Thus, it seems more than a coincidence that the President’s Deputy National Security Adviser would suddenly equivocate on past bipartisan American policy during a visit from our biggest creditor. Maybe this was the price for the pandas?

And, let’s face it: Japan wouldn’t be the first US ally tossed under the bus in an act of appeasement. Poland and the Czech Republic were both knifed in the back over missile defense. Israel has been under intense pressure in order to please the Arab states. One of our closest allies, Great Britain, which has troops fighting at our side in Afghanistan, found out we didn’t have their back over the Falkland Islands. Japan is, apparently, just the latest example of the Lightworker’s brilliant foreign policy, by which he promised to restore our standing in the world.

But such betrayals in pursuit of our enemies’ favors come at a price: our allies, the nations we rely on in a crisis, will more and more wonder if they can depend on us in a pinch and may seek “other arrangements.” In the case at hand, Japan is the foundation of our policy in East Asia and the Pacific; without its support, our position vis-a-vis China in the western Pacific would be much weaker, perhaps even untenable.

This one incident will not cause Japan to walk out on our alliance in a huff, of course, but consider it as another example that should make chancelleries around the world wonder whether they should stick their necks out for us, when we won’t protect their interests.

Smart Power, indeed.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

A Chinese Trifecta

On the occasion of the State visit by Chinese fascist junta leader President Hu Jintao, PJTV analysts Stephen Greene, Scott Ott, and Bill Whittle look at the growth of Chinese economic and military power, and the challenges a rising dragon may pose for the US:

I thought Whittle’s observations on the Chinese military perceptive, particularly regarding the PLA’s focus on the top-line weapons without the support structure and the experience we and other great powers have had. And I agree with their “middle ground” approach to assessing the challenges posed by China: neither making light of them, nor going into a panic-driven depression on the assumption that all is lost. (Besides, preemptive surrender is France’s job.) For my own part, I see China not as our “great good friend” and not as a declared enemy (yet), but a strategic competitor whose assessments of its own interests often work at right angles to our perceptions of our interests. Diplomatic and economic competition and conflict is inevitable, but a shooting war is not. It all depends on how both sides manage their relations.

I do wish they had taken the time to talk more about China’s internal problems, because they’re serious and threaten China’s rise to Great-Power status and even its stability: banking regulations hiding bad loans that could make our situation look like chump change; rampant corruption that’s creating more and more popular resentment; the anger of rural workers who come to the cities to work and then don’t get paid; a ham-handed diplomacy that winds up scaring much of East and Southeast Asia into our arms; and an aging population that, as Mark Steyn has put it, means the nation will grow old before it grows rich.

One eye-popping fact: China has to add 17,000,000 jobs per year to keep up with population growth.

Like the Trifecta crew, I’m confident we’ll do fine in our competition with China… as long as we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

And you mocked Smart Power?

I'm so happy I get to stay!

**Posted by Phineas

So, Hu Jintao was feted last night at a state dinner, where the world was treated to a big announcement from President Obama of an important agreement between our landlords China and the poor house United States. What do you think it was? A way to euthanize the North Korean regime peacefully? A deal to bring China’s undervalued currency up to realistic levels? An agreement by China to release the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner from house arrest?

Don’t be so pedestrian, folks! I’m talking something really big: we get to keep the pandas!

Let’s also never forget that throughout our history our people have worked together for mutual progress. We’ve traded together for more than 200 years. We stood together in the Second World War. Chinese immigrants and Chinese Americans have helped to build America, including many who join us here tonight.

The Chinese and American people work together and create new opportunities together every single day. Mr. President, today we’ve shown that our governments can work together as well, for our mutual benefit. And that includes this bit of news -— under a new agreement, our National Zoo will continue to dazzle children and visitors with the beloved giant pandas.

There you have it, my friends, straight from the lip of the most powerful man in the world*. These are the fruits of the Smart Power we were promised in 2008.

Via Allahpundit, who collects some of the best snark on this.

*No, not Hu Jintao. The other guy!

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

The return of the Axis of Evil

**Posted by Phineas

Michael Ledeen looks at events around the world and sees a coordinated message being sent to the US: we’re going to take you down:

Obama’s getting kicked around from Lebanon to China, but nobody seems to notice the pattern. Why shouldn’t we think that the near-simultaneous attacks — China’s humiliation of Defense Secretary Bob Gates, and Hezbollah’s (that is to say, Iran’s) takedown of the Lebanese government — were coordinated? Or do you believe that the remarkable simultaneity of the events is sheer happenstance?

