Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Japan-U.S. Alliance and the 2020 Election

A panel with Professor Koji Murata of Doshisha University, Kyoto, Japan, explored the Japan-U.S. alliance in the light of current American public opinion, especially with some of the changed policies of the Trump administration. On March 2, the professor was joined by Senior Researcher Dina Smeltz of the Chicago Council on Global Affair in a panel on the Japan-U.S. Alliance and the 2020 election. Also participating as discussants were: Ambassador Christopher Hill, professor of diplomacy, and Professor Suisheng (Sam) Zhao, director of Korbel’s China Center. I moderated the panel. Dean Fritz Mayer did the welcome.

Japan-U.S. Alliance and the 2020 Election 

Panel Discussion, March 2, 2020

Professor Koji Murata, Researcher Dina Smeltz, Professor Suisheng Zhao, Ambassador Christopher Hill, Dean Fritz Mayer (welcome), Professor Floyd Ciruli (moderator)

Professor Ciruli: This panel is to continue the dialogue to underscore the Japan-U.S. benefits to both parties and the relationship’s challenges and strengths.

Professor Murata: The current U.S.-Japan alliance is very strong and stable and the relationship between Abe and Trump is sound. Abe is among the very few friends of Trump on the international stage. 

There are some challenges. Last year at the G20 Summit, Trump said the U.S.-Japan alliance is unfair, claiming if Japan is attacked, the U.S. would have to protect Japan, but not vice versa; “they would just watch it on Sony TVs.” Of those who would attack the U.S. – North Korea, Russian or China – the first targets would be the U.S. bases in Japan, so we wouldn’t be watching it on TV.

The U.S.-Japan alliance is asymmetrical. If Japan is attacked, young people might die defending Japan, but Japan has provided the location of U.S. bases for more than 70 years, resulting in incidences of crime, pollution, etc., so Japan incurs ongoing impact as well.

Japan and the U.S. can do more than just maintain a military alliance – in science, cyber security, etc., they should cooperate. For example, in cyber security, more Pacific countries should be involved. Japan is involved in capacity building in this area. On the pandemic and other issues, we need global cooperation. Japan is trying to help China with the coronavirus, but Chinese ships still violate Japanese waters. These behaviors damage our mutual understanding.

The biggest challenge for the alliance is China. The U.S. has strategically located bases in the area. Some Chinese people claim that the coronavirus was spread by people from the U.S. Around 2025, Chinese GDP will exceed U.S. GDP. But also at this time, India’s GDP will surpass China’s GDP. By 2025, Chinese will lose a large part of its working population. Its population is shrinking.

Now everyone in Japan is talking about the U.S. presidential election. The coronavirus is causing postponement of Xi’s visit to Japan. Abe already has his pick for the next prime minister. Japan’s general election will follow the Tokyo Olympics. All these external issues are affecting Abe’s calculation for Japan’s next election.

Researcher Smeltz: The Chicago Council Survey started in 1974 when Dr. Henry Kissinger obtained funding from the Ford Foundation. The 2019 survey was conducted last June with 2,000 people nationwide. The context was a view that America was retreating from foreign policy and the international stage. 
What we found is that Americans have always supported (7 in 10 now – one of the highest levels) taking an active part in world affairs, such as engaging in trade, providing humanitarian aid, etc. These policies are the bedrock of American policy and have been since WWII.

Our Asian and European allies have borne the brunt of criticism from President Trump. Yet, the public believes these alliances are beneficial to U.S. Regarding Europe, across the board people want to maintain our alliances or even increase them. Regarding trade deals, 63 percent say both sides benefit from trade deals. Trade and the positives trade brings receive some of the highest support we’ve seen no matter the political party of the respondent.

Japan scores the highest in strengthening U.S. national security. Japan also is seen as a partner and ally, but with less influence than other countries. Americans have always supported bases in Japan and that support is especially high now. One reason for this could be the number of active duty military there. The majority of the public – the highest numbers in recent years –supports defending Japan from North Korea. Support is lower regarding China, especially over disputed islands. People have started paying more attention to these issues with the advent of Trump and his tweets.

Americans are tempered as to whether China is a threat – yes, it’s an economic threat, but not militarily. As to the graying of China, the sale of adult diapers exceeds baby diapers.

