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.
In the wake of Russia's aggression against Ukraine, there is no doubt that the international order that has developed throughout the 20th century is facing a crisis. In order to protect the liberal international order, human rights, democracy, the principle that the status quo should not be changed by force and that peaceful conflict resolution is necessary are all essential and are now being challenged.
For over a decade, rare earths have emerged as a crucial commodity in the race for the geo-economic dominance of this century, and that is not by chance. As a matter of fact, rare earths are fundamental for the development of the new technologies that will enable the green revolution envisaged by the international community’s climate change efforts.
Following previous virtual discussions, including as part of the recent summit between leaders of the “Quad” nations of India, Australia, Japan and the USA, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will travel to Washington DC on 16 April to be the first foreign leader to meet President Joe Biden in person. Conversations are expected to address global issues ranging from climate change to the coronavirus pandemic, however all eyes will be on foreign policy outcomes, especially those pertaining to China.
In Japan, both the population and the birthrate are declining while the population is aging. In the manufacturing industry that supports the Japanese economy skilled workers are also aging and in short supply. For this reason, manufacturing companies are increasing their productivity by implementing digital technology in order to make up for this shortage of skilled workers.
Global trade experienced a sharp drop due to the spread of COVID-19 early last year but managed to recover to pre-pandemic level later in the same year. Japan was no exception to this trend. More than one-third of Japan’s total exports evaporated in the three month stretch between March and May last year, but its total exports rebounded and even exceeded pre-pandemic levels in October 2020.
Between December 2020 and January 2021, the Japanese Foreign Minister Motegi made two official visits to Africa in a row (1st round: Tunisia, Mozambique, South Africa Mauritius, 2nd round: Senegal and Kenya) to discuss future collaboration with these countries with an eye set on the forthcoming TICAD8 to be held in Tunis in 2022. An annual visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi followed in early January 2021, kicking off the year of FOCAC to be held in Senegal this year.
The EU-Japan Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) was signed and adopted in July 2018 in parallel with the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). For now, the agreement is only provisionally as it is pending final approval. The SPA will enter into force after all EU members ratify the agreement (the Japanese parliament already ratified it in December 2018). The agreement covers EU-Japanese cooperation in international politics, economics, and security.
With the resignation of Prime Minister Abe, the future of Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy has been called into question. Abe was indeed one of the key architects of this vision and he devoted enormous energy to flesh it out. For sure, his successor, Suga Yoshihide, will have his hands full with domestic issues, from tackling the COVID-related economic crisis to implementing daunting structural reforms.