Japan rushes to rearm with eye on 2027 – and China’s Taiwan ambitions

Between China’s 20th Communist Party Congress, that began on Sunday (Oct 16), and the next one in 2027, Japan will undertake its biggest arms buildup since World War II in a race to deter Beijing from war in East Asia, according to Japanese government officials and security analysts.

Japan identified China as its chief adversary in its 2019 defence white paper, worried that Beijing’s flouting of international norms, pressure on Taiwan and rapid military modernisation posed a serious security threat. That anxiety has intensified since Russia invaded Ukraine, weakening Japanese public opposition to rearming, security experts say.

Japan’s government “has the wind at its back and will use that to do whatever it can”, said Takashi Kawakami, a professor at Takushoku University in Tokyo. By pointing to 2027 as the moment when East Asia’s power balance may tip in China’s favour, Japan’s government can rally support for greater defence spending, he added. …

“There are different shades of opinion, but generally, government officials share the same view of the significance of 2027,” said a senior Japanese government official involved in defence buildup plans.

“This has been discussed internally,” he added, asking not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue. …

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which it calls a “special operation”, has helped shift public opinion in Japan away from the postwar pacifism that has dominated defence policy for decades.

In an opinion poll published by public broadcaster NHK this month, 55 per cent of 1,247 people surveyed said they supported increased defence spending, compared with 29 per cent who opposed it. Of those backing a stronger military, 61 per cent said Japan should pay for it with public spending cuts.