Wednesday, May 31, 2017

President Trump did not inherit a country that is failing

Ambassador (Ret.) Nicholas Burns, presented the annual George Herbert Walker Jr. Lecture in International Studies at Yale University on May 3, 2017 entitled “The Trump Administration’s Global Foreign Policy Challenges.” 

“I think America is in good shape as a global power,” he said. “We are the world leader economically. We should be the world leader in the next digital age that is coming. We are certainly militarily still the strongest country in the world.”

Ambassador Burns concluded his remarks by discussing China. He related a story of the late Ambassador Stephen Bosworth coming into his classroom at Harvard and telling his students that the most daunting international challenge is to “find a way to be partners with China and then not to be dominated by China.”
 “In many ways, China is not our enemy, China is our partner,” he said. “How can you be successful in the modern world without working with China?” Yet, Ambassador Burns continued, China is bullying five sovereign nations in the South China Sea and has pursued international strategies that the United States cannot ignore.
“It would be catastrophic to go to war with China,” he said. “Here’s the question – have we ever had a relationship in American history where our strongest partner is our strongest competitor? That’s a difficult question that requires leadership that is historically minded, that is sophisticated, that is nuanced, that has a great deal of credibility.”
“If these are the big challenges, boy we better have good leadership in Washington,” he continued. “You need people with that depth, experience, gravitas, personal credibility, honesty, that’s what we need in Washington. And I don’t want to be unfair to the Trump administration, but they started in a very awkward position.”

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Abe, Trump's Drama Queen

President Moon Jae­-in’s special envoy Amb. Hong Seok­-hyun had ten minutes with U.S. President Donald Trump to reconfirm the US­-South Korean alliance. With the President’s known attention span of only six minutes, this may have been more than enough. However, Seoul is way behind in “showing” Trump it's more important commitment, which is to the President himself. 

Japanese Minister Shinzo Abe’s advisers quickly realized that the Trump’s campaign bluster reflected very little what Trump actually understands, does, and wants. To test and to blunt the President­-elect’s tough trade rhetoric, Abe’s team moved quickly through its business contacts to appease the President­-elect with a visual of his power through his first photo­-op as world leader with a world leader. 

The hook was an appeal to Trump’s personal commercial interests and his desire to show he was tackling immediately a central campaign pledge on trade. This was the context of the Prime Minister’s November 17th meeting in Trump Tower, allowing Abe to become the only foreign leader to meet with Trump before his inauguration. The get­-together was arranged as if it were a business meeting through Trump’s tax lawyers, Morgan Lewis and their well­-contacted partner Satoru MURASE and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson who had deep financial ties to Trump and in Japan. Abe’s challenge was to mirror Trump by listening carefully and exploring how Japan can enhance the President’s trade and business agenda.

Adelson, who has proposed a $10 billion casino investment in Japan, then arranged for his sometime business partner Softbank’s Masayoshi Son to meet with Trump on December 7th. Son gave Trump another PR moment by repackaging a long­=proposed $50 billion investment in the U.S. and commitment to create 50,000 new jobs. This cemented Trump’s view that the Japanese were team players. 

Fearful of all the 1980s trade warriors in Trump’s Administration, Abe’s government needed to deflect attention away from its growing trade deficit, anti­dumping cases, and anti­trust actions (64 Japanese executives are in US jails from anti­trust enforcement trials) with the US. The initial interactions succeeded, but the hard facts of the trade imbalances threatened to upend the goodwill being cultivated. 

By demonstrating an affinity for military advisers and a penchant for dramatic, albeit limited shows of force, the Trump Administration gave Abe a new opening to convince the President that Japan was Washington’s best Pacific ally, ever. Most important, Abe knew he could not tell Trump this, but had to illustrate it. North Korea successfully gave Abe the opportunity to show Trump what a national threat to an ally looks like. 

