Japan is an intriguing country. Having lived here almost 20 years I have witnessed first hand the glacial pace of change and as a self-employed worker here I understand the necessity of long term relationships in order to win trust. I was lucky enough to get a front row seat to see the extremely close relationship that former PM Abbott had with Japan’s PM Abe. I felt Australia was quickly moving up the ‘ladder’ as it were with respect to being a trusted partner. Some of my Aussie Embassy acquaintances told me how Japan’s ministries were going out of their way to ‘lay on’ the omotenashi hospitality for every visiting Aussie dignitary given this revival. Local LDP politicians I met here spoke in such positive tones about Abbott that they could not fathom his ousting for Turnbull. I remember attending an Aussie Embassy gathering hosted by the ANZCCJ on the day Abbott was ousted and discussed with many there what a huge step backwards this was for Aussie-Japan relations. How many dismissed those fears. They are no doubt regretting such thoughts.
The subs deal truly sunk that relationship to new lows. Australia has it all to do again. Sadly PM Turnbull won’t be the one to do it. While on defence issues, there are common goals, you can bet your life that the wishes of our PM Turnbull have no chance of resonating with Japan vs the US. Japan’s security, trading and economic relationship with America has been forged for decades. Not merely for US occupation but the business relationships between US & Japanese corporates is second to none. JAL runs a 100% Boeing large jet fleet. ANA not far behind.
On TPP, Japan has no wish to enter a space that the US has departed. Moreover a large part of TPP was to establish a block that kept China out. So Turnbull looking to invite the Chinese has all the hallmarks of putting lipstick on a pig to flog a poor investment banking deal. It also reveals his total lack of understanding.
One wonders whether our current PM is merely stuck as a faithful disciple of Obama, something completely at odds with the constituents his party represents. That his level of group think to believe that Hillary Clinton would be in the Oval Office meant he had spent zero time contemplating what Australia might be like if in the odd chance he won. The funny thing with politics is that a country must always be planning for the things we know we know; the things we know we don’t know; the things we don’t know we know and the things we don’t know we don’t know. Turnbull had done such little preparation he needed to call up a golfer to get his number to congratulate him after his election win. Since then the denial of the new President has shown how little he thinks of Trump.
While it is indeed so en vogue to openly show hostility toward Trump, he is still the leader of the world’s largest economy and it is best being on the inside of the tent p1ssing out than on the outside p1ssing in. Turnbull is showing his characteristic lack of judgement. If he continues to think the Japanese are going to join his ‘Obama-revival’ crusade he’ll be sorely mistaken. The Japanese were deeply disturbed with the last 8 years of US military (lack of) engagement with Japan’s sea lanes. PM Abe was the first foreign leader to visit Trump before he took office. Even though the Japanese thought Clinton would take office, Abe didn’t muck about putting forward the importance of their relationship. The Japanese media may be in a frenzy of how to deal with Trump but I can assure you the local politicians and corporates are smart enough to realise they are better off going out of their way to find ways to work with the new President than call his bluff by acting recalcitrant.
Turnbull may think his charisma can carry the day in any situation. Sadly his selfies with Japanese robots reflect exactly how deep his understanding of this culture goes.Perhaps we might argue they both share artificial intelligence.