The rise of China has solidified the alliance with Japan and South Korea. Most Americans see that as important, while believing America should engage China rather than contain it. Tensions with China aren’t as evidenced among the general public as in elite dialogues.

Questions from Ambassador Hill and Professor Zhao

Ambassador Hill: I found the survey results reassuring. One of his great headaches as the Asst. Sec. of Asia was dealing with the issue of bases. It wasn’t just the occasional “incidents.” How do Japanese feel in the long run about American bases and, in particular (and this has come up in South Korea about paying the U.S.), what if there were no U.S. troops in Korea? Would Japan be okay being the only Asian country housing U.S. troops?

Also, regarding the constitution that MacArthur put together limiting Japanese defense spending to 1 percent of GDP: PM Abe has considered changing that, but it had little political support. Where does that stand?

And, you talked about the Chinese population: Can you talk about the Japanese population of 126 million?

Also – How is Abe doing in his current term in office?

Professor Zhao: Regarding the U.S.-Japan alliance, what is the more difficult aspect with Trump? What is the significance of the U.S. economic relationship and how far can the TPP go without the U.S.? If the U.S. reconsidered TPP, what recommendations would you have?

Professor Murata: The U.S. presence in Korea and Japan are not separated. They are integrated. If Trump tried to withdraw from South Korea, certainly Japan would be strongly opposed. U.S. presence on the Korean peninsula is a single purpose – how to prevent an invasion. But the U.S. presence in Japan is much wider. In order to influence Trump [on withdrawal], Japan can improve its relationship with South Korean. When Japan normalized relations with South Korea, Japan was much richer (1965), now South Korea is catching up, but there is an attitude that Japan still looks down on South Korea. We also have to strengthen Japanese security.

In 30 years, Japan will lose 26 million in population. Our budgetary situation is getting more and more difficult. The population is aging. Even though Japanese population is decreasing, we can utilize new science and technology. AI is a vital science; we need to accumulate big data. China and Russia have a strong advantage in doing that over democracies. They don’t have to worry about privacy concerns.

Abe has changed. He is much less nationalistic and more pragmatic.  

With regard to the TPP, I am not sure. Even among Democratic candidates, there is not much support for TPP. If we can modify the framework and save face within the U.S. government, U.S. involvement is more than welcome.

The Japanese defense budget – based on NATO calculations – should increase, but because of our population decrease, we have budget constraints.

Ambassador Hill and Professor Zhao: What do the Japanese think of Trump and the threat of North Korea? Would Japan like to be more involved in policy toward North Korea? Since Abe came to office, what has been the status of Article 9? Could it become a big issue again?

Professor Murata: Article 9 says Japan cannot conduct a war. Abe would like to revise Article 9 to allow self-defense forces. He would need two-thirds majorities in both houses, and I don’t think he can do it. He might want his successor to address this.

Japan is very concerned about North Korean developments. Last year, the U.S. finally abandoned the IMF treaty with Russia, so one possibility is U.S. deployment to perhaps Guam. Japan could join in that. It must be a deterrent to China, Russian and North Korea.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Gardner vs. Hickenlooper – A Two-Point Race?

The new political environment has mostly secured John Hickenlooper’s Democratic senate nomination (see Democratic Primary: Is it Over? 3-26-20), but it has also enhanced incumbent Senator Cory Gardner’s position. The general rule is that a national crisis helps incumbents. After 9/11, President Bush’s approval rating skyrocketed (90%, an all-time record). But, it also helped local politicians, such as Bill Owens and Wayne Allard, whose popularity surged, leading to re-elections in 2002. President Trump’s average approval rating (47%) is reaching the top of the ravine it’s been on during his entire term in office (35% to 45%) (See Trump’s Winning Support as Nation Rallies in Crisis, 3-27-20). In recent elections, Colorado has tended to mirror national voter results. Today, national polling between Trump and Joe Biden, his likely Democratic opponent, is now down to 3 percent, or margin of error.

The Colorado Senate race in 2014 was within 2 points for much of the year, with Mark Udall ahead before Labor Day, but the lead changed in the fall. Is the Colorado race destined to be close? Although polls six months ago showed John Hickenlooper winning by 10 points, the new political environment suggests that the partisan polarization may be muted by Trump’s stronger position and the emphasis on national unity. That provides a better platform for Gardner to argue that incumbency benefits Colorado, with less drag from Trump, who has been highly unpopular, especially among Colorado’s burgeoning unaffiliated voters.

