Will Japan be benefited by Better US-China Ties?Posted: February 13, 2017
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.