Coping with the Rise of the Chinese Military Power
By Nathalie-Kyoko Stucky
Friday, September 9, 2011
SNA (Tokyo) — With China’s emerging economy and its growing military role, Japan, while exhausted in tackling the great tsunami and nuclear disasters, has to put the defense policy back on its agenda once again.
This was the perspective presented by Masayuki Masuda, a Senior Fellow of the Research Department at the National Institute of Defense Studies in a wide-ranging press conference held at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on Thursday.
Masuda suggested that Japan’s triple disaster of March 11 has reinforced the nation’s tendency to look inwards, and that the Chinese government may take this as “a window of opportunity” to push its own regional agenda, particularly in regard to the disputed Senkaku-Daioyu Islands.
Masuda says that, from a Chinese point of view, Beijing showed an immense degree of goodwill in trying to help Japan recover from its disaster, but that the hand of friendship was to some degree rebuffed. This means that some in the Chinese navy who were willing to show forbearance on territorial disagreements in the immediate wake of 3.11, now believe that military exercises “cannot be postponed any longer.”
Masuda is also concerned about the trends in military budgeting.
While the US military budget is still higher than the rest of the world combined, China’s economic growth and its commitment to upgrade its military power indicate that this situation will not continue much longer.
He says that the Japanese Ministry of Defense currently projects that in the year 2030 Beijing’s military budget will be twelve times higher than that of Tokyo.
Few analysts believe that the United States will be able to maintain to massive military expenditures in future decades either.
The bottom line is that China can be expected to grow in stature as a regional military power in coming years and that Japan needs to “change its way of thinking” which has been “predicated on the assumption that the US military forces are overwhelmingly more powerful than any other military force in this region.”
Japanese defense strategies need to be reviewed with these trends in mind, he says.
Should the rise of Chinese military power be seen as a threat?
Masuda is concerned, but he also points out some positive aspects.
On the one hand, Beijing’s attitudes seem to be hardening towards neighboring countries with which it has territorial disputes. He perceives a situation in which “China is using its military power in order to back up diplomatic activities.”
But on the other side of the ledger is that China shares many common interests with the rest of the world’s states, and so, for example, the Chinese navy has been responsible for protecting over 4,000 ships from Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden.
Overall, Masuda believes that Japan should endeavor that its relationship with China not be entirely confrontational, but that areas of potential cooperation should also be explored.
“It is important to develop a relationship of trust between the military forces in Japan and China.”
Nathalie-Kyoko Stucky is a staff writer at the Shingetsu News Agency.