CCP’s Behavior Runs Counter to Rules-Based International Order: Japan Ambassador

By Andrew Thornebrooke
Andrew Thornebrooke
Andrew Thornebrooke
National Security Correspondent
Andrew Thornebrooke is a national security correspondent for The Epoch Times covering China-related issues with a focus on defense, military affairs, and national security. He holds a master's in military history from Norwich University.
January 18, 2022Updated: January 18, 2022

Ongoing tensions between China and the greater international order require different solutions than were used during the Cold War, according to an ambassador from Japan. That means decoupling, the proposed process of wholly detaching from China economically, is unlikely.

“China is a different country than the Soviet Union in the Cold War,” said Koji Tomita, the ambassador from Japan to the United States.

“China is the second-largest economy in the world, it is deeply integrated into the global economy, and as a great nation, China shares a very important responsibility to address global challenges like climate change.”

Tomita made the comments during a Jan. 18 discussion hosted by the Brookings Institution, which covered topics as wide-ranging as economics, COVID-19, and Indo-Pacific security.

During the conversation, Tomita focused on Japan and the United States’ shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific and rules-based international order, as well as the role that China may yet play in it.

“We would very much like China to be part of this vision,” Tomita said. “But, unfortunately, certain aspects of China’s behavior seem to run counter to this vision.”

Allies Seek Security and Transparency, Not Decoupling

The comments come amid increasing talk of decoupling in certain American political circles, and raise important issues regarding how realistic such ideas are.

Likewise, a senior U.S. diplomat in Japan said that the Biden administration was not seeking to decouple from China, but confirmed that it is looking to prevent key technologies vital to its security from being transferred to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) without consent.

“I don’t think either the United States or Japan seeks decoupling from China,” said Raymond Greene, chargé d’affaires ad interim for the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, during the discussion.

“Both Japan’s efforts in economic security and our own efforts in areas like supply chain resilience, are meant more to ensure that our trade and investments and relationship with China is fair and transparent.”

Security experts have long called for a ban on so-called technology transfers of artificial intelligence and other critical technologies to China, whether those transfers be through espionage or legal trade agreements. Increasingly, there is an anxiety in the American policy-making community that U.S. technologies could be co-opted by China’s military and used against it.

House Republicans warned in October, for instance, that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was leveraging stolen U.S. tech to create new weapons, including hypersonic missiles.

Likewise, the National Counterintelligence and Security Center recently began a campaign to advise American business about the risks of counterintelligence operations, saying that the CCP had stolen U.S. technologies on multiple occasions.

The Former chief software officer for the Space Force additionally warned that insider threat was the foremost challenge facing American tech companies and universities, and that there was a concerted effort by the CCP to steal critical and emerging technologies.

To that end, Greene said that the Biden administration was seeking real change in securing vital technologies, but one that did not require the complete economic and diplomatic breakdown that would be required by decoupling with China.

“We want a small fence,” Greene said. “A small but very high fence that protects our core competitive technologies in areas of economic strength while allowing normal trade and investment in those non-sensitive areas.”

Greene said that the rules-based international order was vital to China’s rise as a global power, and that the CCP’s aggression against the United States and Japan was both unwarranted and unproductive.

“I don’t think there’s any two countries in the world that have done more to help China grow economically, and also integrate into the international system,” Greene said of the United States and Japan.

“Both of us feel a sense of disappointment that the PRC has used its position, both in terms of its economic and military power, but also its role in the international system, in ways that undercut the international order that has helped it so much over the last four decades,” Greene said.

Fighting Authoritarianism, Not China

Tomita and Greene agreed that a balance needed to be struck between strengthening the Indo-Pacific and the myriad nations present there against CCP coercion, while also making efforts to reintegrate the PRC into the meaningful participation in the rules-based international order.

“Japan has been an advocate for a free and open Indo-China for many years,” Tomita said. “This is a vision for business in the region based on a free, open, and rules-based order.”

“We need a certain sense of diplomatic principles,” Tomita said. “These frameworks and principles have served us well in the past half century.”

To that end, Tomita said the there was no need to overwrite the very principles that the current state of affairs was built on, but that some adjustments to policy were needed in order to fix imbalances in security, which Japan would seek to work on with the United States.

“The first thing, of course, is upgrading responsive and deterrent capabilities in the context of our alliance cooperation,” Tomita said.

Tomita also added that joint U.S.-Japan efforts would seek to build synergy between the two nations to create better resiliency. Such efforts will include investments in science and technology, he said, as well as efforts to secure supply chains and promote democratic values through forums such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD).

Green said that the Indo-Pacific was “central” to the Biden administration’s platform and overarching global strategy. He called Japan “absolutely critical” to the continued flourishing of liberal democracies in the region.

The two agreed that the enemy, if there was to be one, was not China, but the anti-democratic and “techno-authoritarian” measures currently being pursued by the CCP, including the repression of peoples in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Tibet.

Greene said that “intense diplomacy” was necessary to ensure that no diplomatic or military miscalculations might lead to unfortunate consequences for all nations involved. He stressed that issues of global importance, such as climate change and arms control, could serve as a catalyst for cooperation between China and the international community.

“We are very much eager to engage with China on multilateral arms control efforts, just as we have with Russia,” Greene said.

The Centerpiece of US International Policy

Tomita and Greene’s conversation comes as Japan and the United States increase economic, diplomatic, and military ties to thwart increasingly hostile actions by the CCP, though each nation has its own reasons for concern.

The United States is seeking to maintain an international order and freedom of movement in the region that is vital to its economy and alliance structure. Japan, meanwhile, is increasingly concerned about the continued self-rule of Taiwan, which if invaded by China could be used to launch an attack on Japan, as well as the security implications of growing Sino-Russian military exercises.

In January alone, the two nations agreed on a deal to upgrade Japan’s fighter jets and conducted  “Two-Plus-Two” meetings between American and Japanese foreign and defense leaders.

Those efforts will culminate further on Friday, Jan. 21, with a virtual meeting between President Joe Biden and Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

An associated statement by the White House announcing the meeting called the Japan-U.S. alliance the “cornerstone of peace, security, and stability in the Indo-Pacific and around the world.”

With such rhetoric in mind, however, Tomita cautioned that strongly-worded messages and agreements were all well and good, but that peace with China would only be maintained if those words were backed up with concrete action.

“Of course, we can be tough in our public messaging,” Tomita said. “But being tough in the messaging is one thing. Being ready is a completely different matter.”