 The Japanese government knew going into Abe’s mid­-February visit to Mar­a­Lago that North Korea would soon test fire a missile. As if on cue, Pyongyang’s projectile launched in the middle of Trump’s very pubic dinner with Abe. What emerged was a real­-time opportunity for Abe to share crisis management with the very inexperienced President. 

Abe familiar with this kind of “crisis”—another missile in the ocean—skillfully managed Trump to feel as if he was participating not following in crafting a response. The result was that Abe is likely the only world figure that Trump allowed to speak at a press conference before he did and who he followed with only a simple awestruck sentence, that “the US stands with Japan.” Abe gave Trump what he craves most, drama. 

Whereas Japan’s initial approach to Trump emphasized business and trade cooperation, playing on Trump’s desire to be a security leader have proved a more effective and longer­-term strategy. Cooperation over North Korea overshadows irritating issues such as trade, currency, and defense burden sharing. As a result, all of the unprecedented six telephone calls between the two have focused on North Korea. Abe is likely the most consulted, if not the most influential foreign leader, in Trump’s North Korea policy­making. 

Both Japan and the U.S. do not want to see a nuclear­-armed North Korea with accurate and far­-reaching strike abilities. Denuclearization is both countries’ ultimate goal. However, their priorities and considerations in the process of achieving this end have underlying differences. Other than distracting American attention away from economic issues, Abe is using the North Korean threat to advance his long­-term domestic political agenda—Constitutional revision, or in his view, the “normalization” of Japan through military means. The support of any U.S. president, even one as flawed as Trump, is critical to Abe’s program. 

Abe is now binding the relationship further by mirroring Trump’s rhetoric. The Prime Minister stated at a Wall Street Journal event in Tokyo on May 16: “I am the prime minister of Japan, so I favor a ‘Japan First’ policy, but Japan will also work with other countries for global prosperity and peace.” Abe’s advisors, assume that Trump will only hear the catch­phrase “Japan First” and believe that it is a positive reflection on himself. Trump will ignore the second part of the sentence where Japan goes its own way.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Japan’s constitutional rebirth or reincarnation?

By Jeff Kingston
, director of Asian Studies, Temple University Japan. APP Member, Japan Times, May 13, 2017

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has boldly promised to revise the Constitution by 2020, to coincide with the Tokyo Summer Olympics, saying “That will be a year when a newly reborn Japan begins to move strongly forward.” However, the public doesn’t share his enthusiasm.

In terms of revising the Constitution, opposition is highest (50 percent) in the Asahi poll, followed by Nikkei’s 46 percent, Kyodo’s 37 and NHK’s 34. Support for revision ranges from 60 percent in the Kyodo poll (combining “necessary” or “somewhat necessary”) to 45 percent according to Nikkei, 43 percent from NHK (down 15 percent from 2002) and 41 percent in the Asahi. The Asahi Shimbun also reports that half oppose any revision at all under Abe.

For the war-renouncing Article 9, Asahi reports 63 percent as being opposed to revision; NHK gives 57 percent and Kyodo 47 percent. Those in favor of revising Article 9 range from 49 percent in the Kyodo poll to 29 percent in the Asahi and NHK’s 25 percent, down from 30 percent in 2002. NHK also reported that 82 percent found Article 9 very or somewhat useful for maintaining peace and security. Regarding the Self-Defense Forces, NHK found that 62 percent regard their existence as constitutional while 11 percent don’t, and 87 percent think that Japan is currently threatened, especially by North Korea and China.

Public attitudes may be discrepant, but Abe has an unprecedented opportunity to secure the two-thirds approval he needs in both houses of the Diet to set the stage for a public referendum, in which he would need only a simple majority to realize his long-standing dream.

The referendum law stipulates that a simple majority of votes cast can pass a revision, but it does not specify a minimum turnout of voters to validate a plebiscite. For example, revisions could be approved with the support of about 25 percent of eligible voters — about what the Liberal Democratic Party garners in national polls, in which turnout recently has hovered at just over half of eligible voters.

