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Japan’s Abe visits Central Asia for geo-political gain

Editor: Tong Xinxin 丨CCTV.com

10-30-2015 15:48 BJT

By Hou Jun, a Ph.D. candidate majoring in International Relations at Research Institute of International Relations, China Foreign Affairs University

On October 28, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ended his visit to Kazakhstan, the last stop of his Central Asia tour. Beforehand, he told the media, “Mongolia and central Asian countries are located in the center of Asia and that connects eastern and western countries.
       
The region is significant for geopolitics and for diplomacy around the globe.” He mentioned there were commercial opportunities, potentially valued as high as three trillion Japanese Yen for infrastructure and energy projects, that can boost Japan’s presence in Central Asia.

Abe is targeting greater commercial opportunities and energy resources in central Asian countries to balance China’s influence in the region.

Why does Japan suddenly attach importance to Central Asia?

Central Asia has been a neglected region by Japan for a long time. A sitting Japanese Prime Minister has not paid a visit here, since nine years ago. Abe is the first Japanese Prime Minister to go to Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrghyzstan.

The Abe Regime has advocated, “Diplomacy overlooking the globe” to restore Tokyo’s political power. Faced with Beijing’s all-round cooperation with central Asian countries, Tokyo is unwilling to fall behind, counterbalancing China by joining the competition of great powers and renewing its “presence” in the region.

Moreover, since Abe launched “Abeconomics”, he has supported huge infrastructure and energy development demand on the Asian market to revitalize the Japanese economy through overseas markets. Japan has suffered a huge blow after the Fukushima Nuclear Crisis.

To ensure energy security, Tokyo has enhanced its emphasis on the Central Asian Region. But compared with China and Russia, Japan is more like a runner that “loses at the starting line” in the region.

Therefore, Abe has proposed a transformation of relations between Japan and Central Asia when addressing its policies on Central Asia to the public. His   intension to “surpass the formers as a latecomer” seems obvious.

China’s perspective on Abe’s visit

The visit is likely to strengthen competition in the economy and energy in the Central Asian Region between China and Japan. He’s confronting Beijing’s “One Belt and One Road” initiative and China’s establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Except for Turkmenistan, the other four counties in Central Asia are founding members of the AIIB. China has enjoyed close proximity and economic cooperation with the region.

In 2014, trade volume stood at 38 billion US dollars between China and central Asian countries, and only 2 billion dollars between Japan and such countries. Yet, there’s great potential for rising economic cooperation between Japan and central Asian countries.

During the visit, Abe has made some achievements in economic cooperation. Tokyo had signed energy cooperation deals amounting to 18 billion US dollars with Turkmenistan, and entered agreements on infrastructure and energy projects with different countries.

From the long-term perspective, economic cooperation between Japan and central Asian countries will deepen.

This remains consistent with the interests of central Asian countries and the market economy. Tokyo holds certain appeal to central Asian countries for its advantages in its capital and technology.

Central Asian countries generally have a single economic structure, which is in urgent need of reform, as well as poor infrastructure but huge market potential. Japan strives to take a share of that. China and Japan have targeted huge infrastructure demand in Central Asia.

Therefore in the long term, Central Asia is expected to become an “arena” for Beijing and Tokyo to compete.

The visit holds little influence on regional and safety cooperation, simply put a confrontation against China.

He peddled his newly-adopted “New Security Bills” in each country that he visited, and promoted the so-called “Active Pacifism”, insinuating that China was using military force to change the status-quo, which should be resolved according to international laws.

However, many of those countries had assumed an evasive attitude towards the “New Security Bills”, and did not mention sensitive issues existing between Beijing and Tokyo, showing that central Asian countries held a neutral attitude on the matter.

During the visit, Abe kept mentioning the “Japan – Central Asia” Foreign Minister Dialogue Mechanism established between Japan and central Asian countries, seeking to consolidate this cooperation mechanism.

However, the mechanism appears immature compared with the regional security mechanism, such as the “Shanghai Cooperation Organization”, established between China and central Asian countries, and the influence is not at the same level.

Cooperation between China and central Asian countries is comprehensive, and getting more mature after years of efforts. It seems too late for Abe to interfere.

Under the driving force of countries such as China and Russia, it is not likely for Japan to play a leading role in the establishment of a regional political and security mechanism. Cooperation between China and central Asian countries will not be influenced by Japan, and will develop towards a closer direction.

 

( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )

 

 

Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

 

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