Thursday, May 12, 2005

Are Japanese moderate political forces lost (and enshrined) ?

An interesting insight from professor Thomas Berger from
the Boston University who happened to reach my mailbox,
about the perception of China rise from a Japanese
conservative perspective. I noticed that in the
gargantuesque writings of some Anglo Saxons school and
university teachers, it is acceptable for an American
fascist to be just described as a conservative while a
Japanese conservative would be described as an extremist
of the right.

Move the center... this is the solution.

Quotes :

"The rise of a China threat may well lead to a revival
of some of the same ideological cleavages that we saw in
the LDP in the 1960s and 1970s. We seem to be seeing
the reemergence of a pro-Taiwan faction (although for a
rather different point of view see Greg Noble in the
January 2005 issue of the Journal of East Asian Studies)
led in some cases by the descendants of the LDP right
wing-leaders who helped found or support the Seirankai.
Nakagawa Shoichi is indeed the son of Nakagawa Ichiro.
Abe Shinzo is not only the son of former Foreign
Minister Abe Shintaro, but the grandson on his mother's
side of Kishi Nobusuke. Interestingly, I was told that
young Abe was largely raised in his grandfather's house,
as his father was away on business most of the time, and
thus was imbued from an early age in the ideology of
Japanese conservatism.

What is important to note, however, in all of this is
not just the links between the old Japanese right and
the new Japanese right today, but also the right wing's
historical volatility. We should not view the rise of
the right as an inexorable trend in Japanese politics,
but as a recurring feature that is spurred by domestic
as well as international political developments.
Japanese political leaders on the right are maneuvering
for factional as well as cross factional support for the
coming battle to succeed Koizumi. How solidly committed
these figures are to pursuing a genuinely right-wing
agenda, however, is open to question. Fukuda, after
all, is remembered for completing the normalization of
relations with the PRC. And we have seen how solidly
pro-defense, nationalists can stab each other in the
back when they see it as being in their short-term
political interest to do so (witness the role Fukuda
played in undermining Nakasone on breaching the 1% of
GDP limit on defense spending in 1985). We should
expect right-wing leaders like Abe and Nakagawa to be
equally fickle today.

There are two critical factors that may make for a more
sustained right wing revival today. First, where are
the more moderate, anti-military forces in Japanese
politics, and inside the LDP, today? Obviously the old
JSP and JCP have evaporated, and the CGP and Democratic
Party are far more moderate than they were. Yet, the
non-LDP parties do seem to lean in more leftish
direction, and they may be more inclined to seek
accomodation rather than confrontation with China than
is the right-wing inside the LDP. While Kato Koichi and
the pro-China left wing of the LDP seems to be dead, I
would not be at all surprised if new LDP left-of-center
forces emerge again - looking to develop strong links
with the opposition parties in order to strengthen their
position inside of the LDP, as well as in response to
incentives emanating from the business community as well
as from the left-wing media (especially the Asahi and
Mainichi). If such moderate political forces inside the
LDP do not emerge, however, a more resolutely
anti-Chinese Japan is a real possibility.

The other, to my mind even more critical factor, is US
policy. The United States forced the sinophilic Yoshida
Shigeru to sever ties with mainland China in 1951.
Twenty years later, the United States famously undercut
the firmly anti-PRC Sato Eisaku in 1971, leading to a
significant reordering of Japanese domestic politics and
a near complete turn about in Japanese foreign policy.
Given Japan's intensified dependence on the alliance
with the US today, Japanese policy towards China is
likewise likely to continue to follow the US lead. IF
the US confronts China, Japanese leaders probably can be
found who were willing to cleave to the pro-US line,
despite considerable domestic political cooperation. If
the US instead reaffirms its strategy of engagement
towards China , Japanese leaders again can be found who
will see it as being in Japan's national interest to
pursue closer relations with China. Of course, they
would be embarassed to admit that they are primarily
following in the US' footsteps. But the fact will
remain, that they will be.

In other words, rather than see Sino-Japanese tensions
as being an immutable feature of their geo-political
environment, I think it may be more correct to
understand them as a function of Sino-American
relations. If China steers down a confrontational
course vis-a-vis the US - which its foolish rejection of
a Beijing-hot line, its belligerent stance on Taiwan,
and its non-supportive role in the North Korean crisis
suggests that it might - Sino-Japanese tensions will
escalate and once peripheral issues such as the Senkaku
islands and Yasukuni will become more serious. If China
chooses to adopt a non-confrontational and even
cooperative stance towards the US - which I believe its
current leaders are correctly inclined to do, out of
respect for their overwhelming interest in maintaining
China's steady economic growth - these problems will
prove manageable. If I had to guess, the Hu Jintao
leadership will try to avoid confrontation with the US,
and the Bush administration for its part would prefer to
let Beijing back itself out of the corner it has
maneuvered itself into."

End of quotes

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