Abe hopes that this legacy project can be achieved by 2020, and with the “help” of Beijing and Pyongyang he might just pull it off. Coalition partner Komeito seems on board, but may prove difficult if Abe pushes for more on security than he is currently revealing.

Abe explained that he won’t get rid of Article 9, the provision of the Constitution that has talismanic significance for many Japanese despite successive LDP-led governments reinterpreting it over the decades to ease constitutional constraints on the SDF. These efforts culminated in the April 2015 U.S.-Japan Defense Guidelines and later that summer in Abe’s collective self-defense legislation. That sequencing says a lot about Abe’s priorities, in that he sealed the deal with Washington first in a manner that subordinated the Diet’s role.

Abe hopes to add a proviso to Article 9 that would acknowledge the constitutionality of the SDF. In his opinion, it is deplorable that some constitutional scholars have cast doubts about whether the SDF are constitutional; they cite paragraph 2, which explicitly prohibits maintaining any armed forces or war potential. Whether they recognize the SDF or not, nearly all of Japan’s constitutional scholars believe Abe’s collective self-defense (CSD) legislation is unconstitutional. During Diet deliberations about the CSD legislation, even the LDP’s handpicked constitutional scholars raised such doubts — awkward testimony that nevertheless failed to deter Abe from his mission.

But since Abe is seeking clarification about the SDF in Article 9, shouldn’t he also include specific reference to the right to CSD and the three vague principles that ostensibly constrain Japan’s military actions? These principles grant the PM considerable discretionary authority to deploy the military if he alone determines that: 1) Japan or a country closely related with Japan is under military attack, which poses a threat to Japan’s existence and puts Japanese nationals’ lives, freedom and their right to pursuit of happiness in clear danger; 2) there are no other means to overcome the above-mentioned danger so as to ensure the existence of Japan and the protection of Japanese nationals, and; 3) the military engagement is limited to the “minimum necessary use of force.”

In focusing debate on declaring the SDF constitutional, Abe is avoiding the much more contentious issue of CSD and the new powers he gained to deploy troops overseas at Washington’s behest.

I have heard non-Japanese advocates of revision suggest that retaining Article 9 keeps Japan subordinate to the U.S., and thus it is crucial to revise it so that Japan can become an autonomous sovereign nation. I have no beef with Japan revising the Constitution according to the principles laid out in Article 96 for doing so. I think it is preferable to pursue formal revision rather than surreptitiously bypass such procedures as Abe has done. But will revising Article 9 really give Japan more autonomy? It seems more like Abe is kowtowing to the U.S. in order to bolster an alliance in which Japan gets its marching orders from Washington.

The other trial balloon released by Abe was his proposal to make free higher education a constitutional right, pandering to the opposition and public opinion to offset concerns about amending Article 9. But surely Abe must have more up his sleeve than this gimmick if Japan is to be reborn in 2020.

It is significant that Abe’s May 3 announcement was delivered at a Japan Conference (Nippon Kaigi) event. This ultra-conservative lobby group is extremely influential in the Diet and its members have dominated Abe’s cabinets. They want to restore the Emperor’s political power and revise Article 24 of the Constitution, which protects gender equality and other individual rights. These conservatives argue disingenuously that gender equality is undermining traditional values and is thus responsible for Japan’s current social ills. Defining family values and obligations based on their antediluvian preferences would impose conformity at odds with Japan’s growing diversity and prevailing norms and values, while trampling on many citizens’ human rights.

Looking back at the LDP’s 2012 draft constitution, I wonder if Abe will preside over Japan’s rebirth or a reincarnation of pre-1945 Japan? For example, this draft version imposes extensive obligations and duties on citizens; privileges public order over individual rights; seeks to remove the preamble based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; mandates respect for the national anthem and flag; allows the prime minister to declare a state of emergency and bypass the Diet; requires family members to help each other; and designates the Emperor as head of state.

