Abstract. This article deals with Japan’s reaction to the One Belt One Road initiative put forward by China and formation of Japanese strategy toward the PRC under new conditions. We analyze Indo-Pacific region conception developed by Japan and the United States. There are attempts to involve India in the creation of an anti-Chinese “Quartet” of states that includes the United States, Japan and Australia. Alternative economic programs of Japan, its struggle with China for influence in Southeast Asia, and Tokyo’s attempts to prevent “Chinese expansion” in the South China Sea are discussed. Attention is drawn to the fact that Japanese society is increasingly in favor of establishing economic cooperation with Beijing in the countries of the region.

Japan, as well as the US, met with caution the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative put forward by the Chinese Leadership seeing it as Beijing’s desire to assert its position in the Asia-Pacific region and in the world scene at the expense of the interests of the West.1 The initiative also has a figurative name of “new Silk Road.” According to the Japanese expert community, the initiative is a longterm geopolitical and geoeconomic strategy of Beijing aimed at implementing the task of realizing the “age-old Chinese dream” of “great revival of the Chinese nation” formulated by Xi Jinping in 2012.2 Its key objective is to make China the world leader by edging out Western countries from their centuries-old dominant position in the world.

According to well-known Japanese political analyst Ishida Yasuyuki, China wants to create a China-centric world, whereas Japan would like to preserve the liberal international order based on American leadership.3 He noted certain features of the very pragmatic Chinese strategy both in the chosen destination – to Europe and Africa via huge and economically still underexplored areas of Eurasia and South Asia with their enormous finance, infrastructure and production capacity requirements – as well as in ways to gain ground through economic and financial assistance and large-scale infrastructure development. Beijing launched its strongest weapon – its accumulated economic might, trying to convince the world that it is working in common interest contributing to economic prosperity of partner countries. In the opinion of the Japanese expert, such is the essence of Beijing’s geoeconomic strategy that will subsequently bring significant geopolitical dividends.4

A strong incentive for Beijing consists in the fact that China has huge excess production and finance resources for reaching its goals which is especially important given massive pressure from the United States. For example, the initial fund of OBOR was $40 billion, and that of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) established for financing the new Silk Road was $100 billion. Speaking at the First International Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on May 19, 2017, PRC Chairman Xi Jinping promised to substantially increase financial support for the initiative. In a statement made by Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi at the press conference held on the margins of the NPC session on May 24, 2020 in Beijing, in seven years of the initiative implementation commodity turnover between China and Belt and Road countries exceeded $7.8 trillion, and Chinese direct investments in the economies of these countries exceeded $110 billion. More than 2,000 projects have been implemented and hundreds of thousand jobs created.5

Japanese sources are highlighting the growing number of countries wishing to join the OBOR project. Whereas in 2015 there were some 60 such countries, as of March 2019 their number reached 123, including Italy, the first of Big Seven countries to join the project.6

In their analysis of China’s successful progress along several directions of the new Silk Road, Japanese experts point out that its key driver is the fact that the region’s countries are badly in need of money resources and technical assistance for their economic development. There is one more factor making Chinese loans so attractive – as a rule, they have no onerous terms and conditions, do not require any guarantees from the recipient state or any complicated procedure, and are provided in a very short time. Specifically, today Japanese banks have to take this Chinese practice into account, i.e., some of them provide loans on softer terms and ease the requirements to recipient countries concerning state guarantees in case of difficulties with paying back loans.

