On October 12, the Morning Edition of the Yomiuri Shimbun ran an article in the International Section entitled, “Triple handicap for Russia: Low crude oil prices, cheap ruble, and sanctions.” It read:
The troubles in the Russian economy are becoming more distinct. The price of crude oil, which supports the economy, is dropping sharply. The outward flow of capital is unceasing, and the ruble continues setting new all-time lows compared to the United States dollar. The triple punch of low crude oil prices, the cheap ruble, and sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Europe may seriously harm diplomatic strategies in addition to Russian financial affairs, corporations, and people.
Russia is not the only country in a predicament; the same applies to China. The pro-democracy camp, which is demanding true universal suffrage in Hong Kong, held a gathering attended by tens of thousands of people on October 10. The pro-democracy camp wants to preserve the concept of “One country, two systems” that was promised for 50 years when Hong Kong was returned to China. The Chinese authorities know they will be inevitably criticized by the entire world if they crush the demonstrations like the Tiananmen Square Incident of 1989. However, if they give in to these demonstrators and an election takes place in 2017, this problem will not be limited to Hong Kong; it will certainly spill over to the Xinjiang-Uygur Autonomous Region and Tibet Autonomous Region as well. According to the news, dozens of people were killed when a large-scale rebellion was conducted and then suppressed in the Xinjiang-Uygur Autonomous Region in September. People all over China are dissatisfied by the huge disparities between the rich and poor. The rich people who have accumulated massive amounts of wealth send their children to study abroad and also illegally transfer their assets to overseas countries, making preparations to escape from China at any time. Just like the mice that flee from a boat right before it sinks, this suggests that China is on the verge of collapse.
In the Middle East, uncontrolled strife and conflict is still taking place between different religious sects, and the situation is exceedingly chaotic. The most extreme example is the way a Sunni terrorist group – which calls itself the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (ISIS) – has expanded its sphere of influence.
Looking at the global economy as well, Europe’s growth scenario has become shaky due to the growing risk of deflation and the decline of the Russian economy. Expectations are directed at the Japanese and American economies for this reason, but these hopes are not being fulfilled. In Japan, policy has been implemented to achieve 2% inflation underneath Abenomics, but economic activities are stagnant, including the delayed provision of new condominiums due to rapidly rising land prices and building expenses. Meanwhile, regarding radiation leaked in the Fukushima nuclear accident after the Great East Japan Earthquake, radioactive decontamination has been carried out according to the strict standard of one millisievert or less – even though there are absolutely no impacts on health at this level – which was set by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) government (and has since been revised). Lives could be saved if the government provided around half of the construction costs to build “disaster prevention condominiums” in tsunami-prone areas where people could evacuate to the roof in the case of a tsunami. However, instead huge amounts of money are being spent on futile measures such as eight-meter-tall super embankments, and funds are not being dedicated to what is required.
The positive effects of the cheap yen are limited to some corporations, while in contrast conspicuous impacts can be seen from the suddenly rising import costs caused by the overly cheap yen, as well as the increased consumption tax. A particular problem is the steeply rising gasoline costs in rural areas, where people have to use cars to get around. One can say the entire world is in a state of turmoil in the political and economic realms alike.
The biggest cause of this chaos is that the system of unipolar government by the U.S. is breaking down. In a televised speech in September 2013, President Barack Obama declared the U.S. is no longer the policeman of the world, which led to confusion across the globe. The most striking adverse effect was the economic sanctions placed on Russia by Europe and the U.S. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych – a member of the pro-Russia faction who was chosen via an election – was ousted by a demonstration commenced by the Western Ukraine side. This led to the crisis in Ukraine, and Russia took this opportunity to conduct an armed invasion and annex the Crimean Peninsula.
In addition, the expanded shale gas and oil development in the U.S. has decreased the American dependence on the Middle East for oil and also resulted in depreciated crude oil prices. In an attempt to make Japan shoulder this debt, information strategy warfare is being used to incite anxiety as a way to prevent the re-start of nuclear power plants in Japan, where a nuclear accident took place in Fukushima.
According to the aforementioned Yomiuri Shimbun article, Russia has a warped economic system in which roughly 70% of exports depend on crude oil and natural gas (50% of the federal budget). The economy is stagnating due to the direct impacts of low crude oil prices, and the ruble has cheapened. It has also become more difficult for the Russian people to live because of steeply increasing grocery prices caused by the resulting inflation. The world is closely connected today, so various circumstances end up causing mutual impacts.
