Japan stands firm as tensions between China and US grow

On Thursday (Jan 5), Japan’s minister of economy Yasutoshi Nishimura visited Washington to preview Japan’s priorities for the G7 conference. In a keynote address to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Nishimura signaled Japan’s intent to join the US chip ban against China, as the two superpowers ratchet up tensions in a high-stakes trade war.


“We must not be overly reliant on other countries, especially on only one specific country, for goods and technologies that are indispensable for our industries and our daily lives,” Nishimura said in a thinly-veiled critique of China’s dominance in the region. “Building up economic security is a matter of great urgency.”

The Biden administration announced a sweeping ban on American chip technology exports to China in October, but experts say the move lacks bite without the support of Japan and the Netherlands, two of the world’s leading producers of semiconductor chips.


The relatively new Kishida administration has seen a shift in Japan’s long-standing attitude towards global trade. At the same conference, Nishimura said that liberal countries had made an error by bringing China and Russia into the World Trade Organization, incorrectly assuming that increased economic cooperation with autocracies would lead to less conflict.

His language highlighted the Kishida administration’s bucking of mainstream economic and geopolitical strategy, a reflection of changing global attitudes towards the neoliberal policies of the late 20th century. “The free trade system ended up increasing the legitimacy of authoritarian regimes,” he said. “The illusion we embraced ended up amplifying the threat of hegemonic powers.”


In addition to trade tensions, China has repeatedly criticized the Biden administration’s increased support of Taiwan, most notably calling former speaker of the house Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan a “serious provocation.” As pressure mounts, Biden will look to ensure Japan’s unwavering support during Kishida’s upcoming visit to Washington.

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