Craft new economic security strategy for an era of U.S.-China competition

The United States, China and other countries are competing with each other for advanced technology and strategic materials. This is an era in which security and economics are inseparable. Japan needs to develop a solid strategy and address the challenges at hand.

The government has established a council for the promotion of economic security chaired by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. In its first meeting, Kishida said emphatically, “As countries around the world are engaging in fierce competition to secure strategic materials and acquire critical technologies, it’s important to drastically strengthen economic security efforts.”

The battle for hegemony between the United States and China is intensifying over semiconductors and advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence. The U.S. government has launched a series of measures, including tighter export controls, as it fears that the country’s military superiority could be threatened.

There have been notable cases of China putting pressure on other countries in terms of trade by suspending exports of rare earths, among other things.

It is important for Japan to take measures to reduce risks when necessary from a security perspective, while maintaining economic relations with China. The public and private sectors must work together to secure national interests.

The government plans to submit a bill to promote economic security to the ordinary Diet session next year. The bill is thought to have four pillars: strengthening supply networks, maintaining the functions of core infrastructure, securing technology platforms and making the details of patents confidential. It is hoped that the bill will be effective in resolving the pending issues.

In recent years, hospitals and other facilities that provide public services have been hit by cyber-attacks.

It is vital for the government to grasp the vulnerabilities of key industries and infrastructure and review them in cooperation with companies and other entities, so that the economy and people’s lives will not be disrupted in the event of various crises.

China is pursuing a national strategy of “military-civil fusion,” which aims to strengthen its military capabilities by utilizing advanced civilian technology. If Japanese technology that can be used for military purposes is obtained by China and misused, it could also become a problem for Europe and the United States. It is essential for companies and universities to practice utmost caution in this regard.

However, economic and research activities must not be obstructed or stifled more than necessary. If the government takes specific measures, it should analyze security risks and carefully adjust the measures. Japan also should cooperate more closely with the United States and European countries.

It is vital for the government to strengthen the network of related ministries and agencies under the council and to facilitate smooth information sharing and communications among them.

The challenge is not only to protect Japan’s technology but also to nurture it. The budget for science and technology is small, and the use of technology in the defense field is far behind that of the United States and China. Drastic improvements are needed.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Nov. 26, 2021.