This is what Abe means when he pledges to overturn the postwar order. The stakes are high as Japanese consider his backward-looking vision for the future.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

China’s Belt and Road Initiative to challenge US-led order

by Hugh White, Professor of Strategic Studies at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, The Australian National University, East Asia Forum, 8 May 2017

This month, what is likely to be this year’s biggest international summit will convene in Beijing to discuss the world’s most ambitious project. China’s Belt and Road Initiative aims to redefine the global economy of the 21st century by integrating the economies of Europe, Asia and Africa through an unprecedented and powerful network of transport and communications infrastructure.

Some estimates put the price tag at US$1 trillion, which would make it one of the biggest — if not the biggest — economic development programme in history, far outspending the United States’ Marshall Plan which rebuilt Europe after World War II.

So it’s no wonder that so many world leaders will be turning up in Beijing to claim a piece of it. China’s foreign minister recently announced that 110 countries would be represented, including no fewer than 28 national leaders. They include the leaders of Russia, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Pakistan and the Philippines from Asia, and many others from Europe and Africa. It is going to be a very notable gathering.

Among countries not sending their national leaders are the United States, Japan, India, Australia, Singapore and most western European countries. They will all be represented at more junior levels. It is no coincidence that these countries are aligned with the United States and are uneasy about China’s rise — or perceived to be so.

To many people, China’s Belt and Road Initiative is not really about economics at all. Instead it is all about expanding China’s strategic and political influence at the United States’ expense. That’s probably half right, but we should not overlook the powerful economic logic that underpins the geopolitical calculations.

There are several economic imperatives driving China’s Belt and Road Initiative. They include the need to foster development in China’s remote and underdeveloped regions and the hope of finding outlets for China’s massive overcapacity in key industries like steel-making.

But the key motive is much bigger and more ambitious. China wants to consolidate its position at the centre of global supply and manufacturing networks. This is crucial for the outlook of the global economy over the coming decades. China understands that as its economy matures and income levels rise, the lower-wage industries that have fuelled the country’s growth so far will migrate to less-developed nations where labour costs are lower.

China’s economic planners do not want to fight that trend. Rather, they want to use it to China’s advantage by centring the nation in the expanding supply-chain web that will result from it. That way China can capture the lion’s share of more sophisticated higher-wage economic opportunities.

The Belt and Road Initiative is central to this vision and therefore to realising China’s ambition to become a middle-income country. It also mutually reinforces China’s parallel ambition to take the lead in the coming decades in developing key technologies and setting global standards — including for critical elements of infrastructure like high-speed rail and data networks.

So far all of this is just a bold vision. Making it a reality will require an extraordinary alignment of financial resources, technical skills, political commitment and international cooperation. None of these can be taken for granted, so a degree of healthy scepticism is in order.

And yet it would be unwise to dismiss the Belt and Road Initiative as a mere pipe dream. It has the power and prestige of President Xi Jinping behind it. It is at the centre of his vision for China, and of his ambition to transform China’s place in the world during his time as its leader. He is determined to make it work, and in China today that counts for a great deal.

We can see its geo-economic implications by comparing what the Belt and Road Initiative tells us about China’s vision of its economic future with what the policies of the Trump administration tell us about the United States’ economic vision.

While President Xi is welcoming the world to Beijing to promote a plan to export low-income jobs in industries like steel-making to other countries and shift Chinese workers into higher-income ones, President Trump plans to lock out imports of steel so as to revive the United States’ steel industry. He wants to put US workers back into the jobs that Beijing wants to move Chinese workers out of.

The contrast could not be starker. The United States wants to shrink its role in the global economy and cling to old industries, while China wants to expand its global role and move its economy into new industries. No prizes for guessing which of these visions is more likely to succeed.