The establishment of the AIIB by China was seen in Washington and Tokyo as undesirable competition. Japan’s concerns, in particular, are related to the possibility that the Bank would compete with the long active Asian Development Bank (ADB) controlled by Japan and the United States (15.6% of shares each) and other major Japanese banks which are crediting industrial, infrastructure and other entities in the Asia-Pacific region.7

On April 28, 2015, at a joint press conference US President Barack Obama and Japanese premier Shinzo Abe pointed out that the practice of co-financing of some projects by AIIB and ADB, as well as the World Bank, looks like erosion of existing institutes and may weaken established borrowing standards. Furthermore, according to the “honest management” principle certain infrastructure projects may be unrealizable. It is not excluded that in the absence of transparency in the AIIB activities taxpayers’ money would not be used properly.8

Even more serious concern on the part of the USA, Japan and especially India is caused by the Chinese strategy launched in the Pacific and Indian oceans (the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road), a region where predominance of the West has been indeed indisputable. Beijing thereby lays a claim to almost the entire water area of the South China Sea and establishes strongholds (essentially military bases), including traditional maritime communications, and introduces a notification system for the passage of warships. Strongholds are also set up along the Indian Ocean coast (“string of pearls”). China’s Navy presence in the Indian Ocean is also growing. This can be seen in increasingly frequent warship passage, patrolling, etc. The West and India are also worried by China’s gradual penetration into South Asian countries that have been traditionally India’s sphere of influence.

Unlike the United States’ severe and uncompromising criticism of the One Belt One Road initiative and the Chinese strategy on the whole as “self-serving,” “contrary to fundamental principles of the liberal economic order,” aimed at “subjugating” countries-recipients of Chinese infrastructure loans,9 official Tokyo shows certain restraint avoiding aggravation of relations with Beijing.

This was supported by benevolent signs on the part of China which invites Japan to mutually beneficial cooperation, including in the framework of OBOR, with the aim of the region’s development. Some Japanese business circles are also in favor of such cooperation in which they see certain benefits for themselves. Japanese business takes into account immense needs of Asian countries in infrastructure projects. According to ADB estimates, they may need $26 trillion (some $1.7 trillion a year) for the period from 2016 to 2030.10

During a meeting with Japanese premier Shinzo Abe on the margins of the Asian-African Conference in April 2015, PRC Chairman Xi Jinping, speaking on Chinese initiatives, noted that these initiatives have been well received across the world.”11 The Chinese leader appealed to the Japan side for cooperation in strengthening peace, stability and prosperity in the region. The Japanese premier pointed to a great need for investments for the implementation of infrastructure projects in Asia and expressed his hope that more information would be provided on the OBOR and AIIB operations.12

The issue of potential cooperation between Japan and China in the OBOR framework was also enthusiastically discussed by foreign ministers, financial agency heads and other officials. The detailed program of the Chinese plan implementation, developed by the PRC Development and Reform State Committee jointly with the ministries of foreign affairs and trade in March 2015, was important in explaining the Chinese initiative to the world community. Although Shinzo Abe did not take part personally in the first One Belt One Road International Forum held in May 2017 in Beijing, general secretary of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party Toshihiro Nikai was sent to the forum and received by Xi Jinping. Nikai handed a personal letter from Shinzo Abe to the Chinese leader. The issues discussed included potential cooperation in the framework of One Belt One Road program.13

The basic position of Tokyo with regard to the OBOR was outlined in Abe’s statement at the 23rd International Conference on the Future of Asia delivered on June 5, 2017. The Japanese premier expressed a generally positive view of the Chinese idea and pointed out that Beijing’s initiative “contains a potential for joining the East and the West, as well as various regions located between them.” At the same time, the Japanese premier stressed that “it would be important to make the future infrastructure open for its use by all and developing on the basis of tenders, transparent and fair. He also said that the One Belt One Road initiative should be implemented “in harmony with the free and fair Transpacific economic zone.” “Japan,” Shinzo Abe said, “is prepared to develop cooperation proceeding from this vision.”14

In May 2018, during PRC State Council premier Li Keqiang’s visit to Japan, the sides agreed to establish, in the framework of the Chinese-Japanese High Level Economic Dialog, an interagency “working mechanism to promote cooperation between China and Japan in third countries’ markets”.15

Tokyo also modified its position toward the AIIB taking into account that the Bank has taken root in the region. Today, more than 70 countries have joined the AIIB, including such very important allies of the United States as Britain, Germany, France, Australia, and India. Notably, India is one of its founders and its second biggest stakeholder, and it is actively using its credits. The AIIB has gradually become a full-fledged multilateral development bank in which loans are not approved by China on its own, but by all bank members, although Beijing has 26% of votes and can achieve decisions it needs.

