SSU Forum / GraSPP Research Seminar
with Dr. Giulio Pugliese

Date: Wednesday, July 11 2018, 10:30-12:00
Venue: Lecture Hall B, 4th Floor, International Academic Research Bldg.
Subject: "Sino-Japanese Power Politics: Might, Money and Minds"
Lecture: Giulio Pugliese, Lecturer, War Studies at King’s College London
Language: English
Hosted by: Security Studies Unit, Policy Alternatives Research Institute, the University of Tokyo / GraSPP Research Seminar, the University of Tokyo
Abstract: In recent years, China’s rapid emergence as a central actor in world politics has coincided with a more assertive and risk-taking foreign and security policy. Under Xi Jinping, especially, Beijing’s push to secure hotly contested territorial and maritime claims has ruffled the feathers of several regional states. The Japan-China standoff over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands has unveiled the antagonistic quality to contemporary Sino-Japanese relations, with important additions to standard balancing behavior: economic statecraft and, notably, active engagement with government-led strategic communications. Under the Xi and Abe administrations, China and Japan have insisted on their moral position as benign and peaceful powers, and portrayed their neighbour as an aggressive revisionist. These strategic narratives, conveyed internationally and domestically, have cemented the two states’ rivalry.
Dr. Giulio Pugliese will give an account of Japan-China power politics in the military, economic and propaganda domains. His assessment of the diplomatic, economic and identity clash between the world’s second and third wealthiest states will provide a window in understanding the international politics in the early 21st Century. In particular, by highlighting great power rivalry, he offers his empirical findings in favour of the power politics behind Sino-Japanese identity construction. This talk will be multi-disciplinary in spirit and will speak to both academics and to members of the public who might be curious of understanding this fascinating —if worrisome— facet of Sino-Japanese relations.

Please refer to the following: book1

Biography: Dr. Giulio Puglieseis Lecturer in War Studies at King’s College London. He holds a Laurea (B.A.) in Political Science and East Asian Studies from the University of Naples, “L’Orientale” (cum laude), an M.A. in International Economics and International Relations (concentrating on East Asian Studies) from the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, and a PhD from the University of Cambridge. He specialises in the politics, both domestic and international, of the Asia-Pacific with a focus on Japan, China and the United States. In addition, he has worked in Japan for four years, including at the Mitsubishi Research Institute writing on arms export regulations for a study commissioned by Japan’s Ministry of Economics Trade and Industry (METI). He is a recipient of a three year post-doctoral fellowship by the British Academy.

The Security Studies Unit of the PARI was delighted to host Dr. Giulio Pugliese, Lecturer at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London, who delivered a talk concerning Japan-China relations in a multifaceted perspective, based on a realist reading of international relations. The event was also an occasion to present Dr. Pugliese’s latest book (“Sino-Japanese Power Politics: Might, Money, and Minds”, 2017), co-authored with Aurelio Insisa. This volume is published by Palgrave in English and scheduled to be translated into Korean.

Professor Akio Takahara chaired the session, introducing the speaker as a young but already very distinguished scholar of East Asian international political affairs, capable of attracting a very large audience for this talk. Dr. Pugliese thanked the host and proceeded to illustrate the content of his lecture, which revolved around providing a broader overview of the Japan-China relations on several levels.

The outcome of the Senkaku Islands crisis has unveiled the distinctive realist quality of the Japan-China relations, which are therefore mostly to be understood as a power politics game. This game is not only played on the military and security levels, as a consequence of China’s increased capabilities and its more assertive (or even aggressive) international posture. It extends in the economic domain and also that of information and propaganda. Indeed in the past few years we have been seeing active Japanese initiatives in those fields as well: on the one hand the international economic action of the Japanese government appears to be increasingly coordinated with the security agenda, and on the other Tokyo is trying to make use of public diplomacy and other means of persuasion to produce a more favourable diplomatic and political environment. In other words, both the economic and diplomatic policies are increasingly securitised. Japan has been, willingly or not, “socialised” in a new strategic landscape largely shaped by China’s rising military and economic power.