So that brings us back to the geopolitical and strategic equation. Clearly the leaders who are choosing to stay away from Beijing next month are right in their fear that the Belt and Road Initiative has immense geopolitical significance.

But those leaders are wrong in imagining that they can stop that from happening by simply staying away. They have to offer an alternative. If the United States and its allies are really determined to resist China’s challenge to the old US-led liberal global order, they have to counter Beijing’s powerful vision of a future global economy centred on China. And to do that they need an equally powerful and ambitious global economic vision of their own.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

South Korea's new president and the Comfort Women

January 20, 2017
What is the commitment South Korea’s new President Moon Jae-in has toward the Comfort Women and historical justice. The following is a brief review of Moon’s actions and words regarding the Comfort Women.

Whereas Moon never focused on women’s issues as a human rights lawyer, he has displayed an honest interest in the Comfort Women. Unlike former President Park, he has met publicly and directly with Korean Comfort Women. Park attended briefly the February 2007 Comfort Women congressional hearing in Washington, DC, where two Korean and one Dutch Comfort Women testified.

Moon was the Chief Presidential Secretary during the 2007 Comfort Women debates in the US House of Representatives. His approach to the December 2015 CW arrangement, appears more nuanced than others. He appears to be of moving beyond this “agreement” toward a more satisfying, legal settlement. 

On May 15, the UN Security Council holds an open debate on sexual violence in conflict. Its objective of the debate is to raise awareness on the issue of sexual violence in conflict as a tactic of war and terrorism, focusing particularly on patterns and trends identified in the annual report of the Secretary-General on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence (S/2017/249). This timely discussion will highlight the broader concern of women’s rights and ending impunity for sexual violence in conflict that is integral in any discussion of the Comfort Women and Japan's responsibility.

On May 12, the UN Committee against Torture Concluding observations on the third to fifth periodic reports of the Republic of Korea ADVANCE UNEDITED VERSION, supported Moon desire to revise the December 28th understanding by concluding:

48. The State party should:

(d) Revise the Agreement of 28 December 2015 between the Republic of Korea and Japan in order to ensure that the surviving victims of sexual slavery during World War II are provided with redress, including the right to compensation and rehabilitation and the right to truth, reparation and assurances of non-repetitions, in keeping with article 14 of the Convention;

Moon Jae-in (문재인) / Democratic Party (더불어민주당)

As an university student, Moon led student movements against the Park Jung-hee’s authoritarian regime, and was imprisoned briefly in 1975. After his release, he was conscripted into the military where he served in special forces. In 1980, he passed the bar exam and became lawyer. He ran small law firm with the former President Roh Moo-hyun (Roh) in Busan, and worked as a human rights lawyer. After Roh was elected President in 2003, he became Chief of Staff and Senior Presidential Secretary. When the Comfort Women resolution H Res 121 was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in July 2007, he was Chief Secretary. (February 25th, 2003-February 25th, 2008)
Businesspost, 5.9.2017

In 2012, during his first run for presidency, Moon, expressed officially for the first time his personal views on Comfort Women issues,. On August 15th, 2012, Independence Day, Moon attended the weekly Wednesday Demonstration outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, which demands an apology to the former Comfort Women by Japanese government. Moon promised that he would negotiate with the Japanese government to receive compensation and a sincere apology for the Comfort Women.
Asiaeconomy, 8.15.2012

In regard to the negotiations between Seoul and Tokyo to achieve a Comfort Women “agreement” on December 28, 2015, Moon believes that a first priority is to reveal the details leading to the two documents of understanding. Thus far, the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not disclosed these to the public. He has also said that the “agreement” should be nullified, and any the next administration needs to renegotiate it. He has also insisted that new negotiations are necessary to clarify the Japanese government’s legal responsibility regarding the Comfort women.
Ilyoseoul, 1.21,2017

