"Genron Diplomacy," Striving Towards Stability in East Asia

October 04, 2013

watch video (Japanese Only)

"Genron Diplomacy," Striving Towards Stability in East Asia

⇒ watch video (Japanese Only)

The "Ninth Tokyo-Beijing Forum" has been scheduled for last October. This year marks the 35th anniversary of the Japan-China Peace and Friendship Treaty. The first article of this treaty states that both countries shall "settle all disputes by peaceful means and shall refrain from the use or threat of force." With tensions rising around the East China Sea, we believe that this spirit of the First article of the Japan-China Peace and Friendship Treaty becomes highly significant. We hope to reconfirm the present-day meaning of the first article from a civilian standpoint, thoroughly discuss it among the civilian peoples of both countries and communicate the fruits of this discussion to both Japan and China as well as the world.

Problems in Governmental Diplomacy and the Significance of Civil Diplomacy

Governmental diplomacy is fundamentally important in rectifying the unstable state of East Asia. However, with not even the prospect of a summit conference in view, it is, unfortunately, not in a functioning state. We thus believe that we, as civilians, must work to resolve this situation.
We are currently at a state where, apart from governmental diplomacy, civil diplomacy has become highly significant in improving Japan-China relations. There are two reasons for this.

The first is the dilemma found in governmental diplomacy itself. Because governmental diplomacy shoulders "sovereignty," an easy compromise is not a possibility with the territorial conflict among other issues. Therefore, we must shift the dialogue to conflict prevention. This would truly be a "peaceful means" of settling disputes and would prevent the current situation from escalating any further.

What this means is, intellectuals from both countries should agree with the parties concerned that war must be prevented at all costs, and this idea should be communicated to both countries as well as the world. And, I believe that once this call for peace gains the understanding of multitudes of people and becomes the public consensus, the current deadlocked situation can finally be changed.

The other reason is that aggravated national sentiment is what lies behind the current opposition between the two countries, making diplomacy between the governments extremely difficult. In other words, the domestic issue of overheated nationalism is escalating the situation even further. Japan and China should recognize this situation as a problem that must be shared. What is truly important in resolving this situation is the start of a rational movement from the public to prevent further escalation of the issue.

"Genron Diplomacy" -- A New Civil Diplomacy Proposed by The Genron NPO

In the civil diplomacy that we propose, citizens will face the issues to be resolved as stakeholders and help to lead government diplomacy in an even better direction.

Historically, there have been many cases in the world, starting with the removal of minefields, where various NGOs have been involved in the issues of national security and the settling of disputes. When consensus between governments could not easily be reached and moves to solve problems could not be taken, it was non-governmental power that helped resolve the situation. What is more important at such times is the power of public opinion; the idea that "these kinds of issues must somehow be resolved" from a peaceful and humane perspective becomes an internationally shared understanding as well as the domestic popular opinion. Such movement will help better government relations and is exactly what is currently demanded in East Asia.

Civil diplomacy, as we understand it, is fundamentally for various actors to develop a sense of ownership in the matters around them. Various actors will get on stage as participants in discussions aimed at resolving various problems. Furthermore, when this stage is opened to the public, it will start to work hand in hand with sound public opinion. In other words, the participants' discussion will develop largely into public opinion that will help move governmental diplomacy in the direction of developing solutions. We believe that it is this kind of movement that is currently necessary in East Asia, and have decided to call it "Genron diplomacy," a new kind of civil diplomacy. "Genron" means opinions and debates with a strong sense of being a responsible stakeholder in Japanese.

In "Genron diplomacy," various actors including citizens, government officials and journalists will work towards solutions as participants. These discussions will link with the discussions of nearby townsmen and many other citizens to form large-scale public opinion. In other words, the "Genron diplomacy" that we propose is a new kind of civil dialogue supported by public opinion.
And, what The Genron NPO hopes to accomplish through "Genron diplomacy" is to rectify the unstable state of East Asia and create a peaceful environment. The first step towards this, in my opinion, is to avoid conflict in East Asia over the Senkaku Islands.

How "Genron Diplomacy" Will Work Towards Stability in East Asia

Government diplomacy, in other words, dialogue between the leaders of the nations, is a necessity for peace and stability in East Asia. However, we believe that there are some aspects that cannot be resolved simply through government diplomacy, or discussions shouldering the issue of sovereignty.

The Genron NPO conducted an urgent survey with 2,000 intellectuals. In this survey, the responses to two of the questions especially drew my attention.

The first was the question, "What are you the most concerned about in regards to the conflict between Japan and China over the Senkaku issue?" The following were the two most prominent answers. "The occurrence of military conflict over an accident in the East China Sea," in other words, the concern that the heightening tensions and extremely unstable state along the East China Sea may result in the undesirable form of military conflict. The other was "Full-fledged confrontation between Japan and China due to overheated nationalism," in other words, the issue of escalated emotional conflict between citizens.

Additionally, another question that I focused on was "How should government diplomacy respond to the Senkaku/Daiyou conflict between Japan and China?" The majority here also responded, "Efforts, such as the construction of a hotline between Japan and China, must be taken to prevent accidental happenings," at 36.7%. This relates to the fact that a Japan-China hotline is yet to be constructed between the defense authorities to prevent troubles at sea. The next highest response was, "Agreement must be reached to realize peaceful means of solving disputes," at 21.6%.

The response, "Begin negotiations to resolve the territorial dispute," was given by only 4.2% of the pollees. In other words, the majority of Japanese intellectuals understand that, rather than resolving the territorial dispute itself, the greatest agenda between the two countries is to somehow stop undesired military conflict at sea between Japan and China, prevent full-scale conflict from arising alongside aggravated national sentiments and stem any further escalation of the situation.
This is the difference in agenda between governmental diplomacy, which has no choice but to focus on the territorial issue, and diplomacy conducted by civilians thinking and working towards solutions.

This comparison of agenda does not mean to put government diplomacy and civil diplomacy at opposite poles. Government diplomacy and civilian diplomacy simply have different priorities. What we, as citizens, must first realize is a mechanism to prevent the escalation of conflict. We must create a mechanism that will prevent sudden accidents and, even if such accidents do occur, a mechanism that prevents the accident from becoming a full-fledged conflict. We also need a to create a mechanism to control the acceleration of nationalistic sentiments in the people when such incidents occur. In order to do so, East Asia requires dialogue in various forms on the non-governmental level, as well as the creation of a calm, rational environment among the people. This kind of environment is what creates the foundations of government dialogue. In other words, many people are starting to feel that simply reaching reconciliation in words and conditions on the territorial issue cannot improve the current state of instability.

I believe that now is the time that civilians conducting dialogue as participants towards preventing conflict and joining hands with one another is the more important and crucial point in the construction of peace in East Asia.

I often conduct discussions abroad as well, and what I keenly feel is that the international community also seeks progress in conflict prevention in East Asia. Thus, I would like to first and foremost make efforts to deal with this problem. Discussions in Genron diplomacy consist of discussions by the various parties concerned towards the stabilization of governance in East Asia. I would like to publicize these discussions and create a consensus among a large group of people, as I believe that initiative must be taken towards stabilizing governance and preventing conflict in East Asia.

The first step towards this is the "Ninth Tokyo-Beijing Forum." Some sort of consensus must be reached here, which will then be communicated to the world to create a new tide. For this, the "Tokyo-Beijing Forum" will be a stepping-stone for The Genron NPO to begin working on Genron diplomacy and instigate further discussions.