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“Japanese Foreign Policy Challenges and Asia” “Central Asia 20 Years On From Independence: Political and Economic Situation and Challenges”“China’s East Asian Economic Cooperation and Japan” ~ 2011 IIST Study Group Public Symposiums ~ | Institute for International Studies and Training (IIST) [Date of Issue: 27/April/2012 No.0206-0841]

Date of Issue: 27/April/2012

“Japanese Foreign Policy Challenges and Asia”
“Central Asia 20 Years On From Independence: Political and Economic Situation and Challenges”“China’s East Asian Economic Cooperation and Japan” ~ 2011 IIST Study Group Public Symposiums ~

Institute for International Studies and Training (IIST)


The Institute for International Studies and Training (IIST) hosts three closed-door study groups—the IIST International Situation Study Group, the IIST Asia Study Group, and the IIST Central Eurasian Study Group. We invite academics with expertise in the political and economic trends in key powers to be part of these study groups or to come along as speakers, collecting and analysing up-to-the-minute information and discussing this together with government officials with the aim of identifying critical issues in the implementation of Japan’s trade policy. Each of these study groups also holds an annual public symposium, and views expressed by experts at the three FY 2011 public symposiums were as follows.


IIST International Situation Study Group Public Symposium
“Japanese Foreign Policy Challenges and Asia” / 8 December 2011

—The world’s major powers are in for a big year in 2012, with presidential elections in the United States, general and presidential elections in Korea, the Russian presidential elections and the Chinese leadership transition. At this symposium, leading experts in these areas offered their views on the approach which Japan should take in dealing with the evolving situation in these countries.

Firstly, the Study Group Chair, Professor Shinichi Kitaoka from the University of Tokyo addressed the possibilities for Prime Minister Noda’s diplomacy. He observed that with the world in a major transition phase and now lacking a single power to lead the world order, strategic space had opened up for Japan, presenting a whole palette of options that include the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). The Noda administration bears a weighty responsibility in terms of guiding Japan through these strategic seas, and to lock the Japanese economy on to a recovery trajectory, it will be important to shift the capital and human resources currently being injected into unprofitable sectors across into more profitable sectors such as businesses related to Asia that has strong economic growth capacity. In addition, however Japan develops its relationship with the new administrations in the various countries, the critical issue will be to help stabilize politics there. Once administrations had stabilized, Professor Kitaoka felt that Japan would find itself in a strong position in terms of taking advantage of the strategic space which will open up. He noted in that context that it was now generally recognized that the early dissolution of parliaments and general elections impacted negatively on the national interest.

Professor Fumiaki Kubo, also from the University of Tokyo, looked at achievements of President Obama’s domestic and foreign policies and prospects for the 2012 US presidential elections. He suggested that where the President has scored highly for his efforts to combat terrorism and for his foreign policy, pundits have been less forthcoming in relation to the economy, which is closely linked to approval ratings. Obama faces a tough battle in which he will have to reel in independent voters by pursuing fiscal deficit reduction measures, which he hopes will be linked in the public mind to the combination of higher taxes for the super rich and reduced government spending. Professor Kubo felt that there was little likelihood of additional fiscal stimulus to the extent that the Republicans hold a majority in the House, and that the best the US economy can hope for is a long-term autonomous recovery. In addition, as cutbacks in US defense spending shrink resources, a great deal more scope would emerge for Japan in terms of cooperating with the US on the foreign policy front given the recent US emphasis on Asia, such as the strong position on freedom of navigation which the US has taken in relation to China.

Professor Akio Takahara from the University of Tokyo discussed Chinese politics and diplomacy with a focus on national cultural security. He noted that while Xi Jinping was expected to succeed Hu Jintao as General Secretary of the Central Committee at the next National Party Congress in the fall of 2012, with Li Keqiang replacing China’s current Premier, Wen Jiabao, at the spring National People’s Congress, there were serious differences of opinion within the Party about the direction of policy. Turning to the reference to strengthening national cultural security made at the October 2011 Central Committee plenary session, Professor Takahara suggested that this drive had both the ‘offensive’ aspect of strengthening China’s ‘soft power’ overseas to place China ahead of other countries in terms of comprehensive national strength, as well as the ‘defensive’ aspect of preventing foreign cultural influences from permeating domestically. In addition to these international factors, Professor Takahara explained that there were also a number of domestic factors, including preventing the breakdown of morals and ethics and strengthening control over the Internet. In the lead-up to the National Party Congress, fierce debate and confusion was marked among the Party elite as to whether China should pursue a progressive or conservative line.

