Fear of losing face
The analysis in Asian Affairs of the virtual meeting between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping (Red Perspective, November 2021) was helpful in explaining the signals the United States and China are sending to each other and to the rest of the world. I was struck by the comment that the Chinese delegation hosted their end of the call from a room which looked even grander than the Roosevelt Room in the White House. In the current climate, no aspect of such staging is left to chance.
I believe that President Xi is playing to his audience in China, especially his supporters within the CCP. It is part of his bid to continue his political legacy when the Party convenes in 2022 to consider China’s future leadership.
For the United States, the initial ‘pivot to Asia’ under President Obama has been superseded by a much more difficult set of relationships within the region. I fear that disagreements between the US and China could now cause real trouble – if not a war – sucking in Japan and other countries.
We should remember that ‘losing face’ is often regarded as a humiliation in Asian cultures, especially in Japan and in China.
China doesn’t want a unified Korea
It was interesting to read of the deteriorating relationship between South Korea and China in Asian Affairs (‘A force to be reckoned with’, Richard Gregson, December 2021). The writer said a poll shows China as the least favoured nation among the South Korean public, well below arch-enemy North Korea, and former aggressor Japan.
There is similar tension between China and North Korea at the moment, as the North has antagonised Beijing with its development of nuclear weapons and its determination to limit Chinese influence within its borders. The former leader of North Korea, Kim Il Sung, purged anyone with close ties to China, culminating in the departure of all remaining troops in the 1950s.
My view is that if North Korea and South Korea were ever to be reunified, China might be faced by a strong adversary upon its border. For that reason, Koreans who seek reunification should recognise the potential for China to try to sabotage their efforts.
A preference for peace
The rationale behind the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force’s nationwide exercises was deftly expounded in Amit Agnihotri’s article ‘Precautionary measures from pacifist power’ (Asian Affairs, Dec. 2021).
However, it is also important to note that Japan should be wary, as any apparent overtures towards a military conflict over territories like the Diaoyu Islands and Taiwan could have a negative impact on Japan and its people.
True, these massive drills targeting China will no doubt win support for Japanese politicians, and demonstrate Japan’s loyalty to its Quad partners. But, as is so often the case, this will not necessarily be for the wellbeing of the people.
Any activity that could be seen as a move toward war could have its own unwelcome consequences, as it could make the People’s Liberation Army extra vigilant. And does Japan really want to ally itself closer militarily with America, after its disastrous performance in Afghanistan?
Japan might do better not to seek to undermine its pacifist constitution.
Green energy is expensive
Your journal has rightly raised the issue of coal as one of the main source pollution. But your writers have also argued that blaming Asian economies for the problem was misplaced. India and China are big countries with large populations. The developmental needs of these countries are immense. They have a long way to go to reach the prosperity levels of Western Countries. But transition from a coal-based economy to renewables is difficult and expensive. The developing countries are making every effort to develop renewable sources of energy.
The developed countries should pitch in with funds and technology to help the developing world in its efforts.