Will Japan be benefited by Better US-China Ties?

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie Abe arrive ahead of his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S., February 9, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie Abe arrive ahead of his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S., February 9, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

When US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met the press after their meeting on February 10, Trump gave warm but abstract description of US-Japan friendship and alliance without any actual details.

People’s memory is still fresh about US President Donald Trump’s nominee for and later appointed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s hardline remarks on blocking China’s access to the artificial islands China has built in the South China Sea. They believe that as China will defend such access, a war between China and the US is unavoidable.

That is because media is fond of sensational news but fail to give emphasis in their reports later that in responses to US lawmakers’ following-up questions, Tillerson softened his language. He said that in the event of an unspecified “contingency” the United States and its allies “must be capable of limiting China’s access to and use of” those islands to pose a threat. (See Reuters’ report “New top U.S. diplomat plays central role in Trump’s China shift” on February 10.)

There is utterly no need to worry that Trump will fight a war with China.

People were surprised by Trump’s friendly long phone call hours before he met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Reuters’ report “China gets an early win off Trump, but many battles remain” on February 11 gives the impression that Trump has lost face in giving Xi the concession on continuing US “one-China” policy. It forgets that Taiwan is but Trump’s bargaining chip to get concessions from China. As a shrewd businessman, Trump certainly will not give Xi anything if he can get nothing from Xi. That is why when he was asked by Takita of Japan’s Sankei Shimbun about his dissatisfaction with China in the news conference, he said that he had a very good, very very warm conversation with Xi.

He said, “As far as the currency devaluations, I’ve been complaining about that for a long time. And I believe that we will all eventually — and probably very much sooner than a lot of people understand or think — we will be all at a level playing field, because that’s the only way it’s fair.” Obviously, Trump has obtained in principle what he wants from Xi. He and Xi are to leave to their subordinates to decide the actual detailed trade measures for win-win cooperation between the US and China.

Abe, however, tried hard in the news conference to pit the US against China. He said in his initial speech, “Never should a state-owned company, backed by state capital, should not make any economic intervention. Free ride on intellectual property should not be condoned,” hinting that the US shall work with Japan to contain China.

He first ignored New York Times’ Daniel Halper’s question about TPP to avoid revealing his difference with Trump on TPP, but has to give a reply when Fox’s Blake Berman picked off again Danial’s question.

He said, “Now, for the free and fair common set of rules to be created for the free trade regime in the region, and that was the purpose of TPP, and that importance have not changed. I, myself, believe that.” He tried again to convince Trump that Trump shall continue Obama’s policy to use TPP to contain China.

Trump’s response is really interesting. He said that he thought his good relations with Xi “will also be very much of a benefit to Japan”.

How can win-win cooperation between China and the US benefit Japan? It will provide US goods with better access to Chinese markets so that Japan will lose market share to the US. China, on the other hand, will have better access to US technology to have sharper competition edges than Japan.

Trump and Xi will both be winner while Abe will be the only loser. That will be the benefit Abe will get.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Trump and Abe’s news conference.


3 Comments on “Will Japan be benefited by Better US-China Ties?”

  1. Fre Okin says:

    Keep the enemy close. Very very close. US Japan relation is not ‘comrade, brotherly’ like US have with UK. It is all cosmetic, for show, like Trump 19 sec handshake making Abe very uncomfortable. It’s like Trump trying to wrestle him to cry Uncle. US Japan relation is more like two parasites trying to use each other to off load the burden of containing China to the other party, so it is clear cunning Abe was trying to harm US by using cheap democracy argument against China. The world still remember Japan follow US in massive QE currency manipulation within the last 2-4 years, so neither Abe nor Trump have any case against Chinese economic and monetary policies.


  2. Steve says:

    In Davos, President Xi said if Trump promotes protectionism and increase import tariffs, he will promote free trade. Trump has not established any bilateral trade agreement with Japan.

    According to world economic forum, China’s economy is still growing at almost 3 times the rate of the US. The US suffers from a trade deficit, as it imports more than exports – while China imports significantly less than it exports, resulting in a trade surplus. It’s true china lags in terms of foreign direct investments and it’s high tech exports amount to nearly four times less than those of the US.

    But, closing the gap is just a matter of time because China is committed to education, with around 4% of GDP invested in training it’s people. Bear in mind that China’s education system is the largest in the world. It has more university students than the EU and the US combined and growing demand for higher education among young Chinese. China is on it’s way of becoming the world’s leading economy and already there in terms of Purchasing Power Parity.

    Trump’s conversation would have a lot to do with lesser import tariffs, China’s huge market share for US high tech, free trade, etc. China US economy are heavily intertwined and dependent of each other – Japan is practically an outsider looking in. Japan’s unrepentant Abe is still seeking Obama’s TPP to contain China. Very strange hungry ghost.