Rising Sun

The recent confrontation with China has shifted the focus of US policymakers to Eastasia, but most analysts have viewed this in terms of cold war ideology (the neoconservatives) or economics (Team Bush). As far as I know, only William Pfaff framed the issue in geopolitical and historical terms, making the point that this may be the beginning of America’s Eastasian problem – and that the coming confrontation is not only going to be with China, but, increasingly, with Japan. GEOGRAPHY IS DESTINY

Statesmanship, writes Pfaff, “tries to make realistic assessments of power relationships and national interests. In the Chinese-American case, its starting point has to be that China is where it is, and the United States is on the opposite side of the Pacific Ocean.” This point was hardly made in the “mainstream” Western media, where the idea that the Pacific must be an American lake is unquestioned, except in the commentary of Time magazine’s Tony Karon and a few others, who made the trenchant point that Chinese spy planes trolling 70 miles from American shores would certainly not have gone unchallenged by the US military. Andrew Sullivan, writing in the [London] Sunday Times, emphasized the economic factor, but as an aside, made the point that “there is also a strategic rivalry. The two nations share an ocean, the Pacific, over which only America has real hegemony. They are the natural superpowers of the 21st century and, with the collapse of Russia, no longer have a mutual enemy. So a readjustment is inevitable. The question is when and how.”


Well, yes, the two nations “share an ocean,” but by conceding that “only America has real hegemony,” Sullivan does little but imply the enormous imbalance in that relationship. The reality is that China does not even enjoy “hegemony” – good lord, are we stuck with this clunky coinage as the ubiquitous foreign policy buzzword of the Bush era? – over its own coastal waters, while US dominance extends from the California coastline to the South China Sea. Pfaff goes on to make the point that China is not the only Eastasian country that has a beef with us, raising the interesting issue of Japan:

“Since 1945 and the defeat of Japan, the United States has been in the abnormal situation of effectively dominating Japan, formerly East Asia’s greatest power. The United States keeps large military installations in Japan, where 21,000 U.S. troops are stationed. As a result of the Korean War, Washington also now keeps a force of 36,000 in South Korea – a country that US diplomacy had, in 1950, identified as outside the zone of US security interest. This military deployment has only remotely to do with the security of the United States. Neither China nor Japan has now or ever had an interest in conquering the United States. Japan in 1940 wanted to drive the United States and the European colonial powers out of the western Pacific, which it considered its legitimate zone of interest.”


Hear! Hear! “Abnormal” is putting it mildly. September will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the peace treaty with Japan, which, you’ll note, stipulated that the occupation of that country by Allied troops would not exceed 90 days after the treaty went into effect, but: “Nothing in this provision shall, however, prevent the stationing or retention of foreign armed forces in Japanese territory under or in consequence of any bilateral or multilateral agreements which have been or may be made between one or more of the Allied Powers, on the one hand, and Japan on the other.” That turned out to be a very big but, as every Japanese government since the days of the MacArthur Regency submissively went along with the continuing occupation and the vassalage of Japan was extended into the indefinite future. There are, however, some signs that this passivity may be ending, and that China is not the only rebel against the American Hegemon.