Professor Hideo Ohashi from Senshu University looked at the relationship between the global economic crisis and the East Asian economy, noting that China was becoming a new source of final demand creation for the global economy, and that China’s policy shift toward consumer- and domestic demand-driven growth was steadily increasing the East Asian economy’s dependence on China. He suggested that rather than looking at the TPP issue from a trade liberalization perspective, it should be regarded as a chance to promote structural reform in Japan.

Professor Koichi Sato from the College of Liberal Arts at the J. F. Oberlin University addressed China’s South China Sea policy. The Chinese government had identified the South China Sea as being a ‘core interest’, increasing pressure by ramping up the activity of naval ships and patrol boats in the area, a policy which was heightening the perception of China as a threat among the surrounding Southeast Asian countries. He explained that the US and other neighboring countries have no intention of containing China, but rather seek to maintain communication toward finding a peaceful resolution to the dispute, and that the Chinese government too is keen to cool down the situation. He lauded the Noda administration for calling for Japan’s participation in ASEAN-China talks on conduct in the South China Sea, and suggested that whether or not Japan could provide support toward calming the conflict between China and ASEAN could become a key point in terms of the success of Japan’s diplomacy.

The Korean presidential elections and the situation on the Korean Peninsula were addressed by Professor Shunji Hiraiwa from the School of International Studies, Kwansei Gakuin University. He suggested that the 2012 Korean presidential elections would be highly significant for Japan. He noted that party politics in both the ruling and opposition parties were currently unstable, and that the points of issue in elections were changing from the traditional focus on North-South relations and security to the economy and standards of living. Ahn Cheol-Soo is attracting a lot of attention as a third choice beyond the conservative-progressive framework, but at this point it was difficult to predict the outcome of the elections. The year 2012 also marks the centenary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, and Professor Hiraiwa suggested that cooperative relations between Japan and Korea would be critical in resolving the nuclear arms, kidnapping and missile issues with North Korea, which has positioned ‘opening the gate to a thriving nation’ as its national goal. It would also be important to consider what approach Japan should take to issues such as the Liancourt Rocks (also known as Dokdo or Tokto in Korean or the Takeshima Islands in Japanese), other disputed territory and Japan’s recent history with its Asian neighbors, as well as how Japan will deal with increasingly powerful China.

(The responsibility for the wording of this article lies with the IIST; titles are as at the time of the symposium.)


IIST Central Eurasian Study Group Public Symposium
“Central Asia 20 Years On From Independence:Political and Economic Situation and Challenges” / 31 January 2012

—Experts on Central Asia reported on the situation in the region 20 years on, including the influence of Russia and economic relations with Japan in the years ahead.

Professor Shigeki Hakamada of Aoyama Gakuin University, who chairs the Study Group, began by noting that the ‘Eurasian Alliance’ advocated by Vladimir Putin in October 2011 would appear to be intended as a framework for strengthening economic ties based upon a customs union. Drawing on Vitaly Tretyakov’s observations on Russia’s relationship with Asia, he suggested that Russia’s coercive attitude toward smaller powers had revived, and that Russia was strengthening its influence over the former Soviet republics. While there had been a range of reactions among CIS countries toward the proposed alliance, economic dependence was in fact strengthening on various fronts, and the Central Eurasian countries were working simultaneously to secure their position as independent nations while pursuing closer ties with the US, Europe and China as well as Russia to reap the available economic benefits.

Reflecting on the impact on Russia of the ‘Arab Spring’, while young Russians too were mobilizing via the Internet, their motivation was not economic dissatisfaction but rather a sense of humiliation arising from, among other things, elections that ignore the people’s will, and as such, Professor Hakamada felt that their influence on Russia’s future would be quite limited. In terms of the Arab Spring’s impact on other Central Asian countries with authoritarian systems, the coup in Kyrgyzstan demonstrated the fragility of the situation in these countries, and governments were bearing that possibility in mind.

Professor Hakamada also noted that Russia and the CIS countries were entangled in the Central Asian/Caucasus region, making matters extremely tense in terms of international strategy, while with the Iranian nuclear development issue stirring things up in the Middle East, Russia was in fact primed for war, and Israel’s threatened attack on Iran was bringing tensions to a boiling point. He concluded by calling on Japan to be aware of the critical nature of the situation.

