The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has caused serious damage in various fields around the world. On June 4, the Sankei Shimbun newspaper ran a column on the front page of its morning edition elucidating the origins of this virus. Entitled “Fighting and Coexisting With Corona,” it read:
The Wuhan Institute of Virology in Guangdong Province, which was researching the virus that caused the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2002, discovered RaTG13 in 2013. It compared the base sequence of all genetic information (genomes) with the novel coronavirus and found a 96% match. This January, it determined a high potential that the novel coronavirus mutated from a bat virus.
The article says bats are known to carry many viruses because they have powerful immune systems. Viruses evolve to withstand this immunity, making them toxic to humans. Research on the virus itself and its source – as well development for vaccines and drugs – is underway at a feverish pitch around the world.
China is stepping up its actions during the COVID-19 crisis. The top article on the front page of the Sankei Shimbun’s morning edition on June 4 was entitled, “Increasing Totalitarianism in China.” June 4 marked the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests.
The BBC reported that about 10,000 people were killed in these protests. The source for this number is a diplomatic telegram from the British ambassador to China, which was declassified in 2017, based on conversations with a friend in the Chinese State Council. In this way, China releases figures that are overly large or small according to what is expedient. In many cases, we must be doubtful about their credibility.
Under the subtitle “Increasing Threat of Taiwan Invasion,” the article continued:
The Chinese National People’s Congress (NPC) approved a proposal last month to impose the National Security Law in Hong Kong, and indicated an intention to harshly crack down on anti-government demonstrations. “Beijing (the Chinese authorities) no longer believe in Deng Xiaoping’s ‘one country, two systems’ principle. They are making motions for strengthening their full-on control of Hong Kong.”
The Communist Party of China (CPC) is attempting to use methods in Hong Kong that are based on its past successes. According to the researcher, the first is “strengthening control through anti-terrorism measures,” like those it implemented in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Since 2014, the Chinese government has detained more than 13,000 members of the Uyghur minority group as “terrorists.” It is said that over one million people are interned in “Vocational Education and Training Centers.” Riots would spread around the world if China carried out the same type of oppression in Hong Kong, an international financial capital.
The CPC introduced “patriotic education” to gain the support of young Chinese people after the Tiananmen Square protests. Totalitarian states make their citizens focus on external issues, rather than being interested in domestic ones, to enhance unifying power. The Chinese authorities are preparing for the full-on introduction of this patriotic education in Hong Kong as well.
The Chinese Internet and media outlets portray the anti-government demonstrations in Hong Kong as hostile, and most comments are in favor of introducing the National Security Law. Many people were criticizing the government online due to its handling of the COVID-19 outbreak until around early March, and the government felt that its structure was shaky. However, these views have disappeared due to government censorship and patriotic comments after the outbreak faded in China, when the United States and Europe began experiencing even more severe damage than China.
Hong Kong and Taiwan are domestic issues for China, but they are also international issues. On May 29, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the NPC Li Zhanshu, the third-ranked member of the CPC, suggested the possibility of military movements based on the Anti-Secession Law. He said, “We must strike a firm blow.” This is in light of the Taiwanese Tsai Ing-Wen administration, which in principle does not recognize the “One China” principle. A member of the Beijing media concluded, “There is a growing possibility that China will actually conduct a military invasion of Taiwan.”
A Chinese journalist pointed out that “China today resembles Germany before World War II.”
Xi Jinping became president of China in March 2013. Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin, the previous leaders, both stepped down after two terms of five years each (a total of 10 years). However, a bill to revise the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and abolish the traditional limit of two terms (10 years) was passed at the NPC in March 2018. This made Xi able to maintain his position as president for more than two terms, and seemingly opened a path to Xi transforming China into his personal empire.
The long-lasting Vietnam War was a proxy war in the Cold War between the U.S. and Soviet Union. After its defeat, the U.S. sent National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger on a top-secret visit to Beijing in 1971. Kissinger met directly with Premier Zhou Enlai and paved the way for a Sino-American reconciliation. Kissinger used this in repeated negotiations with Vietnam and the Soviet Union, and the U.S. achieved an honorable withdrawal from the Vietnam War through the Paris Peace Accords in 1973. Diplomatic relations between Japan and China were normalized in 1972, and between the U.S. and China in 1979. The Western countries strengthened their economic ties with China while assuming China would democratize after becoming wealthy. International sanctions were placed on China after it massacred its own people at the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, but it achieved rapid economic growth after the visit of the Japanese Emperor provided an impetus to lift the sanctions. However, China is still a nation with one-party rule by the CPC, not a democratic state. China is using its wealth to augment its military strength, and it is now evident that its next goal is gaining global hegemony.
Since the People’s Republic of China was established in 1949, China has warred with its land neighbors including India, Russia, and Vietnam, and has annexed Inner Mongolia, Tibet, and East Turkestan as autonomous regions. Vietnam invaded Cambodia in 1979 and toppled the administration of Pol Pot, an adherent of Maoism who slaughtered half of his people. Deng sent the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to invade Vietnam as a punishment. However, the Vietnamese army had the latest weapons it captured from the American army, as well as weapons provided by the Soviet Union. These more efficient weapons helped it drive back the PLA. Since then, the PLA has devoted fruitful efforts to modernizing its military force.