The two key bad actors — Iran and the People’s Republic of China — are known to be in cahoots. And Syria is one of Iran’s closest allies (some might say it’s a virtual Iranian colony). All three have strong reasons to demonstrate that the United States has opted out of the geopolitical game, or has been effectively stymied by the three. That message is a lot stronger when it’s sent in two separate theaters at the same time than if it has to be inferred from events spread out over weeks and months. It’s like the terrorist strategy of blowing up two targets in separate countries at the same hour, as they did to American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 or on occasion during the fighting in Iraq.

There is every reason to believe that we’re looking at the return of the axis of evil. These are not random events; they’re part of a global pattern aimed at our domination and ultimate destruction. If you read the articles linked above, you’ll find the same “message to the world” in both cases.

But a more recent event, the revolution in Tunisia that’s scaring the pants off dictators across the region, points a way forward against this challenge — standing up again for the American idea, something President Obama seems incapable of doing:

On the other hand, we are the only truly revolutionary country in the world, and — as Obama once unfortunately put it — whether we like it or not, our very existence inspires a lot of the desire for democratic revolution. Many, perhaps even most, of the people in the streets of those countries, are our greatest weapon against the jihadis.

So we should support the revolutionaries. Obama has praised the bravery of the Tunisians, and although he has cravenly refused to do the same for the Iranian people (who, after all, have been fighting tyranny longer, and have paid a far greater price in blood and torture than the Tunisians), logic demands that he now do so. There is no convenient way for him to praise freedom fighters in one Middle East dictatorship and waffle in baffling generalizations elsewhere. Democratic revolution is ours, and we had best embrace it.

This support doesn’t require military action, which might in fact be counterproductive. But, as the last stages of the Cold War showed under Reagan, America as an ideal can be an inspiration to those fighting oppression, simply by being openly, unashamedly, and loudly in their corner at every opportunity and in every forum. As Natan Sharansky related in his The Case for Democracy, Reagan’s “evil empire” speech about the Soviet Union echoed through the gulags, inspiring political prisoners to persevere, emboldened by the knowledge they weren’t abandoned. In Poland, the moral support the United States provided was so instrumental to Solidarity’s survival and the fall of Communism there, that statues have been raised to President Reagan and public squares named for him.

The point, of course, is not that Obama should do this for the honors he might get, but that American moral leadership in the cause of human liberty truly has an effect and is a genuine weapon to be wielded against the tyrants in Beijing and Tehran who work against us. It’s about time he started.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

China’s big challenge to the US Navy

**Posted by Phineas

For the last 70 years, the centerpiece of US naval strategy –and, indeed, essential for the projection of American power around the globe– has been the aircraft carrier. Born of necessity after the disaster at Pearl Harbor decimated our battleships, the carrier battle group has been an effective tool of hard power for American presidents of both parties when the time came to show a foe we were serious. They provide the United States with a flexible and rapidly deployed instrument, and any plans to challenge us must find a way to neutralize them.

Something the Chinese may be on the verge of doing:

The Chinese have made significant progress on a missile system designed to sink a moving aircraft carrier from nearly 2,000 miles away, according to the top U.S. commander in the Pacific.

China’s anti-ship missile system has reached the rough equivalent of what the U.S. military terms as “initial operational capability,” Adm. Robert Willard, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, said in an interview with Japan’s Asahi newspaper Tuesday.

At the heart of the system is the Dong Feng 21D, a mobile, land-based missile that is projected to strike a carrier from between 1,200 and 1,800 miles, depending on its payload and other factors.

Willard said that the “component parts of the anti-ship ballistic missile have been developed and tested,” according to Asahi.

The missile has not yet been flight-tested over water, Willard acknowledged.

A report at Fox News relays opinions from experts that the Chinese are a decade away from developing the guidance systems need to give the Dong Feng 21D the needed accuracy, but we all know how perceptive outside observers were about developments in the Indian nuclear program. (Hint: we were caught completely by surprise.) We shouldn’t rest easy.

