US ambassador to Japan warns of Chinese economic coercion

TOKYO– The United States is working with Japan and other like-minded countries to counter China’s efforts to use its economic power to impose political change on the world, the US ambassador to Japan said in a statement on Tuesday. interview with the Associated Press.

Rahm Emanuel, who was previously mayor of Chicago and chief of staff to President Barack Obama, is pushing what he calls “trade diplomacy,” the idea that the United States and Japan will be more eager to do business with each other. and with similar secure partners. and stable countries amid concerns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, war in Ukraine and Chinese economic coercion.

“From intellectual property theft to coercion to debt addiction that China is creating, the idea that they could actually honestly say, ‘We’re not coercing,’ and then you don’t one, not two, not three – many examples around the world where they use their economic market access to force political change in a country… I think everyone has woken up to this,” Emanuel said in the interview at his residence in the heart of downtown Tokyo.

Emanuel, who arrived in Japan in January, presented a number of examples of Chinese coercion, including with Japan, which has seen Chinese shipments of rare earth metals blocked due to a territorial dispute; South Korea, which was boycotted by Chinese companies when it installed a US missile defense system; Australia; and countries in Europe and Southeast Asia.

China’s growing economic importance and its spending abroad have rattled these countries, which fear that Beijing will strengthen its strategic and political influence in their traditional spheres of influence.

China has become one of the largest donors to developing countries through its “Belt and Road Initiative” to expand trade by building ports, railways and other infrastructure across Asia, Africa and the Middle East to Europe. This prompted Beijing to use debt for political leverage, but Chinese officials deny this.

China has been more assertive in pressuring other governments to adopt China-led initiatives, including a trade group, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

Emanuel said finding ways for Japan and the United States to resist Chinese economic coercion was one of the first issues he raised with the Japanese foreign minister.

Japan has expressed deep concern over increased Chinese activity in regional seas, including near a Japanese-held island claimed by Beijing, and pushed for peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

Emanuel hailed Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s promise of a “significant increase” in the country’s defense budget and military capabilities.

Kishida’s attempts to revise Japan’s national security strategy and core defense guidelines are a legacy of his hawkish mentor, former prime minister Shinzo Abe, who was assassinated in July.

Kishida also said he was open to developing possible pre-emptive strike capabilities, which opponents say would go far beyond Japan’s war-denying constitution, which limits the use of force to self-defense. Kishida also proposed to significantly increase Japan’s defense budget – possibly doubling to 2% of GDP, a NATO standard – over the next five years.

“To the Prime Minister’s great credit, he looked around and realized what was happening in this region and in the world – Japan needed to step up in a way that it had not done in the past” , Emanuel said.

Emanuel also mentioned economic opportunities for Japan and the United States in electric vehicle batteries, energy, new research and technologies in small modular nuclear reactors, aircraft technology and semiconductors.

The business leaders he met as ambassador to Japan would have assessed an investment decision in the past solely on the basis of cost, logistics and efficiency, he said, but they are now willing to pay more to avoid sanctions and instability.

“It’s a major shift in thinking,” he said.

For “the last 20 or 30 years, cost and efficiency have been the driving factors. They have driven public policy and they have driven corporate decisions. Today, cost and efficiency are replaced, supplanted by stability and durability,” said Emanuel.

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AP writer Joe McDonald in Beijing contributed to this report.

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