Dr. Pugliese conducted his analysis in three different dimensions: “might” (military resources and postures), “money” (the economic sphere), and “minds” (the propaganda and information competition). He also believes that there is a fundamental “zero-sum game” in all these three domains. This is to be read in the context of a theoretical framework, adopted by Dr. Pugliese and his co-author in the book, of neo-classical realism, a refinement of structural realism. China’s economic and military growth has eventually led to a more assertive international behaviour. In the meantime, the US appears to be in retreat, and/or unwilling to come to a confrontation with Beijing, a movement which started already in the second term of the George W. Bush administration. Particularly Beijing’s clear desire to acquire a powerful blue-water navy has triggered a threat perception in Japan, to which Tokyo is now responding.

While this is the strategic situation, foreign policy output does not necessarily reflect it in every day developments, because of the mediation by various intra-state factors, particularly the role of leadership. In the case of Japan and China, both Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Xi Jinping are playing a very important part in changing the landscape of international politics in this region of the world, at the time of important global changes, now quite visible with the emergence of Donald Trump as US President. The Xi administration is more risk-taking than the previous one, or it appears so to due to a certain lack of international experience. Xi himself is certainly very interested in developing the country’s naval capabilities and asserting China’s maritime rights.
Abe, on the other hand, is set to become the longest-serving prime minister in modern Japanese history, and has proven that strong leadership needs to go together with a strong security policy, one of the areas he is mostly committed to. This is reflected in the prominent role of his security advisors. Abe has also understood that China respects strength. In a number of important ways, PM Abe and President Xi are showing a similar behaviour, especially in the sense that in both countries one can observe a centralisation trend in the control of security affairs, with the creation of ad hoc bureaucratic/advisory bodies or tighter control over the bureaucratic machine.

On the point of might, one must register the impressive buildup of the Chinese Coast Guard after 2013 and its militarisation. Indeed the Coast Guard finds itself presently under the authority of the Central Military Commission. The buildup concerns both the number and size of the ships, and the weapons they carry. This occurs in the more general context of a double-digit growth of China’s military spending.
In Japan, even if the military budget is only marginally growing, the country is expanding the reach of its military ties with other states in the broader region willing to balance China, most notably Australia and India. This kind of initiative has been translated in the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy. One should notice how this concept is indebted to geopolical authors such as Alfred Mahan and their ideas of naval strategy. The Indo-Pacific strategy, initially articulated by the Japanese government, has now been adopted by the US and developed in the “Quad” initiative (Japan, US, India, Australia).

On the point of money, Japan and China have now more pro-active views concerning the use of economic means to achieve or secure geostrategic goals. In the 1990s after the end of the Cold War, the predominant idea in Western and Japanese circles was that a progressive democratisation and expansion of a globally integrated market economy was inevitable, for China as well. Under this belief there was limited international pressure on Beijing following the bloody repression of the 1989 student protests, and China was allowed to join the WTO. China however in the end did not democratise. Today, while Beijing has become the economic leader of the region, one can see numerous economic asymmetries, which Beijing exploits to “punish and reward” countries in Eurasia and in the Pacific. The Belt and Road initiative can be read in this light.
The Japanese response was that of joining the TPP, thus creating an economic bloc which allow countries in the region to depend less on China. Japan’s use of ODA is increasingly targeting projects and areas which fit within the picture of Japan’s strategic interests, as visible in the activities of JICA with its focus on connectivity and capacity building. Japan is also helping in the development of the coast guards of several nations in the South China Sea, by providing ships, equipment and also training officers.

On the point of minds, namely of information or propaganda, one can see a more systemic approach to the question. Dr. Pugliese used the word “propaganda” with a neutral connotation, as a set of activities and techniques aimed at inducing action or inaction in the receiver. In this field we can see that in the 1990s Tokyo was promoting the idea of Japan as a soft power giant (“Cool Japan”), targeting masses abroad. In more recent years, the propagandistic effort has concentrated more on both international and domestic audiences to spread a different message, particularly in creating awareness of a growing Chinese threat. Japan insists on the importance of an international regime based on the rule of law. China on the other hand tries to portray Japan as a revisionist power in Asia, which allegedly intends to change the geopolitical settlement of WWII’s outcome, thus becoming a threat to regional peace.

Finally, Dr. Pugliese commented on the latest developments of the Japan-China relations. There seems to be considerable tactical manoeuvering from both sides. PM Abe has expressed very qualified comments concerning Japan’s interests in some cooperation with Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative. On the other hand, China is softening its stance vis-à-vis Tokyo, as it embarked on a charm offensive while coping with worsening China-US relations. A real Japan-China détente is however not in sight yet.