In the United States, Vice President Joe Biden is often likened to “a drunken uncle at a wedding party.” He may be having the time of his life, but many around him fear he might get carried away and say something outrageous.
Biden is known to have made slips of the tongue, but that apparently is also what makes him affable and interesting.
During his tenure as chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, he would often end his speeches on security issues by saying the last thing he wants to see is Japan arming itself with nuclear weapons. Biden is also a politician who well understands the subtleties of East Asian order.
Biden, who arrived in Japan on Dec. 2, leaves for Beijing on Dec. 4. With China unilaterally setting an Air Defense Identification Zone over the East China Sea, the vice president’s tour of Japan, China and South Korea has suddenly taken on a sense of urgency. I want to hear Biden speak clearly to China, a country that often refuses to accept common sense from the international community.
It is unclear even to Washington why Beijing resorted to such outrageous behavior just before the vice president’s visit. Is China truly trying to play hardball or simply putting on a brave face to impress its domestic audience? Reading too much or too little into the situation could cause countries to take false steps in dealing with China.
China today makes me think of an elephant riding a bicycle. The fast-growing nation can no longer hide distortions and contradictions, such as widening income gaps, environmental pollution and corrupt government and party officials, in its society. China is inciting nationalism at home by creating enemies outside the country and providing its people with the fruit of economic growth. Unless it keeps on pedaling, the bicycle called single-party dictatorship will fall.
Given the actual situation in China, Japan will gain nothing by getting worked up about Beijing, whose relations with Tokyo can be likened to a flammable wooden structure.
China is a country that often resorts to provocative behavior. It is becoming increasingly difficult for both Japan and the United States to strike a balance between calmness and determination in dealing with China.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 4
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.
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