To date, China has reached certain progress in implementing specific plans of the OBOR initiative, although there is a considerable lag in many lines of activity, and a number of projects are cancelled. The coronavirus pandemic in the region also has adversely affected the initiative implementation. Today, main areas of the initiative implementation are as follows:

An extensive railway and highway network directed toward Europe is being built, with new infrastructure facilities and new cities and settlements appearing along its routes. The railway going via China, Kazakhstan and western part of Russia and further on to Europe is used most intensively. However, freight volumes there are much lower than Chinese freight carried by sea. Central Asian states often make use of trains returning empty to take their cargo to China;

A new China-Europe southern route is intensively used – from the city of Xian to the Turkish Sea of Marmara port of Izmit (via Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iraq);

Tajikistan-Uzbekistan rail line has been built through a long tunnel;

Beijing is energetically developing Central Asian countries economically: trade is expanding, major investments are made, and industrial and other facilities, power lines, etc. are built. Moreover, China holds the first place among other foreign states;

A great deal is being done for economic growth and to raise living standards of the population in central and western areas of China;

China’s activity has increased in the south, and Japan with its allies are especially concerned about this;

China is successfully developing very important areas of Southeast Asia moving ahead toward South Asia and further on, to Africa. Along the way, it is consolidating its strategic positions in major strongholds of Burma, Bangladesh, Sri-Lanka, Pakistan, and western Indian Ocean countries. Its goal there is to move from southwest areas of China through land corridors to ports in Myanmar, Bangladesh and Pakistan and thereby shorten the route and, what is most important, bypass the Strait of Malacca controlled by the United States and its allies;

There are plans to build a railway network in Southeast Asian countries, in particular: from Kunming via Vientiane, Bangkok and Kuala-Lumpur to Singapore. China won, in competition with Japan, the tender for the construction of a high-speed railroad in Indonesia (Jakarta-Bandung);

However, Beijing’s main strategic project in the Indian Ocean area deals with the Chinese-Pakistani economic corridor with access to Gwadar Port in the Arabian Sea of the Indian Ocean. In parallel, China takes part in the construction of industrial and other facilities in Pakistan’s special economic zones which are expected to significantly increase its economic potential and strengthen its positions in its confrontation with India. Meanwhile, Delhi’s incessant protests about part of the corridor going through a Pakistan-controlled part of Kashmir are ignored.

At the same time, Japanese media are constantly and harshly criticizing China’s practices. They stress that it is the state and not the private sector that determines the Chinese initiative implementation. The OBOR Fund is relatively small, while basic means coming from the Export-Import Bank of China and the Development Bank of China are received by Chinese state-owned enterprises which are investing in construction of foreign infrastructure. Contracts are carried out by Chinese contractors using Chinese building materials, equipment and workforce. The initiative does not meet international standards and principles of development assistance, in particular such as efficient management, rule of law and transparency. Respect for environmental interests and human rights is not properly ensured. China while extending credit tries to get the partners’ technological secrets and seek quantity not caring about quality.16

According to Japanese experts, in some cases unsustainable credits are provided. As a result, China gets privileges often gaining control over the infrastructure built by it, while recipient countries become dependent on it politically, financially and economically. A textbook example is provided by Sri-Lanka: in 2017, being unable to repay Chinese credits it had to yield its right to 99-year Hambantot port rental. After that, according to Japanese press, some Asian countries, such as Pakistan, Nepal, the Maldives, Myanmar, and Malaysia, suspended or even abandoned China-aided construction of several facilities.17

