To honor Shinzo Abe, we must continue his vision for East Asia
As the world continues to grapple with the sudden and senseless loss of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, many, including myself, have offered their thoughts on his legacy as a leader.
There’s much to say about Shinzo Abe. He was an unapologetic believer in the power of democracy and one of the strongest voices in support of freedom across the Info-Pacific. His years both in and out of office were defined by his commitment to democratic order, prosperity for Japan and its allies, and strengthening the relationship between Japan and the United States. He was particularly a champion for peace through strength, and stood up for Taiwan against Communist China’s aggression.
But words of praise, while undoubtedly deserved, are not enough. To honor the incredible legacy and work of Shinzo Abe, we must carry forward his vision for democracy, peace through strength and prosperity across the region.
The day before Abe was assassinated, I was in Tokyo to meet with private sector leaders, high-ranking officials in the Japanese government, and American military members stationed there. The impact and significance of Abe on Japan’s government, defense strategy and foreign policy is clear.
The Japanese people recognize the importance of continuing Abe’s legacy of principled leadership in the region and the relevance of such leadership to the national security of the United States, the safety of our allies and partners and the stability of the region. They also understand that America stands with Japan to maintain a position of strength.
Shinzo Abe was not afraid of Communist China’s threats. He knew that bowing to bullies like General Secretary Xi Jinping only weakens the power of democratic alliances and our rules-based global order. That’s why he fought to invest in Japan’s defense capabilities and fundamentally change how the Japanese people viewed their nation’s role on the global stage.
Abe also knew that combatting Communist China required a two-pronged approach, rooted in military strength and economic independence. And he understood strong alliances with democratic governments could keep bullies like Xi in check.
With Abe now gone from the scene, President Biden must make serious adjustments in his posture toward Communist China and support the current Japanese leadership as they confront the menace from the Chinese mainland. Nothing could be more detrimental to the national security of the United States and the stability of East Asia than weakness toward Communist China.
President Biden must acknowledge and be clear, as I and many others have, that we are in the midst of a New Cold War with Communist China. While the United States did not seek this conflict, we cannot ignore it or downplay the threats to democracy and security that it poses.
First, Biden must end his attempts to slash funding for our nation’s military. In both of Biden’s proposed budgets since taking office, he has suggested such inadequate defense spending that even members of his own party have ignored his proposals. When Communist China continues to expand its navy and threatens American military vessels and aircraft, we cannot allow the world to believe that our armed forces are backing down.
Second, President Biden must recalibrate his approach to U.S. – Chinese trade. He must clarify that he will not reverse the existing tariffs on goods coming from Communist China. I believe, as stated in my plan to Rescue America, that we ought to gradually end all imports from Communist China until a new regime honors basic human rights and freedoms. While doing that, President Biden must also use the Commerce Department to ensure that as few U.S. dollars as possible are spent funding the Chinese military buildup and the human rights atrocities of Xi’s evil communist regime. He can start by ditching his $52 BILLION “Chips Bill” which has horribly weak language that doesn’t expressly prohibit the tens of billions of dollars in spending it authorizes from being spent in Communist China. It is an inexcusable oversight and why we cannot let this flawed bill pass.
Biden must also stop the sale of U.S. oil to Communist China, and urge the private sector to end reliance on Chinese manufacturing. Our ultimate goal must be to decouple our economies and rally our democratic, freedom-loving global partners to aggressively expand their presence in industries which are dominated by Communist China. If we can isolate Communist China, shrink its influence and eliminate the threats it poses to the world, we will improve the national security of the U.S. and our allies.
Through strong military and trade alliances, the United States has the ability to create a world that is independent of Communist China for commerce, raw materials, minerals, and energy, and no longer fears its military threats. Shinzo Abe worked to advance these goals. To honor his legacy, we must seize the opportunity now to carry his legacy into the future.
Rick Scott represents Florida in the United States Senate and sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee. He is the former Governor of Florida.