If one attempts to maintain political power amidst disappointing economic conditions, the usual measure is an unyielding diplomatic offensive against a party that cannot make a counterattack. It seemed like China was up to its old tricks, but this exposed the fact that the influential people in China are losing their grasp on power, which is even scarier. The Nihon Keizai Shimbun’s Weather Vane column on October 12 read as follows:
According to the local news, a few days before Xi Jinping visited China on September 17, the Chinese Army suddenly began transgressing across the border with India. This took place in the Ladakh region where a national border was not demarcated after the Sino-Indian War. At most, more than 1,000 soldiers crossed the border. When Xi Jinping arrived in India, he called for friendship and cooperation, but at the same time these soldiers were in India. Some observers feel that Xi Jinping allowed this border crossing as a way to place checks on India. However, a plausible theory is that the soldiers were moved without Xi Jinping’s knowledge. Many of the Japanese and American authorities in charge of security guarantees tend to believe the latter. Xi Jinping went to India to advocate for Sino-Indian friendship and restrain Japan. This has come to nothing due to the clamor regarding the border transgression, and Xi Jinping has lost face. Chinese military planes have been engaged in near misses with Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) aircraft twice this year, and with American military aircraft several times. Some reports said this was provocation by China, but the American and Japanese authorities say these near misses took place according to the judgment of the pilots or local headquarters.
These circumstances show that President Xi Jinping is not fully in control of the army, and that military conflict could occur. This is extremely frightening.
Professor Tomoharu Washio of Kwansei Gakuin University is the author of American History, a close analysis based on 20 themes. I recently invited Washio to my wine gathering along with Keizo Tokuriki, chairman of the Brazil-Japan Conference. There, Washio presented me with a copy of The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategyem> by his acquaintance Edward Luttwak, a renowned American strategy researcher. Luttwak is currently a senior advisor at the American Center for Strategic and International Studies. His other famous books include Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace, which is known for its paradoxical logic regarding strategy. His entry on Wikipedia reads as follows:
According to Luttwak, paradoxes are frequently present during wars. One example is the issue of choosing an avenue of approach to a destination. Generally the shortest route is selected, but during war there are times when the worst route should be chosen as a way to circumvent enemy movements. The reason is that, when considering the enemy’s movements, it is fully possible that the former route could allow the enemy to take precautions and make defense preparations, while the latter route allows the possibility of a surprise attack. Paradoxes of this sort are accepted as the true character of warfare and can also be applied to peacekeeping operations. In the revised edition of his book, Luttwak claims that final peace is established not through efforts towards a cease-fire, but rather when one of the two parties is fully beaten.
Luttwak is a considerable pragmatist. This matches with the detour strategy that is currently being implemented by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Wikipedia also reads:
Regarding the structure of strategy, Luttwak says there is the vertical dimension (Technical Level, Tactical Level, Operational Level, Theater Strategy, and Grand Strategy) and horizontal dimension such as diplomacy, propaganda, economic power, and information (warfare methods other than military affairs). He points out that harmony is essential in interactions between the vertical and horizontal dimensions.
At the recent wine gathering, a topic of conversation was the idea that – since South Korea is erecting comfort women statues in front of Japanese embassies and other locations – Japan should construct bronze statues of Park Chung-hee in the uniform of the Imperial Japanese Army in front of South Korean embassies. They should be labeled with “Masao Takagi” (his Japanese name).
Park Chung-hee graduated from the Japanese military academy and was a hardworking soldier in the Empire of Japan. After the war, he became the president of South Korea with aid from Japan. He also helped achieve rapid economic growth that was described as the “Miracle on the Han River.” Park Geun-hye, his daughter, maintains a desperate anti-Japanese stance since she is afraid of losing political power because her father was a member of the pro-Japanese faction. She also refuses to hold Japan-South Korea summits because of the comfort women issue. In the meantime, the South Korean economy is rapidly losing momentum, the citizens are expressing their dissatisfaction, and Park Guen-hye’s approval rating is falling. Due to these circumstances, erecting statues of Park Chung-hee would show that her father was loyal to Japan, and would deal a strong political blow to Park Geun-hye and South Korea alike.
Today it seems that South Korea has become a vassal state that is part of China. The U.S. shares no recent military secrets or other information with South Korea, and there is no need for the U.S. or Japan to provide any economic aid either. According to Luttwak’s book, this could be described as an information strategy (the horizontal dimension). Economic power (the horizontal dimension) is also important. When Japan had the second highest GDP in the world, South Korea was not as aggravated about the comfort women issue, and China did not emphasize its ownership of the Senkaku Islands to this degree.