Chinese leadership has taken seriously the growing criticism of Beijing’s methods and accusations that China in fact pursues its own selfish interests. In particular, Xi Jinping’s statement at the Second One Belt One Road Forum (April 26, 2019) was designed to convince the world public opinion that the Chinese initiative is in the interest of all partners prepared to cooperate with China. “We must make an effort,” Xi Jinping stressed, “to raise the level of complementarity of One Belt One Road projects and development strategies on the national, regional and international levels.” The Chinese leader tried to allay the fears about interested motives of the Chinese initiative. According to him, China will work toward making trade with other countries more balanced and it will pay more attention to the implementation of bilateral and multilateral trade and economic agreements, and strengthen its cooperation with the international community in the field of intellectual property rights protection and in other areas.18 Similar assurance was also present in the report by PRC premier Li Keqiang at the NPC session on May 22, 2020, in Beijing. He said in particular that “China will strive to achieve high-quality joint building of Belt and Road and engage in mutually beneficial cooperation.”19

It should be noted that certain OBOR projects have been suspended or cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic. According to Japanese media, due to movement restrictions and lack of resources for rehabilitation of its own economy, China was forced to suspend construction of high-speed railway in Indonesia financed by the state bank of China. Negotiations between Thailand and China on contracts dealing with high-speed railway construction from Bangkok to China via Laos have been postponed from May to October 2020. In Myanmar, thermal power plant construction by Chinese and Hong Kong state-owned companies have been postponed due to material supply delays. It is expected that the thermal power plant built in Cambodia by Chinese companies would not start operations according to schedule, i.e. in May. Japanese media also suggest that if construction of infrastructure as the basis for growth in Southeast Asia is significantly prolonged then foreign, including Japanese, capital may revise their investment plans.20

In the new situation taking shape in Asia, the US, Japan with their allies and partners are building their own course in the region aimed at retaining and strengthening their position, utmost containment of China with its attempts to expand its influence and simultaneously trying to reach agreement with Beijing acceptable to both sides. At the same time, it should be noted that, as a result of the United States’ certain passivity in the Asia-Pacific region, the weight of Japan has lately significantly increased. However, Japanese policy in the region is still consistently based on close political and military alliance with the US.

Japan and the US proposed the idea of building a regional order based on new principles – the so-called free and open Indo-Pacific conception covering the area from the US west coast to East Africa. Key elements of the conception had been developed by Tokyo and then adopted by the Trump Administration. Australia and, most importantly, India with its own problems in relations with China, are involved as the main partners.

As indicated in the Japan-India joint statement of September 17, 2017, the essence of the conception is that Indo-Pacific is the region “where sovereignty and international law are observed, differences are settled through dialog, and all countries, whether big or small, enjoy freedom of navigation and aviation, sustainable development and a free, just and open system of trade and navigation”.21 By the authors’ design, the Quartet (the US, Japan, Australia, and India) should henceforth direct Asian affairs. However, promotion of this conception faces difficulties. The ASEAN countries speaking with one voice succeeded with their position of the “key role” belonging to the ASEAN-IPR and mechanisms associated with it. The US and Japan had to agree.

Equally indicative are Tokyo’s attempts to interest Beijing in the idea of IndoPacific region formation. On February 22, 2018, at a symposium on “Strategy in the Indo-Pacific Region” organized by the American Atlantic Council, Kentaro Sonoura, advisor to the Prime Minister of Japan on national security, suggested that Beijing “could think about being a partner in the Indo-Pacific strategy and helping to ensure mutual economic prosperity and regional stability.”22 According to a number of Japanese experts, Japan’s Indo-Pacific Strategy is aimed at strengthening peace, stability and prosperity on the basis of rules of order in Asia and the Pacific. This strategy, as Ishida Yasuyuki stressed, is focused on involving the Chinese OBOR initiative instead of competing with it.23

In recent years, Japan has significantly intensified its foreign policy course focused on the “active pacifism” strategy declared by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and aimed at increasing Japan’s international weight and its effective involvement in addressing key international challenges. In his speech of January 20, 2017, at the 193rd session of Parliament, Japanese foreign minister Fumio Kishida highlighted the following “three pillars” of the country’s foreign policy: strengthening Japanese-US alliance, progress of relations with neighboring countries, and consolidation of economic diplomacy as an instrument contributing to the economic growth of Japan.24 At the same time, it is again stressed that Japan’s policy is based on the generally accepted rules, such as freedom, democracy, fundamental human rights, rule of law, and market economy.

