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Predictions 2024: Deepening Ties With Taiwan and India Benefit All Asia

With China threatening Taiwan and on the path to becoming a coercive hegemon, further strengthening ties with India would benefit Japan and Asia as a whole.



Happy New Year to JAPAN Forward readers. We are pleased to bring you "Predictions 2024," a special New Year's series sharing the foresight and expectations of selected contributors for the coming year, continuing with Yasuo Naito, our Editor in Chief, whose reporting in late 2023 took him to India and Taiwan.

Next in the Series

On the evening of Christmas Day 2023, a special event to support Japan was held in Taipei, Taiwan. It encouraged the importation and consumption of Japanese seafood, even as China continued its total seafood ban on Japanese marine products. 

Several parties co-sponsored the event, including the Taiwan-Japan Friendship Association, as I reported beforehand in JAPAN Forward. Since Akio Yaita, the Sankei Shimbun bureau chief in Taiwan personally invited me to attend, I decided to make the quick two-day-one-night trip.

The venue for the "Japan Seafood Festival, Banquet for a Thousand" event turned out to be a mammoth wedding hall. Inside the hall, more than 100 round banquet tables had been set up. Large monitors had also been placed on the two sides of a stage, upon which Taiwanese and Japanese children put on a rousing taiko drum and musical performance. In all, there was a very festive atmosphere within the hall. 

Su Jia-chyuan, former speaker of the Executive Yuan  (the equivalent of a former speaker of the House of Representatives of the Diet in Japan) was among the Taiwanese dignitaries on hand. He is the current chairman of the Taiwan-Japan Relations Association. Chen Tangshan (Mark Tan-sun Chen), chairman of the Taiwan Friends of Abe (Shinzo) Association, was another participant. Kazuyuki Katayama, chief representative of the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association's Taipei office, (equivalent to the de facto Japanese ambassador to Taiwan) was also among the approximately 1,200 Taiwanese guests in attendance.

Response to China's Embargo 

In August 2023, the Chinese government announced a total embargo on Japanese marine products. It claimed the action was in response to Japan's release into the ocean of ALPS treated water from Tokyo Electric Power Company's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. 

Japanese and Taiwanese chefs demonstrate dishes using scallops at the "Japan Seafood Festival, Banquet for a Thousand" event on December 25, 2023. © Sankei by Yasuo Naito)

China's action dealt a severe blow to Japanese seafood businesses, such as those selling scallops, which were highly dependent on the Chinese market. After learning this, several Taiwan-Japan friendship groups and Taiwanese seafood trading companies stepped up imports of scallops and other seafood from Hokkaido. As a result, they were able to organize this mammoth event in the super-short period of roughly three months. 

Furthermore, the Japanese government provided no financial support for the event. It was from start to finish a private-sector initiative. Although participants had to pay $1,500 new Taiwan dollars (roughly $50 USD) to attend, the seats completely sold out in just two days. 

Around 20 Taiwanese companies cosponsored the event. The sole Japanese sponsor was the Niigata-based Japanese sake maker Hakkaisan Brewery Co, Ltd. Hakkaisan's vice president, Masato Nagumo, took the podium and expressed his gratitude for being able to participate in the event. He emphasized, "We will continue to make sake in a way that will deepen the exchange between Taiwan and Japan."

Japanese and Taiwanese children performing Japanese drums at a Japan-Taiwan friendship event held in Taipei, December 25, 2023. (© Sankei by Yasuo Naito)

Expressions of True Friendship

An executive at a Taiwanese marine products company seated at the same table as I had this to say: "We too are doing business with the help of Japanese people. Taiwan and Japan are like members of the same family. It is only natural that we should help each other when in trouble. As a supporting company, we are happy to be able to see this event become a reality."

President Chen of the Abe Association said, "Two years ago, when Taiwan lacked coronavirus vaccines, Japan was the first to provide them. That left many Taiwanese very moved. It is Taiwan’s turn to help out Japan."

I heard someone in the hall say, "The more China pressures Japan and Taiwan, the more Taiwan’s ties with Japan develop. As a matter of fact, over the past few years, Japan-Taiwan ties have made a lot of progress." 

Hopefully, bilateral ties will continue to deepen.

LDP Vice President Taro Aso (center) poses for a photo with Taiwan's Vice President and presidential candidate William Lai (left) at the Presidential Office in Taipei on August 8. (©Kyodo)

Political Storm In the Making

Nevertheless, a political storm is brewing in Taiwan as the January 13 presidential election fast approaches. As a campaign plagued by rampant negative campaigning draws to a close, Japan, indeed the entire world, is waiting to see whether Lai Ching-te (William Lai) of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, who has a strong sense of wariness towards China, will win. Or if instead there will be a change of government. 

Whatever the result, after the election Japan will continue to communicate and exchange information with the defense authorities of Taiwan, even though the two countries do not have formal diplomatic relations. Collaborative training between defense authorities in anticipation of a Taiwanese emergency is now called for. In addition, we should move forward on planning for Japan-United States joint operations. In fact, we should be conducting joint training exercises with multiple countries, including Taiwan. 

Those are the kind of steps that will deter China from taking military action against Taiwan. Then, even if China makes the wrong decision, there would be no need to panic.

Strengthening Ties with India

Next, moving beyond Taiwan, India was one of the countries I visited last year that left a strong impression on me. It is the world's most populous country, with 1.4 billion people and an average age of 24.


With China increasingly becoming a "country to be wary of," there is no doubt that the world's attention will increasingly turn to India as an investment destination in the days to come.

Admittedly, in the West analysis concerning India still evidences considerable skepticism and doubt about its potential. However, India is a multi-ethnic and multicultural country. What it needs is economic development. As a representative of the Global South, its status is unquestionably different from that of the West, China, and Russia. 

Meanwhile, the number of democratic countries in the world is decreasing and the number of authoritarian countries is increasing. Cooperation with India, which regardless of its imperfections justly prides itself on being the world's largest democracy, is a topic of increasing importance.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's young supporters during Independence Day celebrations at the historic Red Fort in Delhi, India, August 15, 2023. (©Sankei, Photo by Yasuo Naito)

Shared Awareness, Positive Commitment

During my visit to the headquarters of the Indian Navy in Mumbai in 2023, senior officials there spoke of what they felt after joint training with Maritime Self-Defense Forces. They said, "Both sides shared exactly the same problem awareness regarding China."

There was a definite sense that Japan-India defense cooperation should be further developed with a Taiwan contingency in mind. 

With China on the path to becoming a coercive hegemon, further strengthening ties with India would benefit both Japan and Asia as a whole. 

For Japan in 2024, it is high time to stop making excuses for why things are "not possible." This applies, even if aggression along the lines of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine does not spread to Asia. Instead, Japan must commit itself to positive action, including strengthening our nation’s defense capabilities. 


(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: Yasuo Naito, Editor in Chief, JAPAN Forward
Find other columns by Yasuo Naito on JAPAN Forward.


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