Monday, October 09, 2006

A Proposal: Japan, the Asia Pacific Union, and Western Values

Despite the astounding economic development of China, the nation remains a bastion of brutal authoritarianism. To this very day, the Chinese army occupies Tibet, and Chinese authorities routinely arrest, torture, and kill Tibetans in a brutal attempt to suppress their right to freedom of expression and religion (according to Human Rights Watch and Physicians for Human Rights). [1][2] Most people in the Chinese community (in Hong Kong, mainland China, Taiwan, and elsewhere) simply do not care about such "trivial" matters when they are reaping substantial profits in the mainland Chinese market. [3] Money and profits are splendid, and human rights are simply a nuisance best ignored, as the Hong Kongers amply demonstrated when huge crowds of them cheered Beijing during festivities on the eve of the 1997 handover.

Despite this indifference to the present state of human rights, today's Chinese, who were born long after World War II, are keen to harp on 60-year-old atrocities which they never experienced. Newspapers in cities ranging from Beijing down to Hong Kong annually warn of Japanese militarism and accuse today's Japanese (who were also born long after the war) of denying their "complicity" in World War II. Beijing, backed by the startlingly nationalistic Chinese community, then uses the events of World War II as blackmail to extract concessions from Japan and to politically prevent Japan from becoming one of the leaders of the Asia-Pacific region.

Instead of merely responding to the agendas set by the Chinese, the Japanese should take the lead and turn the tables on them. Tokyo, Canberra, and Wellington should form the Asia Pacific Union (APU), patterned after the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The APU shall commit itself to Western values: democracy, human rights, compassion, and free markets. The APU shall invest money and technology in select Southeast Asian countries where Western values are likely to thrive and shall expand incrementally by targeting, for admittance to the APU, any Southeast Asian nation committed to Western values. Thailand would be a good first choice after the Thai make certain adjustments to their overly Asian society.

The East Asian Community (EAC) advocated by the Malaysians and the Chinese differs markedly from the APU. The EAC is destined to be a racist organization: the Malaysians previously called the EAC the "caucus without Caucasians". [4] The Chinese government wants to exclude Australia and New Zealand from the EAC. Of course, the Chinese community at large is in sync with Beijing on this matter.

Further, like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the EAC would avoid interference in the internal affairs of member states even when they are committing gross human-rights violations. Admission to the EAC requires signing the 1976 Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, which pledges non-interference in the internal affairs of other states. In the event of another atrocity like the slaughter of East Timorese in 1999, the EAC would remain silent, but the APU would aggressively intervene. The EAC lacks the fundamental Western value of compassion.

The ultimate goal for the APU is to create vibrant Western democracies (not Chinese democracies like totalitarian-ish Singapore) in the Asia-Pacific region and to admit all of them as members of the APU. It will siphon off most members of the EAC, which will wither away. So, instead of Canberra begging to enter the morally dubious EAC in 2005, Beijing will eventually come knocking on the door of the APU and beg to become a member. At that time, the APU will require Beijing to meet stringent criteria on human rights and democracy just as the Eastern and Central European nations must meet the same stringent criteria before being admitted to the European Union.

To buttress the mission of the APU and to establish Japan as one of the leaders of Asia, Tokyo should simultaneously (1) repeal Article 9 of the Japanese constitution, thus legalizing any necessary military response in times of crisis and (2) establish a secular national war memorial from which the 1068 convicted war criminals (of World War II) shall be banned. Step #2 will firmly assert the moral clarity of Japanese leadership in Asia.

Last, but not least, Japan is the only Western democracy on the Asian continent and is our staunchest ally in a region that is bitterly anti-American. As such, Japan deserves our unflinching support in any dispute between Beijing and Tokyo (or Canberra or Wellington).

Specifically, Washington should support Japanese claims on the Senkaku Islands and resolutely oppose Chinese territorial ambitions. Unlike the mercenary Taiwanese who support Beijing's claims on Tibet, we Americans must not allow the allure of financial gain in the Chinese market to cloud our vision of moral clarity. We must oppose the expansion of authoritarian rule or influence to additional areas (including islands) of the globe. We must do so if we value the Western ideals for which hundreds of thousands of American servicemen sacrificed their lives.

1. Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights, and other humanitarian organizations jointly received the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for their support of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

1. "Tibet: Monk Leaves Prison a Broken Man", Human Rights Watch, 2005 January 26.
2. "Striking Hard: Torture in Tibet", Physicians for Human Rights (awarded 1997 Nobel Peace Prize), 1997 October.
3. "Change in China, Change in L.A.", "Los Angeles Times", 2005 June 4.
4. "Australia's problem with ASEAN amity", "Japan Times", 2005 April 21.

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