What makes a weapon like this all the more threatening is that, being land-based and mobile, they can be very hard to find and put out of action. Our experience hunting missile launchers firing at Israel in Gulf War I bears witness to that.

The possibility of deployed Dong Feng 21Ds will have to factor into any actions we take during periods of tension or crisis in East Asia. Both Korea and Taiwan are potential flash-points for conflict, as are Chinese claims to international waters. Whenever there has been friction with China involving any of these, we have deployed carriers to the area to demonstrate our resolve. The new Chinese missile threatens to make that a much riskier proposition.

Of course, military technology is a game of call-and-raise. Whenever someone has developed a new offensive weapon, the other guy has found a way to counteract it — and vice-versa. Sword met shield, armor met gun, and radar met stealth. One can bet that the US Navy is looking for ways to parry the Dong Feng 21D before it’s even deployed.

We’d better hope they find them.

RELATED: A very interesting article at The Diplomat on China’s risky bet against history, with a comparison to Germany prior to World War I.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Japan turns its guns from the Bear toward the Dragon

The New York Times recently published an intriguing piece on Japan’s strategic focus: having directed their self-defense forces toward the USSR/Russia since being allowed to rearm after World War II, they are now turning their attention towards a growing threat – China:

In what would be a sweeping overhaul of its cold war-era defense strategy, Japan is about to release new military guidelines that would reduce its heavy armored and artillery forces pointed north toward Russia in favor of creating more mobile units that could respond to China’s growing presence near its southernmost islands, Japanese newspapers reported Sunday.

The realignment comes as the United States is making new calls for Japan to increase its military role in eastern Asia in response to recent provocations by North Korea as well as China’s more assertive stance in the region.

The new defense strategy, likely to be released this week, will call for greater integration of Japan’s armed forces with the United States military, the reports said. The reports did not give a source, but the fact that major newspapers carried the same information suggested they were based on a background briefing by government officials.

The new guidelines also call for acquiring new submarines and fighter jets, the reports said, and creating ground units that can be moved quickly by air in order to defend the southern islands, including disputed islands in the East China Sea that are also claimed by China and Taiwan. These disputed islands are known as the Senkakus in Japanese and the Diaoyu in Chinese.

Read the whole thing, not only for general interest, but for a good glimpse of the evolving strategic game in East Asia. Don’t let the mention of Taiwan claiming the Senkakus distract you; Taiwan is not what Japan worries about, not when Taiwan will need the help of Japan’s patron, the US, in any confrontation with China. (And Tokyo’s, too, even if just diplomatic and political.)

China, a rising, potentially hypernationalistic power with global ambitions and an increasingly offensively oriented military, poses much more of a strategic threat to Japan than declining Russia. Small wonder than that, faced with China’s growing challenge to the 65-years old total dominance of the Pacific by the US Navy, America is encouraging Japan to rearm and expand its strategic mission.

And it’s not just China Japan is worried about: Beijing’s obstreperous protege North Korea has repeatedly caused jitters in Tokyo, with its recent nuclear tests and violent acts against South Korea. While the history between Japan and Korea (both of them) is difficult to say the least (colonization, sex slavery, and kidnapping tend to spoil even the best of relationships), the US has been working to encourage a greater strategic cooperation between the two, and there are some signs of early efforts to reach an understanding.

All things considered, this represents a significant change in Japanese policy with important strategic implications for the region and America. Japan may be on the verge of a serious demographic decline, but it is a technological powerhouse of the first order and has in the past shown an amazing ability to adapt to new circumstances. (Its one failure to adapt, during its war with the US, lead to Japan’s only defeat. Don’t think they haven’t learned that lesson.) Should the Japanese feel threatened enough by China, where anti-Japanese feelings frequently erupt, or the mountain bandits in Pyongyang, I have no doubt they would find the will to quickly amend their constitution to allow for a larger, more active military. And if they felt the need to go nuclear? Regardless of the memories of the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they could do it within month, folks. Within months.

While the Jihadi War is our immediate concern, our strategic competition with China is a long-term crucial issue. Japan is one player to keep a very close eye on.

And to keep on our side.

via DaveedGR on Twitter

RELATED: Like Japan and Russia, China is facing its own demographic decline. Like Imperial Germany prior to World War I, this may lead China to feel the need to strike for domination before its position weakens.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)