Japan has intensified its policy in the sphere of security. It has taken major steps to further strengthen Japanese-US military alliance. Solutions have been developed jointly with the US that allow to expand Japanese military activity far beyond its national territory. Tokyo is gradually organizing its deliveries of military technologies and defensive weapons export to other countries.

Washington and Tokyo have particular focus on the situation in the South China Sea in an attempt to involve in resistance to China coastal countries that are asserting their right to adjacent maritime areas and shelf, as well as some islands and archipelagoes. Japan’s basic position on this issue was presented by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Japanese Parliament 192nd session on September 26, 2016. He said in particular: “Unilateral attempts to change the status quo are unacceptable across the world, including the East China Sea and the South China Sea. All problems should be solved by peaceful and diplomatic means on the basis of international law instead of use of force. Furthermore, we will decisively defend the territorial, maritime and air space of Japan.”25 In order to promote their position on the South China Sea, Washington and Tokyo are engaged in intensive activities in the region, including arrangement of military strongholds. Tension in the South China Sea continues.

In this situation, Japan and India tandem is being formed. Relations between the two countries have been significantly expanded, and they hold summit meetings almost every year. Prime ministers Shinzo Abe and Narendra Modi agreed to develop a “comprehensive and specific medium-term and long-term plan of action” in accordance with the “parties’ vision of the picture of the world in 2025.”26 In his statement at Japanese Parliament of January 20, 2017 foreign minister Fumio Kishida stressed: “As we aim to strengthen a network of alliances with the US as its center, we focus on consolidating cooperation within the Japan – US – Australia, Japan – US – India and Japan – Australia – India triangles.”27

Japan and India are developing cooperation in the military sphere as well. Permanent mechanisms for it have been established: defense ministers’ annual reciprocal visits, “two plus two” meetings, reciprocal visits of chiefs of staff of major services and exchanges of various military delegations. India regularly takes part in joint military maneuvers with the US and Japan.

As a counterweight to the maritime element of the Chinese OBOR initiative, Tokyo and Delhi offered their own project – Asia-Africa growth corridor. In the framework of this project, the parties launched extensive infrastructure construction in Indian Ocean countries, expansion of trade, increasing investment, assistance in improving methods of management, etc. Construction of a modern railroad and highway network in India with Japan’s assistance is an important element of the project.28

Japan with its strong economic positions on the Asian continent opposes to Beijing its own course based, according to Tokyo, on “openness, justice and adherence to generally accepted economic norms.”29 In March 2013, Japan established an advisory council to develop export strategy and assist Japanese exporters in the framework of the “Abenomica” economic course worked out by the Abe Administration. In 2015, the Japanese government came up with the Partnership for Quality Infrastructure program

The program provided for investment jointly with the Asian Development Bank of $110 billion into infrastructure projects in APR countries (Japan and the ADB $50 billion). Later, the Expanded Partnership for Quality Infrastructure program was launched which envisaged $200 billion investment in 2017-2021 for “quality infrastructure throughout the world.”30 The program provides for soft terms of credits, respect for recipients’ rights, and guarantees against possible losses. Moreover, Tokyo stressed that it is not about confrontation but healthy competition which does not exclude possible cooperation with Beijing in the implementation of major projects in Asia. According to many observers, the Japanese side seeks to persuade its American partners that this is sound policy.

