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IDAS Series: Japan's evolving approach to economic security under U.S.-China rivalry: a departure from the pacifist state

Date : 2024-06-20 Department : International Doctoral Program in Asia-Pacific Studies
【Article by IDAS】
National Chengchi University’s International Doctor’s Program on Asia-Pacific Studies (IDAS) series presented Japan’s evolving approach to economic security under U.S.-China rivalry: a departure from the pacifist state? held on 13 May 2024. Dr. Liu Fu-Kuo from the Institute of International Relations (IIR) moderated the talk and introduced the guest speaker, Dr. Masahiro Matsumura, professor of International Politics at Momogama Gakuin University in Osaka, Japan. The talk presented an overview of the domestic impact of the Economic Security Promotion Law (ESPL), and whether Japan is pivoting away from the pacifist state since the end of World War II. His assessment of the question was in the negative.

Dr. Matsumura’s presentation focused on how recent international developments, primarily the struggle between China and the United States, created a need for Japan to lessen its dependence and reliability on other nations. According to Dr. Matsumura, the Comprehensive Security Policy (CSP) necessitated Japan’s focus on non-military security in sectors like food and energy. The ESPL passed in 2022 and 2023’s Defense Industrial Base Enhancement Law (DIBEL), despite enhancements in military preparedness, the government remains focused on key economic security issues outlined in previous policies. In his assessment, competition between private industry and government demands differ between two competing economic security strategies important for Japan in the region: strategic autonomy and strategic indispensability.

Divided between the myopic parochial perspective and what is best for the national interest, Dr. Matsumura used the case of the TSMC chip factory in Kumamoto, Japan to exemplify what he regards as “policy malpractice.” Japan used to be an industry leader with control of 60-70% of chip production has dwindled to 10% today. Outsourcing of production, domestic market decline, and heavy environmental costs, all weigh on the chip manufacturing plants’ present costs at a national and international perspective. The professor summarized the situation with a single sentence: the chip industry as a whole is profitable; but it is dirty.

The Q&A portion after the talk was lively with back-and-forth discussion about the actions and inactions of the Japanese government domestically and overseas, covering issues from the struggles of pacifism while enhanced economic security and its reception domestically, to raising matters of economic security toward countries in Africa as means to compete with China. Professor Matsumura stressed Japan’s focus on mid- and long-term deals over short-term gains, which was China’s direction towards Africa and other nations internationally. The problem he stressed Japan and other nations faced was a lack of economic security plans beyond plan A.

The talk raised issues of Japan’s growing involvement in the greater Asia-Pacific during a period of growing tensions. It presented a reality of Japan’s presence in the region, and its relationship with Taiwan, the U.S., and China at a critical moment. It was an excellent opportunity for IDAS to have Dr. Matsumura presenting on a topic of regional importance covering the relationship with Taiwan to the larger international struggle over the international order of politics in the near future.
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