President Donald Trump campaigns with Senator Cory Gardner
in Colorado Springs, CO, Feb. 20, 2020 | CBS Denver

Friday, March 27, 2020

Trump’s Winning Support as Nation Rallies in Crisis

Although President Trump has received considerable criticism for his lack of urgency in January and February when the coronavirus was raging in China and getting a foothold in America, his approval rating was unmoved and has now begun to climb. Specific measures of his performance on the virus have been mostly divided by party, but several have offered him considerable support and his approval average is now at the top of the range he’s been in for nearly four years.

Trump’s public opinion success is a product of the country tending to ‘rally around the flag” in a crisis, his improved commander-in-chief performance after the disastrous Oval Office speech on March 11, and his own communication system on Twitter, Fox News and a host of online and radio supporters.

A summary of some recent polling data:
  • Awareness of the crisis and concern for personal and family health is high
  • Trust in the Federal government is weak and highly partisan. Trust in state and local government is high.
  • Public optimism about the economy is declining rapidly
  • People are divided about duration being weeks and months
  • Public health officials are highly respected. Their views will likely dominate
  • Media is poorly rated. Many believe it exaggerates the crisis.
President Donald Trump speaks during daily briefing on the novel coronavirus
 at the White House, March 20, 2020 | Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Democratic Primary: Is it Over?

John Hickenlooper | Photo: Getty
The coronavirus emergency has shut down the public aspects of American politics at the moment it was reaching its peak activity. Just as the presidential primary campaigns have become dormant, the Colorado primary race for senate is now frozen in place with virtual county assemblies and state conventions. All to the benefit of frontrunner John Hickenlooper, who is already on the ballot by petition and just announced he would not participate in the party process. He already has avoided candidate forums as much as possible. Any remaining events before the June primary will likely be virtual and mostly devoid of a real clash. Rivals are now denied a live audience and the dynamics needed to show grassroots support.

Cory Gardner
Along with freezing the primary process just as rivals needed visibility from rallies and party activities, the issues have shifted from the Democrats’ left-center divide to competence. Hickenlooper, who had been on the defense with the party’s far left, is the winner on the issue of executive experience and competence. One of his most salient images in his eight-year term as governor was dealing with crises from fires, floods and horrendous shootings.

It’s hard to imagine Hickenlooper’s final three months until the June primary on more favorable territory.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Japan-U.S. Alliance. The Critical Architecture for Security and Prosperity in the Asia Pacific.

The strategic challenge for the United States and Japan in Asia is to engage a rising China, while maintaining a favorable balance of power for the United States, Japan and its allies. A robust U.S.-Japan alliance is critical to the effort and necessitates sustained dialogue on how the alliance can shape the regional order. Achieving that objective will require the United States and Japan to articulate strategy to maintain the balance in the Asia Pacific and understand the benefit that both bring to the strategy. The Korbel School, working with the Japanese Consulate in Denver, prepared a program to bring Japanese strategic thinkers to join with their Denver colleagues at the Korbel School at the University of Denver.

The Korbel School hosted Japanese scholars and government officials in February and March of this year in a program coordinated by the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research. The following is a description of the first panel held with Noriyuki Shikata, who was Deputy Chief of Mission, the Japanese Embassy in Beijing. He is currently studying at Harvard where he has received a Master’s in Public Policy. The panel was sponsored by the Crossley Center, the Center for China-U.S. Cooperation and the Office of Global Engagement.

Japan-China-U.S. and Japan’s Vision for the Indo-Pacific

Panel participants were:
Minister Noriyuki Shikata, Professor Suisheng Zhao, Dean Fritz Mayer (introduction and discussant), Professor Floyd Ciruli (moderator)

It is an extraordinary time in global politics and markets. A critical area is in the Indo-Pacific where challenges posed by China to the United States and Japan and a movement of nationalism in the U.S. and other areas around the globe are shaping the future.

