The Global Roles of the United States, China, and Japan
China has been developing at an unprecedented speed since the beginning of the 21st century.
As a populous country, it is incredible that China, while burdened with a population 3.5 times larger than that of the United States and 12 times larger than that of Japan, can achieve such a rapid economic growth, and its GDP is already 3.5 times larger than that of Japan. In 6 to 7 years, the GDP of China will be comparable to that of the United States, the world's hegemon after World War II. In this regard, not only Japan, but the whole world, seems to be shaken.
Therefore, it is reasonably understandable why the United States is so surprised and disturbed by the extraordinary growth of China.
Japan, whose economic development has embraced a turning point, will be decisively affected if any confrontation occurs between China and the United States during the Great Power Competition. That's why Japan needs to make great efforts to prevent that from happening.
The era of unprofitable competition, when nations compete by strengthening their military power, should be ended as soon as possible, even if it does not necessarily lead to war.
In the mid-1980s, the United States and the Soviet Union competed over the number of nuclear warheads, and they could not afford the consequences of losing, and agreed to halt this unwise competition at the Reykjavík Summit. In contrast, we the human beings are facing such common crises as climate change and environmental problems that have been more severe and afford no delay.
To get through these challenges, Japan, the United States and China need to work together and contribute their wisdom.
The Shifting Positions of the United States and China
The economic stagnation due to the COVID-19 has made the United States become more alarmed by China's catch-up.
Despite this, the United States cannot block China’s development today and such attempts would create political and economic division and bring confrontation and chaos around the world. The United States, who intends to maintain global stability, could lose credibility and prestige in the eyes of other countries ultimately.
U.S. President Joe Biden's harsh statements on China are more likely to be based on domestic situation such as political pressure from the congress, rather than long-term considerations. And China must understand that as well.
It may not be necessarily needed to wait till 2030 to witness the transition of the global economic preeminence from the US to China. However, even after it were economically overtaken by China, the United States would continue to lead the democratic countries. Both economically and politically, the United States is eager to remain the role as the great power that underpins world stability, and few things could alter that.
With the consecutive steady economic growth, the Chinese people are experiencing a strong sense of prosperity at current moment, with the dream of becoming the strongest country in the world. And it is not so odd President Xi Jinping is placed high expectations as the Top Leader to lead this dream.
It is the 1.4 billion Chinese people who support the so-called authoritarian Chinese system. In China, smart phones and social networks have been evolving the society. The administration has no choice but to care for public opinions, similar to our democratic countries. However, it should be noted that excessive agitation towards nationalism will only backfire.
The democratic state should not only criticize the Chinese system, which have received a considerable appreciation domestically, but also prove the advantages of democracy by its own actions.
In the future, China will certainly keep growing. However, to fulfill its own development, China cannot ignore the global economic system that has been centered on the United States after World War II and maintained sometimes with necessary sacrifices.
Isn’t mutual understanding of each other's position the so-called "a Community of Shared Future"?
Imminent Environmental Crisis
Even in a prosperously developing China today, it is unable to remove the constraints of environmental problems and climate change. In terms of a community of shared future, indulging the situation worsen means a destined doom of the world.
Due to global warming, permafrost inplaces like Siberia has been melting and carbon dioxide (CO2) is being released in large quantities accordingly, which has already accelerated the global warming, and the temperature has been abruptly rising. From the end of the last century, the unknown virus may as well have been released through forest exploitation in South America or permafrost melting in Siberia.
The days when national development overwhelms everything has unconsciously come to an end, which we should be consciously aware of.
The entire international community is obliged to unite and take response measures as soon as possible. There is no space left for great powers, who alternatively ought to serve the role as models, struggling for hegemony and influence.
Valuable Trusting Relationships
In this case, how should Japan act?
First, we should utilize the US-Japan alliance to reassure and settle people down on issues such like climate change and to indicate the direction of the new era.
China is a large neighbor and has an inseparable relationship with Japan no matter in the past or in the future, therefore the two countries should not slide into a hostile relation. It is necessary to strengthen cooperative connections along with deepening mutual understanding.
Based on the understanding of both China and the United States, the cooperation mechanism of the United States, China and Japan will be able to form a powerful lineup like "a tiger with wings" to better overcome the global crisis.
There is no doubt that South Korea should also be included in this cooperation mechanism. Now the leadership is needed to keep a bigger picture in mind and move from confrontation to cooperation.
What matters is the trust between the heads of the states. It is essential for the leaders to start dialogues for resolving major issues. Under current circumstances, it is questionable whether trusts between anystates’heads can be established .
Therefore, the heads of the states with a long-termvision should take responsibility and make efforts to achieve this goal.