Business Summit – Valérie Niquet, Head, Asia Department, Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS)


Valerie Niquet good morning You are in charge of Asia at the Strategic Research Foundation You often visit the region You cover China, Japan, Korea How do you view this withdrawal strategy by Donald Trump? Withdrawal of the US from the region What are the consequences for Allies like the US & South Korea Can we really talk of a withdrawal of the US in the region? For the US & Donald Trump the focus today is still Asia-Pacific This is the object of a bipartisan consensus It follows Obama’s “pivot to Asia” Donald Trump has increased surveillance operations in the South China Sea. Many Japanese will tell you that they are happy that the US are much more committed But you are right. There are some worries On the commercial side there has been TPP Many people talk about decoupling Indeed there seem to be a gap Between Security commitments At least what the US claim Their interest for the region Being for North Korea and of course China On the other side There is an economic & commercial commitment Where we indeed see a withdrawal from America So the Allies of the US in the region, the first being Japan, are scratching their heads In a more or less open way On the one hand there is the fear to displease an American president Who scares people by his unpredictability On the other hand there is a debate Where questions that are sometimes asked in Japan About the strength of American commitment in this region Do you think there is a gap between Trump’s rhetoric and the US “deep State”? So the Allied would be reassured while Trump asks for more money to pay for US bases in Japan and Korea? Do you think there is a gap between the 2? Even before he was elected Trump had started He wished Japan get an autonomous dissuasion capacity Which an odd request for a country like Japan Something Japan won’t be able to do at least in the near future It is true that Donald Trump makes bold statements But at the same time everybody in Japan Will tell you that on the operational side things keep on going like before It impacts one thing Japan obviously tries very hard not to displease Trump Which has consequences on the relations of Japan with other powers Like the EU, and on strategic partnerships that too are important Of course for Tokyo the main ally is the United States What they want to do is to appease the US president PM Abe has done so by meeting him very often Which has not prevented Donald Trump from making odd statements About a raise of Japan’s financial support for the American bases Japan actually already pays a lot for its bases There are also strong economic pressures There has been a trade agreement signed Many wonder whether it is solid especially in Tokyo Let’s talk about the relationship between the Americans and China Donald Trump but also his advisers like Steve Bannon Have a very tough language and mention China as the next enemy for the next few years There is a strong pushback Xi Jinping has stopped pretending China is a soft power peafully rising Is there a debate within China’s power On Xi Jinping’s tough stance And the rest of the political apparatus who wished China would come back to a “peaceful rise” stance that was good for business It is very hard to understand what is the debate going on within China’s political apparatus And it is even harder to understand the permanent Committee, which is the heart of China’s power I don’t live in Xi Jinping’s head I don’t know what he exactly thinks What I heard from Chinese experts Who talk in an unofficial manner but are close to the power Is that Xi Jinping himself knows very little about what is going on outside China His English is very poor He never goes on the internet Every information he gets has been filtered a lot by people who have no interest in bringing him bad news That is the problem of authoritarian regimes Nobody wants to oppose the boss or go against what he may think This can lead to miscalculations that are hard to correct It is true that there is a debate in China Since Xi Jinping arrived in 2012 with his big speeches on the return of China, the “Chinese dream” The revenge of the past and a ready-to-fight army Now China’s image has profoundly deteriorated on the international stage For example towards the EU Until recently EU was pretty open towards China Yet it just imposed a policy much more tough on China than before Now people say that China has 50% problems that counterbalance the 50% of opportunities China represents The image of China took a hit China’s neighbouring countries are the ones that need China the most They are the most fragile, the least financially solid They are with Eastern European countries and Italy enthusiastic about China’s new silk roads They are not the top-tier allies China may want Also what is going on in Hong Kong Which is not under control Even though China’s choice not to intervene militarily is rather positive There is no solution yet Taiwan is an issue as well The autonomous party is back And finally there is a direct conflict with the USA Which already weights on the Chinese economy The only one who seems a bit less aggressive is Japan Japan chose to normalize its relations with China Japan should receive president Xi Jinping for a State visit Tokyo is trying to nurture new relations in Asia To balance, even if the logic is hard ton follow A relation with the US that is difficult Thank you.

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