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Rising Up To Face The Challenge

Coordinating Economic Interests with defending Democratic Values in relationship with China seems difficult for Germany. Well, it is not so, believes Japan, which has shown the world that one should not be afraid of the Asian Giant.

In an article, the Every Morning Asia online portal recently stated that Japan has shown over the past decade that it is possible to separate Economic Interests in relation with China from defending National Interests and Democratic Values. Both Japan and Germany ended the Second World War defeated, established themselves in the post-war period as Economic (and not Military) Powerhouses, and adopted a pacifist stance in their Foreign Affairs.

However, there are also some differences at play. Germany was in the front line during the Cold War between the US and the erstwhile Soviet Union. Japan might now share that position in another one… between the US and China. This makes Japan vulnerable without a clear strategy on how to protect its interests, and deal with the unpredictable.

In 2013, the then Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, recognised the country’s security and foreign apparatus by establishing a National Security Council and issuing Japan’s first National Security Strategy. The current Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, established a new Cabinet post, that of the Minister of Economic Security, responsible with securing Japan’s critical supply chains and better respond to economic coercion, and appointed a former Defence Minister as his Special Adviser on Human Rights.

Although these moves have not been put on China, they are definitely motivated by both Beijing’s policies in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, and Chinese economic coercion towards Australia.

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel with former PM Shinzo Abe

The Government of Germany should take notes on the Japanese way, since Berlin has been divided between those who feared not to harm Germany’s economic interests with China by speaking too much on Chinese behaviour, and others seeking a tougher stance on China. In dealing with China, Germany might take a look at numbers. Nearly 20% of Japanese exports went to China in 2020, compared to around 9% of German total exports, an issue that did not stop Tokyo from taking a lead in defending the old order from the new reality posed by China.

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