On December 31, 2015 after Comfort Women “agreement” was announced, Moon visited the House of Sharing, which houses surviving the former Comfort Women, and argued that receiving a sincere apology from Japanese government should be a guarantee of any deal with this issue. He wrote comment on his Facebook page that Koreans should do their own fund-raising to establish the foundation for the former Comfort Women, instead of receiving money from the Japanese government.
Heraldpop, 2015.12.31

On January 11th, Moon visited graves of the former Comfort Women in Choenan. He said that 1 billion yen compensation from Japanese government doesn’t stand for a genuine apology. Additionally, he criticized the fact that Japanese government had summoned Japan’s ambassador and consul to Japan as a reprisal against erecting Comfort Women statues in Korea.
Focusnews, 1.11.2017

On January 20th, Moon was photographed clasping the “hand” of the Comfort Woman statue outside the Japanese consulate in Busan.
MBN, 1.20.2017

On April 4th, Moon officially expressed his condolences on death of Lee Soon-duk, one of the former Comfort Women, by sending a floral tribute to her funeral. He pledged again to amend the former Comfort Women “agreement”, and to elicit an apology from Japanese government.
Insight, 4.5.2017

On April 13th, Moon published his major campaign promises, which included a renegotiation pledge. However, on April 17th, the Moon camp excluded this renegotiation pledge from his major campaign promises, and replaced it with the statement that he will deal with historical issues with Japanese government in principle. His camp said that Moon’s stance toward Comfort Women issues have not changed, but had decided to modify the statement to be more comprehensive.
NEWSIS, 4.17.2017

On May 3th, Kim Ki-jung, diplomatic and security advisor to Moon, said that Moon will not make the Comfort Women issue the starting point of diplomatic negotiations with the Japanese government. He will pursue “two-track” talks with Japan. This is to show that the wants to cooperate with neighboring countries to establish peace and stability in Northeast Asia as well as to hold talks over historical issues. Bilateral relations will stall if South Korea takes a stance of doing nothing unless this unless this issue is resolved. In addition, he felt that Moon would find it difficult to arrange the removal of statues symbolizing the Comfort Women because they were installed by private civic groups.
JIJI Press, 5.3.2017

On May 3th, Moon campaigned in Masan and stopped to lay flowers on their Comfort Women statue.
Starseoul, 5.3.2017

On May 4th, his camp publicly denounced the Ministry of Gender Equality & Family of Korea for not adhering to its original plan to publish a government-led White Paper on Comfort Women issues, but instead conceded the release to a private NGO of its own report.
Moon Jae-in Camp, 5.4.2017

On May 8th, during Moon’s campaign, he embraced Lee Yong-su, one of the former Comfort Women, and she declared officially her support for Moon.
News1, 5.8.2017

On May 9th, the former Comfort Women living at House of Sharing, expressed their delight on Moon’s win. One, Lee Oak-sun said that the Comfort Women agreement will now be nullified as it did not reflect the victims’ opinion or perspective.
Kyunghang, 5.9.2017

Monday in Washington, May 15, 2017

FRAGILE STATES INDEX LAUNCH EVENT 2017. 5/15, 2:00-4:00pm. Sponsor: The Fund for Peace. United Nations Foundation. Speaker: J.J. Messner, Executive Director, The Fund for Peace.

IS THE AGE OF WESTERN ECONOMIC DYNAMISM OVER? 5/15, 4:00-5:30pm. Sponsor: American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Speakers: Tyler Cowen, Holbert L. Harris Chair, Economics, George Mason University, Chairman and General Director, Mercatus Center, George Mason University; Fredrik Erixon, Director, European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE); James Pethokoukis, Columnist and Blogger, AEI; Stan Veuger, Resident Scholar, AEI; Björn Weigel, Member, Board of the European Centre for International Political Economy.