In recent years, competition between big powers for economic influence on SEA countries has been growing. Whereas the United States and Japan played a leading role in the region, now they are ever more pressured by China. The PRC has come first in the volume of trade with SEA countries. Thus, according to 2018 data, the volume of trade with ASEAN countries was as follows (billion dollars): China – 534.1; EU – 203.0; the USA – 303.3; Japan – 237.8.31 Foreign direct investments (FDI) from China are growing, although according to end of 2018 data, it was third, behind the EU and Japan.32 In SEA countries China invests in large, including infrastructure, projects. For instance, Chinese corporations control almost 45% of big business in the Philippines, and many leading companies in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and other countries.33

Japan is also increasing its involvement in SEA. In 2015, Shinzo Abe announced a five-year $110 billion set of measures for the implementation of Japanese projects in the region. All in all, ongoing Japanese infrastructure projects are estimated at $367 billion, or $100 more than Chinese investments.34 Japan’s investment activities are focused on leading economies in the region – Singapore, the Philippines and Vietnam. It has been announced that 750 billion yen will be provided as economic aid to the Mekong region as Japan is actively developing cooperation with its countries. These are Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand.

Japan is ever more interested in the Eurasian line of its policy seeing huge potential of Eurasia as one of the emerging major industrial-transport clusters in the world economy. For Japan itself, the region may become a vast field for investment and the shortest bridge to Europe via the Eurasian space.

The so-called Central Asia plus Japan Dialog initiated in August 2004 is actively carried on in Central Asia. Major projects in the sphere of industry, agriculture, infrastructure and professional training are implemented with Japan’s assistance. Japan’s aid in the solution of problems with water and electricity supply and locust control is vitally important in the region. In 2015, during Premier Shinzo Abe’s visit to Central Asia, a number of agreements were signed with countries in the region on assistance in the implementation of energy and infrastructure projects to the amount of $45 billion. In May 2019, Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono visited the region. In his statements the minister focused on economic development of the region and attractiveness of Japanese infrastructure projects. Following the visit, the countries issued a joint statement in which they stressed the significance of investment “based on international standards.”35

Awareness is growing in Tokyo that it would be difficult to implement Japanese plans without interaction with organizations operating in the region, such as the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), as well as cooperation in the framework of the OBOR initiative. In particular, in October 2014, in his answers to the questions from deputies to the budget commission of the upper chamber of Japanese Parliament, Japanese foreign minister Fumio Kishida stressed that “Japan is very interested in the Eurasian Economic Union.”36

EAEU member-countries take a positive attitude to expanding cooperation with Japan. In particular, on December 16, 2016, at the meeting of business community representatives from Russia and Japan, President Putin said that the sides will discuss the establishment of an EAEU-Japan free trade zone in the nearest future”.37 It is worth noting that many Asian countries, such as South Korea, India, Mongolia, Singapore, Thailand and others, show interest in such a zone. Vietnam had already signed an agreement with the EAEU in 2016.

The current situation in the Asia-Pacific region remains generally unstable with the growing rivalry between China that has gathered strength and wants to expand its sphere of influence in the region and the US and Japan that have traditionally dominated in the region and are trying to contain Beijing’s rise and hold their position. Although it is an intensive struggle each of the parties refrains from crossing the point of dangerous confrontation or even an armed clash.

Meanwhile, according to Japanese experts, there are many factors in the APR allowing to establish mutually beneficial collaboration between its countries. Experts speak of attempts made by the Chinese leadership to present China as a peace-loving state with its policies being based on its “striving for cooperation and mutual benefit.” Beijing is promoting the idea of building a “community of common destiny for humankind” put forward by PRC Chairman Xi Jinping.

In relations between Japan and China, periods of cooling and even animosity were sometimes replaced by close ties when many acute problems were solved. For instance, on November 10, 2014, Shinzo Abe and Xi Jinping met on the margins of the APEU summit in Beijing, and both leaders spoke in favor of stable development of relations between the two countries which, as the Chinese leader pointed out, “responds the fundamental interests of both countries.” Illustrative in this sense are the words of Japanese foreign minister Motegi in his foreign policy speech at the parliament session of January 20, 2020: “Today, Japan and China share main responsibility for securing peace and prosperity in Asia and in the whole world. The two countries will be able to respond to the hopes of the international community only if they are absolutely faithful to this responsibility. …We will further promote exchanges and collaboration in all spheres, and adequately address challenges we face by means of regular reciprocal visits.”38

Japan and China are active advocates of free trade zones in the APR, in particular an important integration association, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to be signed at the end of 2020. Since 2018, a parallel association, the Comprehensive Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), with the leading role of Japan has been operating in the region. But China is not its member. It would seem ideal if a really comprehensive association is formed taking into account best mechanisms developed by both integration entities.

