Rahm Emanuel, U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Talks About Chinese Economic Coercion 


    The United States and Japan are taking the lead to counter the efforts of China to use their economic power to force political change in countries around the world. The two nations are also working with other like-minded countries. 

    The U.S. ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanual, talked about this effort in a Tuesday interview with The Associated Press.

    Emanuel, who was formerly the mayor of Chicago and chief of staff for former President Barack Obama, is pushing what he is now calling “commercial diplomacy.” This is the idea that the United States and Japan will be more willing to do business with each other and with similar countries which are secure and stable if they work together. This has become essential amid issues like the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. They need each other to stand up against Chinese economic coercion. 

    From intellectual property theft to coercion to debt dependency that China creates, the idea that they could actually honestly say, ‘We don’t coerce,’ and then you have not one, not two, not three – many worldwide examples where they use their economic market access to force a political change in a country … I think everybody’s woken up to that,” Emanuel said in the Associated Press interview. 

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    The ambassador arrived in Japan in January and lives in the heart of Tokyo. He has presented several examples of Chinese coercion in which Chinese shipments of rare earth metals were blocked over a territorial dispute. He focused on how South Korea experienced Chinese business boycotts when it installed a U.S. missile defense system in. Australia.

    Several countries are experiencing tension due to China’s growing economic importance in the world. They worry that Beijing is increasing its influence in areas other countries used to have influence. 

    For instance, China has become one of the most significant lenders to developing countries through its “Belt and Road Initiative.” This is designed to expand trade by building ports, railways, and other means of infrastructure across Asia, Africa, and the Middle East to Europe. 

    Some experts are pointing out that China is using debt to have political leverage. This is denied by China. 

    Emanuel is looking for ways for the United States and Japan to counter Chinese economic coercion. He is working with Japan on their concern about China’s activities on regional seas. There is a Japanese-controlled island that Beijing has claimed.

    Emanuel has given praise to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s pledge of a “significant increase” in the country’s defense budget and its military capabilities.

    Kishida’s mentor, the former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, was assassinated in July. He is carrying on the national security strategy that was in place in the former administration. And he is open to the development of new preemptive strike capabilities, but some are saying this would go further than what is written in Japan’s war-renouncing constitution. It restricts the use of force in self-defense. 

    Japan’s prime minister is proposing an increased defense budget for Japan. He would like it doubled to 2% of the GDP, which is a NATO standard over the next five years. 

    Much to the prime minister’s credit, he looked around the corner and realized what was happening in this region and the world — Japan needed to step up in ways it hadn’t in the past,” Emanuel said.

    The two nations are looking at economic opportunities in electric vehicle batteries, energy, and new research into technology for small modular nuclear reactors, aviation technology, and semiconductors.

    In the past, business leaders from Japan would only consider new ventures based on cost and logistics. But now they are willing to pay more because of the threat of Chinese sanctions and instability. 

    For “the last 20 or 30 years, cost and efficiency were the driving factors. They drove public policy, and they drove corporate decisions. Today cost and efficiency are being replaced, supplanted by stability and sustainability,” Emanuel said.

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