Awaji Conference Statement 2003

The Asia Pacific Forum, Awaji Conference Japan 2003
(August 2nd 2003, Awaji Yumebutai International Conference Center)

Globalization is a major historical trend and an overwhelming reality that cannot be denied. Any country that turns its back on it is doomed to a failure. The only way to deal with globalization is to explore the opportunities it presents.
The 1990s witnessed surge in globalization around the world. Especially at the end of the decade, the negative aspects of globalization became increasingly visible - the financial crisis, SARS, and the September eleventh attacks and other threats of Al-Qaeda. Therefore, we have reached a point where we must reconsider the implications of globalization, and reexamine the impact of globalization on the world.

Today's world sees a widening in the gap between rich and poor with the rich occupying one forth of the world's population and the poor accounting for the other three fourths. We have used free market principles to justify the increasing disparity in wealth, and there was a prevailing notion that it is not the responsibility of international society to take care of the countries that have fallen behind. Today, we must set about restructuring the world through a twofold approach: by coping with severe competition instead of eliminating it on the one hand, and by caring for and giving consideration to societies and individuals on the other.

Japan stands out in the world for its high barriers to free movement-barriers which impose strict restrictions on both short-term visits and longer-term residency. Historically, such barriers served to defend the nation against outside attacks and helped Japan pursue its own interests. Today, however, the barriers have become more harmful than helpful. On a micro level, one argument states that such barriers should be maintained to control illegal immigrants. But, we need to adopt a wider perspective in addressing this issue and focus on the survival and real interests of Japan. In our society today, where the impact of a falling birthrate and an aging population is an increasing pressure, in order to prevent the decline of our national power, we have no choice but to lower the barriers. In this regard, some measures have been already taken to solve some of the micro-level problems. For example, the roughly 43,000 Filipino women who are married to Japanese men and live in rural areas of Japan have received a warm welcome. As well, under the current legal framework, it is possible to invite IT specialists from Korea, China, and other countries to work in Japan for the maximum period of three years.

More important is how Japan can facilitate the cross-border movement of people on a macro basis. So far, cross-border movement has been subject to the Immigration Control Law, which functions to restrict such movements rather than to facilitate them. However, today we need the introduction of a new legal framework for foreign immigration that is aligned with Japan's national strategy. In other words, measures are urgently required that will make it easier for non-Japanese to settle in Japan, while still exerting legal control over foreign immigration. What would be the best Japanese way of accepting non-Japanese into our society? In what manner should Japanese immigration law function? Internationally, the general trend has been to allow the immigration of non-nationals who have engineering or other useful skills, money to invest, or blood ties to nationals. What options are available to Japan? It is extremely important to identify the characteristics of Japan in constructing a society where people of different national backgrounds live in harmony.

In the early part of the last century, the "Farewell to Asia" concept prevailed in Japan. Japan saw Asia as inferior and wanted to learn from the West, and this attitude led to an increase in military power and resulted in wars. Full reconciliation with other Asian countries and regions has still not been achieved. Despite this historical background, the rapid rise of East Asia as an economic power caused a dramatic change in the relationship between Japan and the rest of Asia. As the countries of East Asia became increasingly industrialized and modernized, they came to share much in common with Japan. As mentioned earlier, one fourth of the world population are classified as rich, and three fourths of the population live in poverty. East Asia is certainly moving rapidly into the category of the rich, and for this, they should be held in high esteem. Now we are paying much more attention to East Asia, not so much because "Asia is One," but more because we feel empathy and respect for the strategy those countries have chosen to survive under conditions of globalization.

Today, East Asia has departed from the practice of marching together, hand-in-hand, and entered a new stage. Distinctions of superior and inferior between nations no longer exist. All the countries and regions are at the same starting line, setting out to cope with the surging waves caused by the IT Revolution. Samsung Electronics led by CEO Jong-Yong Yun is one of the high tech companies that got a head start. Each country and region is now pressed to make renovations on its own. In this light, we must be aware of how important it is to learn from the experiences of other nations and from each other.

To better cope with this situation, we must take a dual approach. First, we must enter into the fierce competition that globalization has brought about and be able to cope successfully with the competition. Global standards allow no compromise, and we have not a moment to lose. We must resolutely face the challenge of globalization and continue our efforts toward self-innovation. Even in the midst of intense competition, however, we must not coldly turn our backs on those who have not prospered in the competition. We have much to learn from the attitude of some employers who treat employees with respect and fairness even in an environment that demands extremely hard work. We must not just sit with our arms folded and allow the right to a better life to be usurped. What we should do is to respect our community, and rather than discarding the traditional aspects of the community, we must ensure that, in the process of modernization, its significance is underscored. Remember that Thailand, even in the turmoil of the financial crisis of 1997, continued to place importance on its cultural traditions while coping with the crisis from an international perspective. This case is full of valuable lessons.

Second, the importance of political systems must be emphasized. In Japanese society, a limited number of groups have the power to prevent changes from occurring. Breaking the ties between interest groups and the government is a formidable task, which requires changes in the way we feel and think. First of all, we must have a sense of crisis. Equally important, we should develop an open-minded attitude: an open-minded perspective on international relations should be at the basis of our thoughts and ideas. The U.K. also experienced many difficulties in accepting foreign immigrants, whose percentage in the entire population is now at 5-7%. However, in the process of accepting foreigners, English people came to realize that it is not at all impossible to live in harmony with immigrants in their local communities. Japan has not had such an experience and therefore needs some measures to make up for this lack. Specifically, agricultural issues may have a serious impact on the relationship of Japan with the rest of Asia and the world.

Third, attention should be focused on technical innovations as a means of exploring new frontiers in this age characterized by the absence of geographical frontiers. We are especially anticipating breakthroughs in the fields of energy, biotechnology and agriculture.

Fourth, we in Japan must identify what we have learned from our past and derive some useful information from our experience. Since the Meiji period, Japan has looked to the rest of the world in order to build a modern national state, while, at the same time, protecting its domestic communities. Japan's success in modernizing the nation did not involve widening of the gap between the rich and poor, as profits were distributed broadly among its citizens. That process surely must have some important lessons for other Asian countries and regions.

Fifth, globalization has been driven by an intense desire for freedom and self-realization. If no brakes are applied to this desire, problems will inevitably arise. In this age in which we find ourselves, we must learn to survive under the conditions of globalization and at the same time, we must continue to respect our own local cultures. We should develop the attitude of learning from each other, recognize the value of a multicultural community and take an action to build such a community. Such an attitude will eventually allow a sense of community to become deeply rooted in the entire Asian region.

Finally, Japan has to develop its human resources, especially those individuals who show the promise of leadership, to successfully address the problems affecting the entire world. By using the term "develop human resources," We also mean that we must encourage personal development and facilitate the growth of our own community, the most fundamental task to be undertaken.

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