_ Nobuo Shimotomai, professor, Hosei University. Tokyo, 10 January 2018.
2017 marked one hundred years’ anniversary of bipolarity of global politics. Russian revolution, as well as the Wilsonian ‘democratic’ involvement in global affairs took place a century ago. However, communism failed in 1991, whilst US project of democratic promotion seemed to prevail globally after that.
By 2014, a new turn came. Though communism died ideologically, Chinese communists won over American capitalism by rebalancing economic weights over the US (G. Allison). New Chinese geo-economic strategy is emerging: as “One Belt One Road” of Xi Jinping. China is back historically.
Marx was right when he said that economy ultimately determines politics. Or, at least Chinese money matters both economically and intellectually. Cambridge University press came very near to accept Chinese censorship over delicate issues like “Tiananmen square incident”.
By 2017, the US-led globalization is giving way to new Eurasian neo-revisionist powers of Russia and China. Global order looks like a class without teacher where “class struggle” is taking place between maritime powers versus Eurasian powers led by China. Battlefields are abundant from the South China Sea to cyberspace. People are afraid of “Thucydides’ trap”, or clash between the emerging and declining super powers.
Having said that, however, things are not so simple as they look like. Power is always difficult to gauge, because it depends on parameters. Chinese communists want to supplement their ideological weakness by incorporating the Confucian worldview. But they are not fully aware of its own demerits that Confucius’ teaching always connotes hierarchy. In the Asian and Eurasian context, this emphasis simply means Chinese hegemony over surrounding regions from Mongolia to Malaysia. This simply alienates nearby neighbors ideologically, and weakens Chinese “soft power”.
DPRK history with China demonstrates this tendency. J. Stalin designated Mao’s Communist China to control, at least tactically, over Asian communist and workers movements in the Asian cold war. By 1956, Pro-Chinese elements within the Korean Workers’ Party wanted to dethrone Kim Il Sung, who had apparently proved himself to be a weak military leader. But this August coup failed and Kim survived and began to purge all foreign elements, Chinese above all, within North Korea’s leadership. After this Kim began to emphasize the ‘Juche’ identity. This is one of the reasons why Chinese pressure is not enough to influence the DPRK political course even today. The more foreign pressure, especially from China, the more Kim Jong Un clings to the nuclear deterrence as a guarantee of his “regime”.
Asia is always hybrid and diverse geopolitically from the Middle East to the Far East. China is vast but monistic. The US is remote from Eurasia. The Russian role in this confrontational context is somewhat limited as the supplier of soft power in this region. But Russia can still have provide energy and security. Also, it can be a kind of stabilizer between the powers to prevent bipolarization and intensification of Asian balances.
To play this role, especially in Asia, historical reconciliation with Asian nations, Japan among others, is necessary. Peace treaty is long overdue. Hope to see this in 2018-Year of Japan in Russia and Year of Russia in Japan.