The Future of Asian Diplomacy

Public Relations Office        October 30, 2019

Ichiro Inoue Professor, School of Policy Studies(Chinese politics and foreign policy, international relations in East Asia)

Ichiro Inoue Professor, School of Policy Studies

Ichiro Inoue Professor, School of Policy Studies

 Asia is booming. Most people believe that in the future, it will be this region - which includes China, Southeast Asia, and to a great extent, India - which drives the world economy. Japan can reap the benefits of being located in Asia. Asia is complex, and the countries vary greatly in terms of their political systems, stages of economic growth, culture, and religion. While Japan has strong economic ties to neighboring China and South Korea, the countries also have historic issues and territorial disputes with each other. Also, North Korea’s nuclear developments and China’s growing military strength are becoming major challenges to Japan’s security. When thinking about Japan’s relationship with Asia, however, it is essential to consider the American presence. Japan flourished after World War II because of free and multilateral trade structures, as well as its system of alliances, that were supported by the USA. However, populism and the idea of “putting our own country first” have swept over the world, and due to the appearance of President Trump, the world order has now become very unstable.

 When thinking about Japan’s Asian foreign policy, the first major challenge is determining what approach to take when dealing with China, which has already become a global superpower, and what kind of relationship to build with China. As China’s presence grows ever stronger, Japan needs to avoid thinking about China in such simple terms as “like” and “dislike.” It also needs to face China in a serious, intellectual and strategic way. Also, regarding the current antagonism between Japan and Korea, which stems from the issue of wartime labor, writers in Washington, D.C. have repeatedly noted concerns raised by American experts who focus on Asia. Regarding Korean nationalism, the experts’ wish is that Japan not respond to Korea in the same manner.

  On the other hand, Japan is favorably viewed in Southeast Asia, in India, and in other countries around the world, and is also well-liked by international institutions. Japan is seen as a peace loving high-quality country that helps developing countries with nation-building, cares about the environment. Also, Japan has been a peaceful diplomatic partner by sharing such values as democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. These efforts have been lauded by the rest of the world. In the future, as Japan maintains its relationship with America, it needs to make progress in coexisting with the rest of Asia. That’s easy to say. It is a hard truth, however, international relations exist in a world of “strength,” and a growing Asia is also an Asia which is expanding militarily. Accordingly, Japan needs not to be naïve, but to be sufficiently being prepared. On the other hand, I believe that it is also important for Japan to take the approach of not getting caught up in today’s trend of nationalism, populism and “putting our own country first.” Japan should continue to do good deeds, and deepen its relationships of mutual trust with other countries.

Kyoichi Marukusu Professor, School of International Studies(Research on government media and communication,international Japan research)

Kyoichi Marukusu Professor, School of International Studies

Kyoichi Marukusu Professor, School of International Studies

 Concerning the diplomatic relationships between various East Asian countries in recent years, it is obvious that each country’s government is engaging with anti-foreigner statements that put one’s country first, which seem to be actively spreading on social media, then working to promote nationalism and attempting to use that in the context of their domestic politics.

 Actually, based on reliable surveys, it can be generously estimated that the percentage of people in Japan who claim to be anti-foreigner, have politically conservative leanings, and who are anti-Korea and anti-China is less than five percent. Despite this number, they are seen as having a large presence because advocates for extreme ideas get more traffic on the Internet, and stand out among groups who hold political leanings which are similar to those ideas. It is also because of other factors such as the entire group experiencing pleasant feelings due to that connection, which reinforces their political leanings. Such extreme ideas, which then inundate the Internet space, are amplified through mass media journalism, and politicians and citizens end up feeling that anti-foreign sentiment has grown stronger than it really has.

 On the other hand, if you look at the situation, the number of international tourists has continued to grow over the past several years. In addition, through reforms to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act in April of this year, the globalization of the Japanese labor force is inevitably moving forward. It is not unlikely that anti-foreign leanings, which were influenced by the superficial and inflammatory rhetoric of some advocates, could adversely impact the interests of Japanese society as a whole.
 
  In order to avoid political decisions that fall into this sort of situation, the most important thing is for each citizen to acquire multifaceted information, carefully scrutinize opinions that differ from their own, and work to understand them when expressing their political intentions. In specific terms, actions such as deliberately consuming news from non-Japanese media sources are effective.

 I often hear a phrase: “Japan’s diplomacy with Asia.” This expression reflects the contemporary attitude that “Japan views itself as affiliated with Asia, but not Asian; Japan has pursued this contradictory position throughout modern times,” as declared by historical scholar Shinichi Yamamuro. Even though Japan is located in Asia in terms of geography, up until now, Japan has attempted to leave Asia behind, as “a symbol of backwardness.” I hope that accepting our destiny—that Japan cannot help but hold this sort of point of view—but perceiving that destiny in a constructive way and working to relativize ourselves, will lead to benefits for Japan and a restoration of healthy relationships with neighboring countries.

 Until now, Japan has attempted to leave Asia behind, as “a symbol of backwardness.” I hope that accepting our destiny—that Japan cannot help but hold this sort of point of view—but perceiving that destiny in a constructive way and working to relativize ourselves, will lead to benefits for Japan and a restoration of healthy relationships with neighboring countries.