Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Falling Eagle, Rising Dragon

Over at, Chalmers Johnson argues that the Bush administration's China policy is foolhardy.

It seems that the administration's neoconservatives are pushing Japan to amend its constitution, which the U.S. helped write, so that the country can rearm, ostensibly due to China's ascendancy. Currently, Japan has a pacifist constitution due to its aggression before and during WWII, which happened to kill a lot of Chinese (i.e. The Rape of Nanking). This will certainly irritate the Chinese. Chalmers writes:
America's intention is to turn Japan into what Washington neo-conservatives like to call the "Britain of the Far East" -- and then use it as a proxy in checkmating North Korea and balancing China. On October 11, 2000, Michael Green[now , then a member of Armitage Associates, wrote, "We see the special relationship between the United States and Great Britain as a model for the [U.S.-Japan] alliance." Japan has so far not resisted this American pressure since it complements a renewed nationalism among Japanese voters and a fear that a burgeoning capitalist China threatens Japan's established position as the leading economic power in East Asia. Japanese officials also claim that the country feels threatened by North Korea's developing nuclear and missile programs, although they know that the North Korean stand-off could be resolved virtually overnight -- if the Bush administration would cease trying to overthrow the Pyongyang regime and instead deliver on American trade promises (in return for North Korea's agreement to give up its nuclear weapons program). Instead, on February 25, 2005, the State Department announced that "the U.S. will refuse North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's demand for a guarantee of ‘no hostile intent' to get Pyongyang back into negotiations over its nuclear weapons programs." And on March 7, Bush nominated John Bolton to be American ambassador to the United Nations even though North Korea has refused to negotiate with him because of his insulting remarks about the country.

According to Chalmers, an additional reason the Bush administration wants to allow Japan to rearm is so Japanese engineers can help straigthen out the kinks in the Star Wars missile defense system. He fears one unintended consequence of allowing the Japanese to rearm maybe another cache of nuclear weapons on Asia. Logically, the Japanese would want a deterrent against both North Korea and China.

To top it off, some military-minded Japanese politicians are getting chummy with pro-independence Taiwanese leaders whom want to scuttle any reintegration plans with China. This is just as relations between the mainland and Taiwain were easing.

Although Chalmers warns these provocations by both segments of American and Japanese militarists may open the gate and unleash a rotweiler, the administration and Japan aren't quiting and recently "played it most dangerous card" yet.

In this context, the Bush administration, perhaps influenced by the election of November 2 and the transition from Colin Powell's to Condi Rice's State Department, played its most dangerous card. On February 19, 2005 in Washington, it signed a new military agreement with Japan. For the first time, Japan joined the administration in identifying security in the Taiwan Strait as a "common strategic objective." Nothing could have been more alarming to China's leaders than the revelation that Japan had decisively ended six decades of official pacifism by claiming a right to intervene in the Taiwan Strait.

Why should we be worried? As Chalmers exhaustively accounts, China is no longer a pariah and has been deepening its stratetic and economic relations with the EU, Latin America,and East Asia, while brand America is losing its popularity. Furthermore, unable to pay for our extravagant military expenditures and other government spending ourselves:
[T]he United States is financing these outlays by going into debt to Japan, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and India. This situation has become increasingly unstable as the U.S. requires capital imports of at least $2 billion per day to pay for its governmental expenditures. Any decision by East Asian central banks to move significant parts of their foreign exchange reserves out of the dollar and into the euro or other currencies in order to protect themselves from dollar depreciation would produce the mother of all financial crises.
What this means is that the U.S. is running headfirst toward a fall because our current leadership's policies, aimed at keeping America superior, only precipiates our decline at an ever accelerating rate.

The question is: Can Bush push put the breaks on in time to change course?