Kozo Sasaki, chairman of the Japan Socialist Party, visited China in 1964. In response to his apology, the Chinese side expressed gratitude, saying, “There is no need to be sorry. Did not Japan’s militarism bring great advantages to China, and allow rights to be stolen from the Chinese citizens? Everyone, I believe it would have been impossible for us to gain these rights without the power of the Japanese Imperial Army.” China’s current development is also thanks to monetary, human, and technical cooperation from Japan, including official development aid (ODA). Japan has also made great contributions to the development of South Korea. Both countries should be thankful to Japan, yet they criticize Japan now that its economic strength has declined.
Because of the spread of the Internet, today many people can hear about things happening anywhere on the globe. Due to this and other factors, we can learn about the world – which is in a chaotic state of affairs – moment by moment. The demonstrations for democratization in Hong Kong may be the first step towards fundamentally reforming China, where the inconsistent situation is approaching a critical state. Russia is not only facing the issue of Ukraine, but has yet to resolve the question of Chechen independence. On October 5, a male 19-year-old suicide bomber in Gorznyi, the capital city of the Republic of Chechnya, killed five policemen. This news spread to other regions. ISIS is exceedingly enthusiastic about using online propaganda, and ISIS sympathizers from across the world are trying to join in. Even in Japan, an incident occurred in which a Hokkaido University student was investigated when he tried to go to ISIS. The way ISIS endures air strikes by the U.S. during the day and mobilizes at night reminds one of the Vietnam War, when the U.S. was basically defeated. It will not be possible to recover the area controlled by ISIS through aerial bombing alone. The U.S. began air strikes at the instigation of the defense industry, but what does it intend to do next?
The countries of the Middle East are tribal nations; they are decisively different from the Western European countries that advocate for democracy. In the past I have visited Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt. President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, President Hosni Mubarak, President Anwar Sadat of Syria (who is friendly with the ambassador to Japan), and other leaders are described as dictators by the Western powers in North America and Europe, but they each governed their countries peacefully. Yet this peace was changed to turmoil through the Jasmine Revolution backed by the West.
After the end of the Cold War between the East and West, the U.S. changed its hypothetical enemy from Germany to Japan, which had become an economic power. The American defense industry zeroed in on the Middle East as a place to export weapons and conduct experiments; it obtained enormous wealth by causing a series of wars from the Gulf War to Iraq War. Japan must take its alliance with the U.S. seriously, but it should also reform the constitution and turn the JSDF into an independent military to establish its own defense capabilities that can be used at critical moments.
Relationships between nations are determined by a balance of power, and wars occur when a power vacuum is created. The chaos in the world today does not seem likely to settle down, so it is clear that the optimistic way of thinking – that says Japan has been protected by the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, enjoyed peace and no wars because of Article 9 of the constitution, and should entrust the dirty work to the U.S. – will result in Japan’s bluff being called. Japan must quickly create a realistic, mainstream way of thinking that says peace is maintained through power.
In world affairs today people are connected by information, and all things that happen in one region impact others. It is no longer acceptable for a single nation to enjoy prosperity or peace. The world is moving into a state of confusion due to the issues faced by China, South Korea, Russia, and the Middle East. The spread of Ebola hemorrhagic fever is unceasing in Africa, but because it is passed through contact there is less risk of expansion than infectious diseases that are air-borne illnesses. More than 10 million people across the world die each year because of influenza, AIDS, and other infectious diseases. In the past, the greatest impact of infectious diseases – including avian influenza, SARS, and new strains of pandemic influenza – was damage caused by misinformation. I hope the mass media in Japan and other advanced countries will not spread misinformation, and will report in a correct way that is based on calculations of statistical probability and does not incite anxiety.
Vast amounts of expired food are thrown out in Japan and other advanced nations each day, yet 15 million people are suffering or dying from starvation. I have visited 78 countries across the world, but I have never seen another happy nation where people can live in peace and security like in Japan. This may not continue forever, but we must ensure that this prosperity lasts as long as possible for the sake of our descendants. The danger is close and we do not have much time left. Now is the moment for Japan to consider what path it should take based on a panoramic view of the world; constant consideration of the past, present, and future; and a broad perspective in terms of both space and time. All Japanese people should take a straight look at this reality.6:15 p.m., October 24, 2014 (Friday)