FUTURE OF THE EUROPEAN ECONOMY AFTER THE FRENCH ELECTION. 5/15, 10:30am-1:30pm. Sponsor: Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE), Speakers: Olivier Blanchard, C. Fred Bergsten Senior Fellow, PIIE; Jérémie Cohen-Setton, research fellow, PIIE; Jacob Funk Kirkegaard, Senior Fellow, PIIE; Adam S. Posen, President; Nicolas Véron, Visiting Fellow, PIIE; Jeromin Zettelmeyer, Senior Fellow, PIIE. Contact: . Webcast.

HEARTS, MINDS, VOICE: U.S. COLD WAR DIPLOMACY AND THE FORMATION OF THE THIRD WORD. 5/15, 4:00-5:30pm. Sponsor: Wilson Center. Speaker: Jason Parker, Associate Professor, History, Texas A&M University will discuss his new book Hearts, Minds, Voices: U.S. Cold War Public Diplomacy and the Formation of the Third World (OUP, 2016) and of his next project, a comparative study of postwar federations in the Third World.

AMBASSADOR SERIES: PAKISTAN HIS EXCELLENCY AMBASSADOR AIZAZ AHMAD CHAUDHRY. 5/15, 6:00-8:00pm, Washington, DC. Sponsor: World Affairs Council. Speaker: The Ambassador.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Monday in Washington May 8, 2017

CANCELED US PACOM: A STRATEGIC LOOK WITH ADM HARRY B. HARRIS, JR.  5/8, 9:30-10:30am. Sponsor: Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, Atlantic Council. Speaker: Harry B. Harris, Jr, Commander, U.S. Pacific Command; Frederick Kempe, President, CEO, Atlantic Council; Michael Andersson, President, CEO, Saab North America. Moderator: Martha Raddatz, Chief Global Affairs Correspondent, ABC News.

FAST SPACE: RETHINKING ACCESS. 5/8, 9:30-10:30am. Sponsor: Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. Speakers: Maj. Gen. Peter Gersten, USAF, Director of Strategic Plans, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Requirements; Hoyt Davison, Near Earth, LLC; Lt. Col. Peter Garretson, USAF, Instructor of Joint Warfare, Air University; Charles E. Miller, NexGen Space, LLC; Lt. Col. Thomas Schilling, USAF, Chief of the Commander's Action Group, Air University.

CONGRESS, TRUMP, AND TAIWAN. 5/8, Noon-1:30pm. Sponsors: Global Taiwan Institute; Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI). Speakers: Christopher J. Griffin, Executive Director, FPI; Igor Khrestin, National Security Advisor to Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), Staff Director, Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy; Walter Lohman, Director, Asian Studies Center, Heritage; Christopher, Editor, Publisher, Nelson Report.

SCHOLARLY DOUBLE STANDARDS AND THE AMERICAN PRESIDENCY. 5/8, 4:00-5:30pm. Sponsor: Institute of World Politics. Speaker: Stephen F. Knott, Professor of National Security Affairs, US Naval War College.

WINNING THE THIRD WORLD: SINO-AMERICAN COMPETITION DURING THE COLD WAR. 5/8, 4:00-5:30pm. Sponsor: Cold War International History Program, History and Public Policy Program, Woodrow Wilson Center (WWC). Speakers: Author Gregg Brazinsky, Fellow, Associate Professor of History and International Affairs, GWU; Christian F. Ostermann, Director, History and Public Policy Program, Cold War International History Project, North Korea Documentation Project, Nuclear Proliferation International History Project, WWC; Eric Arnesen, Fellow, Professor of History, GWU.

CULTURAL DIPLOMACY TO TACKLE TODAY’S GLOBAL CHALLENGES. 5/8, 4:30-6:00pm. Sponsors: SAIS, Johns Hopkins University; Peabody Institute, Johns Hopkins University. Speakers: Midori, United Nations (UN) Messenger of Peace, Distinguished Professor, Violin, Founder, Midori & Friends; Jeffrey A. Brez, Chief, NGO Relations, Advocacy, and Special Events, UN; Ashlee George, Executive Director, Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project;  Evan Ryan, Executive Vice President, Axios. Moderator: Kent E. Calder, Professor, Director, Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Politics of promoting Japanese "culture"


BY Taku Tamaki, Lecturer in International Relations, Loughborough University, UK, Newsweek, 4/29/17

Much has been made of Japan’s recent turn away from pacifism and growing military muscle, but Tokyo is also extending its global reach in more subtle ways. Japan is especially serious about increasing its soft power, the ability to win over global partners with cultural and diplomatic affinity rather than coercion and sheer heft.

