Compared to the rest of the world, Japan has fared well in relation to Covid-19, but missteps with vaccines and the death of a baby due to restrictive hospital admittance rules marred an otherwise stellar reford. The result has been the resignation of Prime Minister Suga but many Japanese leaders now want to talk about anything but Covid-19.

The temptation is for Japan’s leaders to turn to the bogeyman to their west, namely the Chinese monstrosity that is pushing ever harder on its neighbors to grow their control over surrounding waters and gain control over natural resources. As the Chinese Communist Party is returning to its totalitarian roots and as China returns to its more ancient imperialism, it is a great candidate for a distraction from domestic problems. The temptation will be to push back even harder against all perceived or real instances of Chinese aggression.

One example is that Japan could urge The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). CPTPP is a free trade agreement (FTA) between Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam. The CPTPP was signed by the 11 countries on 8 March 2018 in Santiago, Chile.

Bringing Taiwan into the deal would not be contestable by the US or China, for example, though China would be riled by it and the US might see it as too provocative. Still, neither of these powers could prevent the deal from being extended to Taiwan. Indeed, the CPTPP may be seen as a sort of anti-China coalition aimed at pooling the economic might of its partner countries to offset and even reduce China’s economic advantages.

We can look forward to more Japanese push back against China, both as a distraction from domestic woes as the ruling Liberal Democrat Party faces a stronger opposition in the upcoming 2022 elections for Japan’s lower house, and out of fundamental concern for China’s very real threatening moves.