For fighter aircraft in particular, China is no longer dependent on Russian technologies and has developed the latest fifth-generation jet fighters on its own. China’s increased air power is threatening Japan’s control of the air. China is also focusing on its navy. In addition to the aircraft carrier Liaoning it purchased and revamped, China launched its first domestically produced aircraft carrier, the Shandong, in 2019. Some theorize it also has plans for three more domestic aircraft carriers. However, we can say that enormous aircraft carriers floating on the ocean like target ships are now useless objects. They can be sunk with a single blow by the XASM-3 missiles currently under development in Japan – hypersonic, new-model, anti-ship missiles that can change course and fly at speeds of Mach 20 to 30 at high altitudes – loaded onto Air Self-Defense Force bombers. It will cost China a great deal of money, including future operations, for its planned carrier battle group of four aircraft carriers (when the carriers perform maneuvers, they are accompanied by destroyers and cruisers on the ocean, submarines in the ocean, and escort/patrol aircraft in the skies). This cuts into the war budget that is available for other purposes, and is gradually stripping China of its ability to war with Japan.
China is using its naval power to build military bases on reclaimed reefs in the South China Sea. It repeatedly intrudes into Japan’s territorial waters at the Senkaku Islands, where Japanese people have previously operated a dried bonito factory, to try to claim the islands as its own. China wants the Senkaku Islands as an exit to expand all at once into the Pacific Ocean. Timothy J. Keating, then commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, met with top brass from the Chinese navy in 2007. Keating said they suggested dividing and ruling the Pacific Ocean with Hawaii as the boundary. Even if this was in jest, we cannot turn a blind eye to it. Japan’s command of its coastal waters is significantly aided by the Air Self-Defense Force’s F2 fighter aircraft equipped with “carrier killer” missiles, as well as the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Aegis-class cruisers, deep-sea submarines, and deep-sea torpedoes. Japan’s submarines can submerge to and launch torpedoes down to depths of 900 meters, and our control of the sea is maintained by these capabilities that no other country possesses. However, this control would be in danger if China were to introduce similar weapons in the future.
South Korea drew its “Syngman Rhee Line” right before the Treaty of San Francisco came into effect in 1952, and it occupied Takeshima using military force. Japan still cannot recover the island due to Article 9 of the constitution. If China landed on the Senkaku Islands in the same way, the Constitution of Japan means we would have to make a difficult decision about whether the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) could fight to recapture the islands. But would the American military battle on behalf of the JSDF? All nations fundamentally put their own interests first, and I doubt the American public would allow its young soldiers to shed blood for another nation. It is absurd that people say Japan has avoided being drawn into war thanks to Article 9, when Article 9 actually increases the possibility that Japan will become a battlefield. We must amend the constitution for the sake of Japan’s national security.
The American Barack Obama administration had a stance of appeasing China. China greatly increased its military and economic power during the eight years this government was in power from 2009 to 2017. If Hillary Clinton had won the election, China would have definitely gained further power and displayed more contempt for Japan and its other neighbors. In contrast, Trump has a hardline policy against China to check its expansion, which is currently supported by members of both the Republican and Democratic Parties. There are some concerns, including the delayed handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and protests against the killing of black people by white policemen. However, I think Trump, who advocates for a strong America with a hardline stance against China to prevent it from gaining global hegemony, is quite likely to win this year’s election and remain as president until 2024. Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s term of office is up in 2021. There are currently no strong prime minister candidates to replace him, which could lead to a weak government in which we have a new prime minister every year. I believe Abe’s term should be extended until 2024. If not, Japan may be swallowed up by China during that time.
Like the Sankei Shimbun article says, the Chinese government is ignoring Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” policy and working to intensify totalitarianism throughout its territory, including imposing the National Security Law in Hong Kong. Taiwan is next after Hong Kong. I think China might even execute military movements to bring about the downfall of Tsai, who significantly increased her approval rating with the response to COVID-19. I agree with the article’s statement that “China today resembles Germany before World War II, when the Third Reich was held up as a symbol of millenarism.” For instance, let us recall the Munich Agreement of 1938. This meeting drew leaders from the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Germany. They discussed Germany’s claimed rights to the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia, and agreed to Germany’s terms through an appeasement policy raised by then-British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. However, this led to World War II. To avoid making these mistakes again, we must maintain a balance of power (including a hard line) against China – which now openly displays its ambitions to expand – rather than a stance of appeasement. After Hong Kong and Taiwan, China will certainly turn its eyes to Japan. We must start by being aware that Japan is in danger. Japan must then amend its constitution to become a nation capable of independent self-defense, and have a powerful government that can accomplish this.
For that reason, the opposition parties that criticize the Abe administration and find fault with it for trivial reasons in the National Diet must engage in more constructive discussions for the sake of Japan’s national interests.
To maintain the powerful Abe administration of today, first the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) regulations should be revised to extend the president’s term of office from three to four terms (from nine to 12 years). This would allow Abe to keep his seat until 2024. Next, we should start discussions on revising the constitution so the JSDF can utilize its own strength without depending on the U.S. It is possible that two thirds of the members in both Diet houses might approve a constitutional change motion right now. Amendment proposals should be submitted in the upper and lower houses, without being taken in by opposition party members who want to stymie a motion by prolonging talks on unimportant topics at the Commissions on the Constitution.
China is making steady efforts to achieve its goals in the background of the COVID-19 crisis. If Japan does not feel a sense of danger about this, I think we may be drawn under China’s influence and end up as a Chinese autonomous region during the new Sino-American cold war that has begun. I feel profound fear about this dark future.
June 8 (Monday), 5:30 p.m.