Experts eye greater role for Japan in restoring
stability to global political situation

February 20, 2016

Japan should make more positive contributions to restoring global stability this year, at a time when the focus of international politics is shifting to the Asia-Pacific region, according to noted Japanese political watchers.

Japan will serve as the chair at a leaders' meeting of the Group of Seven major economies in May. Japan is also expected to host a tripartite summit with China and South Korea later this year.

Noting that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has a firm political base at home, and his administration has begun to improve Japan's relations with China and South Korea, Keio University Professor Yuichi Hosoya stressed that Japan should display more leadership in solving a series of challenges facing the world.

The Asia-Pacific situation is progressing in a most favorable manner for Japan, with moves that will create a stable order among countries in the region, including the United States, said former Japanese Ambassador to the United States Ichiro Fujisaki.

They made the remarks at a panel discussion organized by the independent Japanese think tank The Genron NPO. They were joined by University of Tokyo Professor Akihiko Tanaka and Yoshiko Kojo, also a professor at the university.

A recent Genron NPO survey of well-informed Japanese people found that about 90 percent of the polled saw instability as a growing threat to the international order.

Genron NPO President Yasushi Kudo, who served as moderator at the discussion, asked the four panelists to identify the causes of the global instability and Japan's desired position on the world's political stage. The one-hour, open debate was one of the events marking the inauguration Feb. 10 of the World Agenda Council (WAC), a panel of distinguished experts and intellectuals, by the independent think tank. The WAC aims to discuss problems facing the world from a broader point of view and propose solutions to the countries concerned.

Tanaka, who was president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) until 2015, said that the world has faced serious problems for the past few years, in view of the spread of regional conflicts and an increase in the number of refugees.

Kojo linked the challenges facing the world to a lack of governance in politically and economically fragile states, and in some developed countries. Internal problems in these countries are spreading across national borders to neighboring regions, and are threatening to bring more instability to the world, she said.

Fujisaki called attention to moves by some major countries to change the status quo by force, and a widening gap between the haves and the have-nots in various parts of the world amid the ongoing globalization.

Hosoya said that the perceived fears about the course of the world reflect the fact that it is difficult for many people to be optimistic about their future, as hopes and dreams in the post-Cold War era have been smashed.

Kudo noted that many people attribute the instability in the international order to the declining influence of the United States in world politics as well as the increasing political presence of emerging economies, notably China.

The U.S. political presence as "a source of power" remains strong, but the current global situation makes it difficult for the U.S. to exercise its might fully, as in the past, because the use of force will have complex effects, Tanaka said. "This is not a problem only for U.S. President Barack Obama's diplomatic policy," he said.

Hosoya noted that major countries themselves are having difficulty fully exercising their influence under current international law and in view of public opinion in the global community.

In a discussion about China's increasing political presence and its recent economic slowdown, as well as stronger governance in containing economic crises, Tanaka warned that some countries may move to take rather classic political action in geopolitical terms to deal with economic confusion.

Kojo expressed fear that the slowing Chinese economy will spread protectionist moves and cause conflicts in the world, now that mutual dependence is increasing in the global economy. She called for preventing such an unfavorable situation by exploring a cooperative framework covering not only major developed countries but also developing countries, such as the Group of 20 member states.

Hosoya noted that economic slowdown tends to prompt many countries to divert attention from internal problems, as seen in the 1930s, by making the country a "scapegoat."

About who should be responsible for managing the macroeconomic situation amid global confusion, Tanaka stressed the need for countries concerned to mobilize all existing means in a concerted effort to overcome the economic difficulties. Referring to a recent fast decline in crude oil prices as a matter of concern for the world economy, he emphasized that the situation can be improved by creating a new mechanism to offset the favorable and unfavorable effects of declining oil prices between adversely affected countries and favorably affected countries.

Because there was policy coordination between governments in the past, they could control their financial markets, but it is difficult to do so at present, Kojo said. There is a need for the countries concerned to improve the relevant governance systems, including financial regulations that govern market players, she said.

Hosoya cited three factors that are necessary in stabilizing the international order -- the balance of power, international collaboration and the international community. These are absent in the current situation, but efforts must be made to get them working again, he said.

The various principles and values of major countries are questioned now, but they should explore a common ground for stabilizing the global order by refining their diplomatic strength, Kojo said.

While noting that the five powers with permanent seats on the U.N. Security Council are not necessarily in step with each other in addressing today's global and regional issues, Tanaka recalled that agreements were hammered out unanimously in 2015 to establish development goals to assist poorer countries and create a road map for containing global warming in the years ahead.

There are indications that a path is gradually emerging for the global order in the years to come, Tanaka said, stressing that how to manage the related agreements among major countries should be a priority from now on.

Noting that Japan played a major role in formulating new trade rules for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) last year, Kojo called on Japan to actively engage itself to introduce rules that will bring stability to the Asia-Pacific region.

Post a comment