To Shukan Gendai (Oct 29), “the invasion has already begun” – of Japan, by China.
There are grounds for concern if not alarm. (The line between the two is a fine one.) Incursions into Japan’s territorial waters, intermittent over the past decade, coupled with the five ballistic missiles fired into Japan’s exclusive economic zone in August, cannot fail to provoke an unsettling question among thoughtful Japanese. Answers may vary, but the question – “What, exactly, is China trying to tell us?” – grows hard to dismiss. A second question arises naturally from it: “ If push turns to shove… what?”
Global power is shifting. America’s loss is mostly China’s gain. Democracy, once widely seen as ultimately inseparable from modernization and economic growth, no longer seems so. China’s blunt authoritarianism presents an alternative, increasingly influential and respected even while increasingly abhorred and feared. “Democracy versus autocracy,” is U.S. President Joe Biden’s interpretation of international tensions now simmering. And if the tensions boil over? China’s first target, says Shukan Gendai, would be “the Western alliance’s most vulnerable member – this weak little island country Japan.”
The invasion it says has already begun, however, is not military but economic. A certain “A-san,” age 40, specialist in semi-conductors, employed by Toshiba, heard one morning of a colleague who’d submitted his resignation. His first thought, he says, was: “Ah – China again.” Chinese headhunting of Japanese technicians is notorious, the magazine says. The hunch proved correct. “He’d been making just under 7 million yen a year. A Chinese semi-conductor firm offered him twice that – plus benefits beyond anything Japanese companies will match. To tell you the truth,” A-san adds, “I’ve considered (moving to China) myself.”
To strip Japan of its best engineers is to wage war by other means – as would be, for example, cutting off exports to Japan of semiconductors. Sixty-three percent of Japan’s semi-conductors come from China. Should Chinese President Xi Jinping adopt that course, analysts would have no difficulty tracing the strategy to its classical root. “The supreme art of war,” wrote General Sun Tzu circa the 6th century BC, “is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
Fond of the classics, Xi quotes Confucius: “There cannot be two suns in the sky, nor two emperors on the earth.” Is Xi out to be the one emperor? Now beginning his precedent-breaking third presidential term, he is China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, whose personality cult was seen, post-Mao, as the very model to avoid in future.
This is not irrelevant to Japan, warns Shukan Gendai. At last month’s 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, “Xi spoke for one hour and 45 minutes and used the word ‘security’ 73 times – as against a previous high of 55 times, drawing thunderous applause with a reference to unification with Taiwan by force if necessary.”
Taiwan is 700 km from Okinawa. Shukan Gendai fears “a (Chinese) invasion of Okinawa by 2045.” If it happens, the ongoing rape of Ukraine by Russia suggests one possible unfolding.
Xi’s rise, and the vast sweep of the power he has secured, has more than a few puzzling aspects. He has none of Mao’s charisma. He was besides one of Mao’s victims, having been rusticated as a child for the alleged counter-revolutionary crimes of his once very powerful father. Mao’s Cultural Revolution of 1966-76 raised the low high and plunged the high low, causing countless deaths and blighting an entire generation. Xi, in short, had a deeply troubled childhood. It is this aspect of his life that the monthly Bungei Shunju (November) emphasizes.
His father was Xi Zhongxun, comrade in arms of Mao’s in the Communists’ fight for power in the 1920s and ’30s and ultimate seizure of it in 1949. Jinping was nine in 1962 when Zhongxun, ranking very high in the Party hierarchy, was purged for supposed liberal tendencies. Exile to the remote countryside was the first of many deprivations and humiliations. Persecution dragged on. The Cultural Revolution intensified it. Student mobs incited by Mao went berserk. Theirs was the power. They smashed, beat, murdered, tortured, denounced, tried, convicted, with no apparent rhyme or reason, with the Party’s blessings. How many died? Estimates range from hundreds of thousands to 20 million. The Xi family home was ransacked. Xi Jinping’s mother was forced to denounce his father. His sister committed suicide. He himself was exiled to the remote countryside. He lived in a cave, ran away, was caught and put to work digging ditches. Such was the childhood of the man who today rules China.
The elder Xi was rehabilitated in 1978, and his son began his slow, steady rise within the Party. His presidency began in 2013. Initial hopes were, says Bungei Shunju, that the son of a liberal father would rule liberally. This seemed reasonable enough. One might naturally suppose that a child growing up as he did would, on coming to power, do his or her best to ensure the like would never happen again. Yet far from distancing himself from Mao, both Shukan Gendai and Bungei Shunju point out, he seems bent on resurrecting him – in his own person.
Michael Hoffman is the author of “Cipangu, Golden Cipangu.”© Japan Today