China is the elephant in the (Asian) room. Its resolute reaction to the visit of US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to Taipei, its clear will to 're-unify' Mainland China with Taiwan, together with the never-ending disputes in the East China Sea are pushing Japan to adopt a more active approach to regional geopolitics. To put it bluntly, traditional military deterrence and containment is the name of the game, and Japan is ready to play. As such, is China really planning to attack and annex Taiwan? If so, when?
Japan’s life expectancy has reached 87.7 years older for women and 81.6 years old for men in 2016 (OECD, 2017). During the last 30 years, the figures increased by 5 years. In addition, in 2040, it is estimated that the life expectancy will rise by two years. In 2040, 40% of men aged 65 and over will turn 90, and it will represent 20% of elderly people.
China’s reaction to US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was resolute. The military exercises with live-fire drill were a nearly Pavlovian reaction suggesting they were long pre-planned. China’s message to the US and the international community was a clear warning not to assist Taiwan, oppose a reunification, prevent a military escalation, or provide political support through visits and exchanges.
The latest India-Japan 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministerial Dialogue in September reiterated the two partners’ commitment to greater regional cooperation and integration in the Indo-Pacific. The 2+2 meetings are intended to provide “strategic guidance” to boost India-Japan ties, which were upgraded to Special Strategic and Global Partnership in 2014 by Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe.
The current crisis in the Taiwan Strait— ignited by US Senate Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit in August — is the latest and most serious escalation of tensions so far. Unprecedentedly large live military air and sea drills, intimidation tactics, and increasing grey zone activities are, in a way, already changing the status quo in the Strait. The question of international support to Taiwan in this context has never been more acute, and Europe can hardly remain idle.
Japan’s official stance on its ‘one-China policy’ has not changed, and it still clearly wishes to obviate any Sino-Japanese tensions or unnecessary entanglement in a Taiwan Straits conflict.
The gloves are off. Japan would – in the case of an unprovoked Chinese attack against Taiwan – get involved defending Taiwan militarily, showcasing that there is no scenario in which Japan could avoid getting involved in a military conflict scenario in the Taiwan Strait.
While the world’s eyes have been focused on Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, the political and economic playing field has been heating up across East Asia. China and Japan, the world’s second and third largest economies, respectively, – are heading towards more hostile relations, and the ripple effects of this are trickling down both in Asia as well as on global markets.
Great power competition in Asia comes with the need for China and the US to secure alliances and partnership in the region. In the first half of the 2022, four of the major players – Japan, South Korea, Australia and Philippines – changed the government or held elections. In each of these countries how to relate with China was one of the biggest issues in foreign policy.
While differences might remain in the interpretation of how the war in Ukraine could have been avoided and what the consequences will be, it is unanimously understood that the conflict has recompacted the Western front and has in fact divided the world. This division was very visibile on 2 March, at the United Nations, when the General Assembly resolution condemning the Russian invasion was passed with 141 votes in favour, 35 abstentions, and 5 against.
Asia is divided in its condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The more advanced economies, such as Japan, South Korea and Singapore, not only approved the resolution, but they had already imposed sanctions on Russia. Taiwan, too, although not represented at the UN, has expressed its condemnation of Russian actions and aligned itself with Western sanctions. However, many Asian countries have opted for a broadly neutral approach with significant differences between their positions. The most relevant ones are those of China and India.
The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted supply chains and economic activities across the globe. Japan is no exception because of its global supply chain vulnerability, notably its high concentration of production bases in China. This article first explains recent developments in Japanese supply chain policy over the past few years. It argues that Japan’s efforts in securing supply chain resilience have not been successful. It then highlights key challenges faced by the Japanese government in strengthening supply chain resilience.