Japanese business circles increasingly wish to take part in the Chinese OBOR initiative which would benefit both sides, increase Japan’s opportunity to influence the economic situation in the vast Asia-Pacific region, expand its economic ties geographically, and make use of new shortcuts for promoting its goods, services and capital in Central Asia and Europe.

Attitudes in favor of collaboration with China are also evident among the Japanese academic circles, as well as mass media. According to Ishida Yasuyuki, a prominent Japanese expert, three major Asian powers, i.e. Japan, India and China, should take responsibility for bringing peace, stability and prosperity in Asia, Indo-Pacific and the international community as a whole.39

In connection with coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic breaking out a new situation is taking shape in the APR which requires joint efforts of all states in the region. Serious consequences for their economies are unavoidable, as well as a dramatic fall in the living standard of the population.

Along with extensive efforts of Japan, China and other states to overcome consequences of the pandemic, measures are being taken on the multilateral level. In particular, COVID-19 videoconference of heads of state and government of ASEAN+3 (Japan, China and South Korea) countries held on April 14, 2020 was very important. As its follow-up substantive specific decisions on fighting COVID were taken, including allocation of significant funds for this purpose.40 Japan and China are actively involved in formulation of relevant measures to combat the pandemic also in the framework of various international organizations.


1. The idea of the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) stretching from China to Europe was presented by PRC Chairman Xi Jinping on September 7, 2013 in his statement at the Nazarbayev University in Astana. Speaking on October 2, 2013 at the Indonesian Parliament, Xi Jinping appealed to the countries of the region to “jointly build the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.” Later, both ideas were coined as the One Belt One Road initiative.

2. Assessments and conclusions concerning OBOR hereinafter mentioned are based on relevant studies by well-known Japanese Asia experts T. Terada, Ishida Yasuyuki, R. Kasai,

T. Samodaira, N. Kanehara, K. Yoshioka and others, as well as articles and materials on the subject from Japanese press.

3. Ishida Yasuyuki, China’s OBOR Initiative and Japan’s Response, China-India-Japan in the Indo-Pacific, Pentagon Press, 2018, p. 180. URL: https://idsa.in/system/files/book/bookchina-india-japanindo-pacific.pdf (Retrieved on 05.12.2020.)

4. Ibid., pp. 164-168. URL: https://idsa.in/system/files/book/book-china-india-japan-indopacific.pdf (Retrieved on 05.12.2020.)

5. Questions and answers given by PRC Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the press conference on China’s foreign policy and international relations. 05.24.2020. URL:http//ru.chinaembassy.org/rus/zgxw/t1782419.htm (Retrieved on 05.25.2020.)

6. Asahi Shimbun, 03.27.2019. URL: https://www.asahi.com/articles/ ASM3V6GZDM3VUHBI02D.html (Retrieved on 10.05.2020) (in Japanese).

7. See, for instance, Terada Takashi, Japan’s Struggle in China-led Asian Economic Order, ChinaIndia-Japan in the Indo-Pacific, Pentagon Press, 2018, pp. 189-195. URL: https://idsa.in/system/files/book/book-china-india-japan-indo-pacific.pdf (Retrieved on 05.12.2020.)

8. Remarks by President Obama and Prime-Minister Abe of Japan in Joint Press Conference, White House, 04.28.2015.

9. See, for instance, Remarks by Vice President Pence on the Administration’s Policy Toward China. 10.04.2018. URL: https://www.hudson.org/events/1610-vice-president-mike-pence-sremarks-on-the-administration-s-policy-towards-china10201810. Meeting Asia’s Infrastructure Needs, Asian Development Bank, 2017. URL: https://www.adb.org/publications/asia-infrastructure-needs (Retrieved on 05.18.2020.)