Former Minister Noriyuki Shikata observed that the Indo-Pacific is becoming more and more the center of global economy. By 2030, the Chinese economy will surpass the U.S. in GDP. He highlighted that populations in the area are growing and there are already problems resulting from the development of mega cities. In that also lies opportunity for collaboration with the U.S. and U.S. companies. For instance, addressing the issue of pollution will call for more clean energy, as well as how to make cities operate more efficiently.

Japanese relations with China have had tense periods historically and there is recognition that even small conflicts could become quite dangerous. Since 2012, Prime Minister Shinz┼Ź Abe has been working to improve relations. A crisis communication mechanism was established between Japan/China ministers to avoid any miscommunication. The relationship-building started before Donald Trump became president, but the progress has likely been accelerated because of it.

The concept of the Indo-Pacific region has evolved over the years from Asian, to Asian-Pacific, to Western-Pacific. While it is rightly used as a geographic concept, Prof. Zhao argued that it is more of a political concept. During the Obama administration, Indo-Pacific was used to describe a national security strategy. Another concept is a “free and open” Indo-Pacific, but China objects to this as a U.S. containment strategy.

While Japan and China have had alliances over time, they have been pragmatic, and only where certain interests overlapped.

Minister Shikata offered that, while there are different interpretations of a free and open Indo-Pacific, the Japanese do attach certain issues to the alliance, such as human rights as well as freedom of navigation. He added that outside powers, such as the UK and France, also have an interest in this concept since they have overseas territories that fall in the region. He stressed that Japan’s response is not about containing China, but that when certain conditions are met, there can be collaboration and don’t want to see an escalation of tension in the South China Seas.

The Japanese and Chinese have always learned from each other’s cultures, stretching back thousands of years. Today, more Chinese are coming to Japan with the relaxation of visas, and there is hope this will help improve communications across borders.

This alliance among Asians is likely to continue as the Indo-Pacific region develops into the center of the global economy and U.S. business continues its interest in the region. In the 1980s, Japan was seen to be the economic threat to the U.S. Today, it is China.
Watch video of event here

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Jim Cannon – Ward Lake Loses a Steward

I most often saw Jim Cannon at Ward Lake, next to his family home in Lakewood, one of the metro area’s most beautiful natural jewels. He was a fun-loving and creative (a playwright) family man who spent much of his growing up in and near the lake. Jim organized games next to it as a young adult, never tired of taking his children and others water skiing on it, and wanted to protect it for the future.

He was also a businessman who was proud of his family’s contribution to Denver for more than 100 years. In 2015, several of the family’s leaders, especially his Uncle Brown Cannon and his dad George, were inducted into the Colorado Business Hall of Fame. Jim, who was a student of Toastmasters, briefed the area’s more recent business leaders into the family’s history. It was an impressive effort.

We just lost Jim this March and his many friends will miss him boating on the lake he loved.

See obituary here

Monday, March 23, 2020

Market Loses the Entire Trump Gain

The Dow is about to give back the entire gain since Donald Trump was elected November 8, 2016. At the time, the conventional wisdom was that Trump’s surprise victory would upset a market reconciled to an extension of the Obama/Biden economic policies. Trump was an unknown, a disrupter, but almost immediately the shock of his victory turned to investor elation anticipating tax cuts and deregulations.

The market was at 18332 on Election Day, and in two weeks, closed above 19000 on November 22, 2016. By the inauguration (January 20, 2017), it was near 20000, and hit it 5 days later. Although there have been some dips and slow crawls until mid-February 2020, the market mostly grew, adding 10000 points in just over 3 years.

President Obama had a good track record with recovering from the great recession, producing an up market and lower unemployment. The Dow was 7949 on his inauguration day in January 2009 and unemployment at 10 percent. As he left office, unemployment was down to 4.7 percent and the Dow had more than doubled as it gained 10383 points.

Although President Trump may not be blamed for the coronavirus recession, he had planned to run on the buoyant market and low unemployment to make up for deficiencies in his personality and presidential temperament. Trump’s campaign, realizing the danger in the changed circumstances, are now casting him as the leader in a great patriotic effort to rally the country and direct the virus war effort. They are also arguing that only he has the experience and track record to rapidly bring the economy back to life. It may be the only strategy available given the circumstances, but running an incumbent president’s reelection in a recession with stress on local government budgets and high unemployment is a nightmare.

Read The Buzz:
Dow Fires Past 29000, Yet Trump Struggles
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