Mr. Nobuhisa Degawa, Senior Commentator of the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK), considered “How far the‘Arab Spring’might spread”, observing that the regime changes and democracy movements in the Middle East and Arab countries would not necessarily promise the better future, and could prompt confusion and disorder.
Mr. Degawa began by analysing the Egyptian parliamentary elections, in which the various Islamist political parties together captured more than 70 percent of the seats to score an easy victory, while the democratization movement which forced the Mubarak administration to stand down suffered a crushing defeat. He noted that overthrowing a dictatorship and building a new state were entirely different things, and suggested that, given the major repercussions that the success or failure of the democratization of Egypt would have, all possible support from the world community should be extended in this regard. Next, Mr. Degawa looked at the situation in Syria, where the number of victims of armed oppression by the Assad regime was climbing swiftly. He focused on the current state of oppression, whereby even children are being tortured then brutally murdered; the structure of authoritarian control by the Alawi, a minority Islamic sect; the geopolitical importance of Syria, which borders on five countries; and the reasons why Russia and China are exercising their power of veto at the Security Council. He suggested that the fate of the Assad regime would not only radically change the power balance across the whole Middle East, but could also spill beyond the borders of the Arab world to impact on the democratization movement in the Central Asia.

Dr. Tetsuji Tanaka, Executive Director of the Central Asia-Caucasus Research Institute and General Manager of the Study Group, looked at what has been achieved over the 20 years of Central Asian independence and current conditions. In relation to the economic development of the eight Central Asian and Southern Caucasus countries, he noted the sharp difference in economic performance between the four countries with resources and the four without, and suggested that the difficult situation of economic disparities existing both between and within countries would continue for the meantime. He also noted that authoritarian regimes that were basically one step off dictatorships continued in Central Asia and the Southern Caucasus. Those countries with resources were experiencing a rise in quasi-nationalism that was pushing up the walls highter around their borders, resulting in a substantial decline in intraregional economic cooperation compared to the Soviet Republic era. From a transition economy perspective, the Central Asia/Caucasus region, and particularly the resource-rich countries, seemed to be following the East Asian model (like China and Vietnam), which was characterized by successful economic reforms but little movement on political reforms(continuance of Communist Party dictatorship), rather than the Eastern and Central European model.

Turning to relations with Japan, while the region was hopeful of private-sector investment and the advanced technologies that would accompany it, the single-minded pursuit of resource diplomacy needed to be exchanged for more broadly-based interaction. In the short-term, it would be critical to ensure steady implementation of the Action Plan for the ‘Central Asia Plus Japan Dialogue’ scheme. With China and Korea expanding their presence in the region and Russia on the road to recovery, Japan needs to develop its own unique style of economic cooperation attractive and sustainable for Central Asia and the Caucasus. In addition, returning to the Eurasian Alliance proposed by Vladimir Putin, who is now assured of a return to the presidency of Russia, while there were delicate differences in the attitudes of the various Central Asian countries according to their distance from the US and the West, this new Russian initiative would comprise an economic union among ex-Soviet republics, and was consequently essentially Russia’s strategy for a return to Central Asia.

In addition, Mr. Takayoshi Tsuda, Director of the Central Asia and Caucasus Office at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), addressed the economic relations of the Central Asian countries with Japan, outlining the economic situation in the region and the status of trade and investment with Japan, and also explaining the framework for economic dialogue between Japan and Central Asia and measures to be taken by METI in the time ahead.

(The responsibility for the wording of this article lies with the IIST; titles are as at the time of the symposium.)


IIST Asia Study Group Public Symposium
“China’s East Asian Economic Cooperation and Japan”/ 9 February 2012

—China is currently working hard to foster closer ties with the ASEAN countries, and its influence is growing. We asked five experts in this area for their views on how Japan should handle this situation.

In the keynote address, entitled ‘China’s Emergence and East Asia’, Professor Takashi Shiraishi, President of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, pointed to the structural tension that exists between economic and security systems in East Asia, and suggested that we have enjoyed the relative stability of the region despite the tension because of the strategic rationality of China’s foreign policy and the strategies adopted by Japan and the US ―in particular, China’s policy of "hide and bide" in international affairs and the policies of strategic engagement Japan and the US pursued in supporting China's economic development and its integration to the global economy. However, in the past several years, China's behavior in South China Sea as well as its assertiveness in some of the global and regional issues cast doubt on China’s capability of strategic policy-making, while the US under the Obama administration began re-engaging Asia. These developments significantly affected the regional dynamics of cooperation. While East Asia served as a regional framework for cooperation in the wake of 1997-98 economic crisis because of the heavy US intervention in some of the East Asian countries, now China is seen as a risk and the Asia Pacific has reemerged as a framework for cooperation because it is important to have the US back in to hedge the China risk. Professor Shiraishi also observed that there is no sign of the making of a Sino-centric regional order for now - and for that matter in the near future. Examining the behavior of various East Asian states, Professor Shiraishi suggested that rather than their bandwagoning on rising China, they behave differently from one state to another and that their different behavior can be explained in terms of their geopolitical positions in the US-led regional security system, their level of integration into the regional and global economy, and the purpose of politics defined domestically, although it is important to remember that China's "economic cooperation" may eventually change the parameters by which Southeast Asian states, especially those in the GMS, define their national interests.