Tokyo has long busied itself building a national “brand”, an image that combines the supposed uniqueness of Japanese language, cuisine, and traditional hospitality with its postwar pacifism and reputation for technological prowess. The latest iteration of this project is the Cool Japan initiative, which capitalises on the international popularity of manga and anime to project the Japanese brand around the world.

But while this might all sound like very 21st-century stuff, the idea of packaging national culture into a political brand is a familiar one, and Japan has been doing it for decades—albeit in very different ways.

Before World War II, imperial Japan presented itself as the “liberator” of Asia, the only modernised Asian state to have escaped Western colonialism. This myth already contained the core elements of Cool Japan, depicting Japan as neither Asian nor Western but an exotic hybrid of Western modernity and Asian tradition. This deft act of national branding won it the 1940 Olympics—but as the country’s expansionist offensives in Asia ramped up in the late 1930s, the games were abandoned.

Yet remarkably, this myth of Japanese cultural uniqueness survived the devastating and humiliating defeat of August 1945. On the contrary, it was reinforced by Japan’s postwar pacifism and rapid reconstruction that began in the mid-1950s. Over the next few decades, Japan became the second-largest economy in the world, once again suggesting that it was a trailblazing standout in an otherwise backward Asia.

That approach paid off with the successful bid for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, which this time actually happened.

The organisation that most actively promotes this mission today is the Japan Foundation, Japan’s answer to the British Council and a potential rival to China’s Confucius Institute. The foundation’s job is to promote Japanese language and culture, principally by engaging in international cultural exchange programmes and encouraging language learning.

Indeed, the Foundation, has been active in hosting Japanese language speech contests outside Japan, as well as conducting Japanese Language Proficiency Tests whereby learners can gain a certificate of Japanese language fluency. Furthermore, the Japan Foundation promotes cultural and academic exchanges between Japan and the outside world. And as the Japanese Foreign Ministry itself suggests, cultural exchanges help to lubricate diplomatic relations in general.

Abe Power
On the face of it, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s much-touted economic revitalisation programme, known as Abenomics, has little to do with soft power. In its first incarnation as the Beautiful Country programme, the hallmark of Abe’s first term in 2006-7, this was a thoroughly domestic agenda of constitutional amendments, fiscal restructuring and economic deregulation.

But this wasn’t just an economic programme; it was also a nationalistic one, designed to turn domestic economic regeneration into an international display of supposedly distinctive Japanese attributes, not least diligence and resilience.

With patriotic education at home and cultural outreach abroad, Abe is turning the old myth of Japanese uniqueness into a different kind of nationalism. To be sure, he clearly believes that economic revitalisation and a renewed military are crucial prerequisites for rebuilding Japan’s self confidence. But he also knows that to truly win over the rest of the world, it has to win the hearts and minds of global consumers.

And so the Abe government is advancing a carefully calibrated image of a beautiful, vibrant Japan, simultaneously traditional and modern. Perhaps the ultimate expression of this was Abe’s in-person appearance as Super Mario at the closing ceremony of the 2016 Rio Olympics, heralding Toyko’s turn in 2020. It might have looked trivial, but in reality, it was the apex of a calculated, long-term propaganda exercise that will project Japanese influence as far as possible.

So the next time you pick up a manga comic from your local bookshop or grab a sushi roll off a conveyor belt, remember that you’re not just treating yourself – you’re also playing your part in a long and very considered political project.