11. According to Chinese representatives speaking at the second One Belt One Road Forum in April 2019, 131 states and 30 international organizations showed interest in this initiative.

12. Chinese President Xi meets with Japan’s PM in Jakarta. 04.22.2015. URL: https://america.cgtn.com/2015/04/22/chinese-president-xi-meets-with-japans-pm-in-jakarta (Retrieved on 03.20.2020.)

13. Xi Jinping Meets with Secretary-General of the Liberal Democratic Party Toshihiro Nikai of Japan. 05.15.2017. URL: https://www.finprc.gov.en/mfa_eng//zxxx_662805/ tll463445.shtml (Retrieved on 03.20.2020.)

14. Asia’s Dream: Linking the Pacific and Eurasia. Speech by Prime Minister S. Abe at the Banquet of the 23rd International Conference on the Future of Asia. 06.05.2017. URL: https://japan.kantei.go.jp/97_abe/ statement/201706/1222768_11579.html (Retrieved on 07.15.2019.)

15. China and Japan sign trade and economic cooperation agreements. 05.2018. URL: https://www.trend.az/world/china/2900980.html (Retrieved on 05.13.2020.)

16. See, for instance, Kawashima Shin, The risks of One Belt, One Road for China’s neighbors, The Japan Times, 04.24.2018.

17. The Japan Times editorial: China’s Belt and Road at age 5. 09.05.2018. URL: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2018/09/05/ editorials/chinas-belt-road-age-5/#.XqvqvclSls (Retrieved on 05.15.2020.)

18. Key points of Xi Jinping’s statement at the One Belt One Road Forum. 04.26.2019. URL: https://investfuture.ru/news/id/6-klyuchevyh-tezidov-vystuplenia-si-czinpina-nf-forume-odinpoyas-odin-put (Retrieved on 05.08.2020.)

19. Highlights of 2020 Government Work Report. 05.22.2020. URL: http://english.court.gov.cn/2020-05/22/content_37536163.htm (Retrieved on 05.23.2020.)

20. Nihon Keizai Shimbun, 05.04.2020. URL: https://www.nikkei.com/ article/DGXMZO58778490U0A500C2FF8000/ (in English).

21. Japan-India Joint Statement Toward a Free, Open and Prosperous Indo-Pacific, Gandhinagar, Gujarat, 09.14.2017. URL: www.mofa.go.jp/ ooo289999.pdf (Retrieved on 03.05.2020.)

22. The Indo-Pacific Strategy emerges as a counter to China’s One Belt, One Road. URL: https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/ 3371444 (Retrieved on 05.17.2020.)

23. Ishida Yasuyuki, Op. Cit., p. 160.

24. Foreign policy speech by foreign minister Kishida. 01.0.2017. URL: http://www.mofa.go. jp/fp/pp/page22e_000800.html (Retrieved on 08.31.2020.)

25. Policy Speech by Prime Minister to the 192th Session of the Diet. 09.26.2016. URL: http://japan.kantei.go.jp/97_abe/statement/201609/ 1219316_11015.html (Retrieved on 04.12.2020.)

26. Joint Statement on India and Japan Vision 2025. New Delhi. 12.12.2015. URL: http://www.mea.govin/bilateral-documents.htm?dtl/ 26176/Joint_Statement_on_India_ and_Japan_ Vision_2025_Special_Strategic_and_Global_Partnership_Working_Together_ for_Peace_and_Prosperity_ of_the_IndoPacific_R (Retrieved on 05.14.2020.)

27. Foreign policy speech by foreign minister Kishida. 01.20.2017. URL: http://www.mofa.go.jp/fp/pp/page22e_000800.html (Retrieved on 03.18.2020.)

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Translated by Natalia Nekrasova