Dr. Yuri Sato, Deputy Director-General of IDE-JETRO’s Area Studies Center, addressed the topic of China’s economic presence from the perspective of Indonesia, a country very much in the spotlight in recent years. Indonesia’s trade structure has a distinct duality: asymmetric trade with China, whereby Indonesia exports resources to China and imports industrial products in return, and balanced trade within ASEAN. That trade with China impacts not only on Indonesia’s trade structure and industrial structure, but also on its industrial policy and even ministerial appointments. She also explained China’s informal trade and investment with Indonesia, which are difficult to gauge through statistics, and infrastructure development projects emerging from top-level diplomacy such as the Surabaya-Madura Bridge as typical examples of public-private investment, lending and assistance functioning together as a unit. From the perspective of Indonesia’s industrial structure and job creation, it would be useful if China, with its progressive currency appreciation, were to replace its mass exports of low-price goods with direct investment and to correct its informality of trade and investment.

Next, Mr. Toshihiro Kudo, Director of Southeast Asian Studies Group II at the IDE-JETRO, took up the subject of Myanmar-China relations in the context of Myanmar’s recent democratic reforms. He focused specifically on new developments in the relationship between China and Myanmar, and whether China remained ‘paukphaw’, the Myanmar word for sibling or intimate which has traditionally been used as a reflection of the closeness of Sino-Myanmar relations. In recent years, neighboring countries such as China, Thailand and India have not only been engaged in resource development in Myanmar—natural gas, hydropower and mining, etc.—but have also launched into the construction of large-scale infrastructure such as industrial parks and transport infrastructure (deep-sea ports, cross-border roads and expressways) to take advantage of Myanmar’s geopolitical importance. Mr. Kudo noted that China’s Myanmar policy has focused on economic cooperation and summit diplomacy designed to meet China’s strategic interests. However, recent years have seen the rise of anti-China sentiment in Myanmar, issues in relation to ethnic minorities living along the China-Myanmar border, and a decline in Myanmar’s dependence on China as US policy on Myanmar shifts. As the Myanmar administration seeks a more balanced diplomacy, adjustments are beginning to be made in the country’s relationship with China. Finally, in relation to Japan’s policy on Myanmar, Mr. Kudo noted the importance of Japan maintaining a consistent policy line, deploying policies that take advantage of pro-Japan sentiment in Myanmar, and engaging in top-level diplomacy.

Finally, bringing together the various threads of the symposium, IIST Asia Study Group Chair Yonosuke Hara, Senior Professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, offered his impressions, including the substantial growth in China’s presence, and the enormous economic impact of China that had emerged so clearly in the reports on Indonesia and Myanmar. He observed that attempting to determine the situation in East Asia by looking only at Japan, China and ASEAN was extremely dangerous. Professor Hara pointed out that in Laos, cooperation from Japan’s JICA was not growing as quickly as cooperation from Korea, highlighting the importance of Korea as a player when considering ASEAN’s future. He marked the importance of Professor Shiraishi’s observation in the keynote address that China’s strategic decision-making ability had declined, which he felt revealed that a range of stakeholders had now become players in policy-making, bringing an end to China’s monolithic status. Professor Hara closed by observing that not only Asia but the world as a whole had entered an age of instability and uncertainty.

In addition, Mr. Yoshikazu Shimizu, Deputy-Chief Editorial Writer at the Tokyo-Chunichi Shimbun, spoke on the themes of China’s leadership transition and Japan-China relations, explaining China’s foreign policy trajectory and outlining his views on the likely shape of Japan-China relations after the leadership transition.

(The responsibility for the wording of this article lies with the IIST; titles are as at the time of the symposium.)

(original article : Japanese)

(For the Japanese version of this article)


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