Tokyo’s reaction to the July 23 speech by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on “Communist China” seems to be ambivalent at best. The editorials of Japan’s major newspapers were divided, reflecting a lack of consensus among pundits and people at large in Japan on how to deal with the inevitable rise of China.

The liberal newspapers neither endorsed what Pompeo said nor criticized what Beijing has done, pretending to be as neutral as possible between the two great powers. Most conservative dailies, while agreeing with what Pompeo had proposed, only urged both China and the United States to stop further retaliation.

People in Tokyo seem to be puzzled. After the tit-for-tat closures of the consulate-generals in Houston and Chengdu, my phone kept ringing with questions such as: "Is the United States really serious?"; "How long will this last?"; "What would happen to the global economy?"; and "What should Japan do?"