Awaji Conference Statement 2010

Awaji Conference Statement
11th Asia Pacific Forum, Awaji Conference Japan
Saturday, August 7, 2010

The history of modern Japan began in the Meiji period with national goals of historic clarity, leading to successful modernization depicted in the bestselling novel and historical drama “Saka no Ue no Kumo (Clouds above the Hill).” However, the nation's failure to adapt to changes in the world order after World War I resulted in its downfall in World War II from which it rose again out of the ashes. Relying on the United States for national and collective security, post-war Japan became a nation of prosperity in peace without military might, eventually rising to become the world's second largest economy. Japan succeeded in establishing democracy, building a society of abundance with minimal economic inequality, and creating a social fabric that is kind to people. In terms of foreign relations also, Japan became a nation that was reasonably kind to its neighbors, such as in extending a helping hand to developing countries through means such as official development assistance and emergency disaster relief services. The peak of post-war Japan was in the 1980s, when it was reputedly the world's best and brightest nation for Monozukuri (the art of manufacturing).

However, one of Japan's tendencies is to be good at coming together as one to work strenuously in the aftermath of a shocking situation, such as a defeat in war, yet once it climbs to a high position, it is not good at moving forward in the pursuit of a new, better image of itself. Rather, Japan tends to cling to patterns which succeeded in the past, which more often than not causes it to stumble in the face of the next phase. In the late 1980s, when the Cold War was coming to an end, Japan was unable to refocus on a new set of goals for itself, instead indulging in its bubble economy, losing speed, and tumbling down. During the two “lost decades,” Japan lost its presence in the international scene and even now continues to stagnate. Why did this happen, and what should we be doing about it? This Awaji Conference is about taking that perspective to ponder and explore what our nation should embody, through a study of China and Korea, both of which accomplished particularly striking feats of economic development in the East Asian Miracle of the 1980s and 90s.
As Representative Director Satoshi Iue mentioned in his address today, traveling to Korea in the 1960s had him hearing the phrase, “kenchanayo,” or “don't worry, it's all right,” over and over again. But in the 1980s, that had changed to “pali pali haseyo,” or “quickly, quickly.” On business trips to China for the Haier merger, he would hear about the importance of speed and the phrase, “mǎshàng xíngdòng (we must act now).” Our Asian neighbors are now showing the same face that Japan had in the 1960s, in the form of “Moretsu Shain (fiercely hardworking employees)” and “Kamikaze Taxi”. By contrast, today's Japanese youths are inward-looking, appearing to have little interest in going or traveling overseas.

Professors Dukmin Yun and Masao Okonogi have provided some enlightening insights into the secret of Korea's remarkable economic progress. After the 1960s, under the leadership of President Park Chung Hee, Korea proceeded with building its nation and economy. The 1997 East Asian economic crisis and the intervention of IMF served as the springboard for the great leap forward. The nation was transformed into a dynamic, competitive society which looked toward the world and expanded outward. The people came to value not inward-looking, safe choices but bold and daring actions which involved taking risks. In addition to the momentum of the private sector, the national government's policies and strategies were also very serious. Not only did the government impose financial discipline but also aggressively coordinated industry under strong leadership; the electronics sector was made to focus on Samsung and the automobile sector on Hyundai to raise competitiveness. Now, Korea is negotiating for free trade agreements with not only its Asian neighbors but also with the United States and nations in Europe. President Lee Myung-bak has launched his “Global Strategy Korea” program.

In such a society which has chosen an international strategy, persons who study abroad and obtain degrees become the elite. Such persons, even when they return to Korea, seek out opportunities outside their nation and play active roles on the international stage. Combined with the courage to take risks and compete, this movement is an incredibly strong, robust one. Needless to say there are bound to be strains and polarizations as well, but since the Korean identity is so strong, it may be for the best to absorb as much foreign influences as they can, if not more, and the end result will be a perfect balance. In short, the direction set by the nation's leadership, coupled with the private sector's energy and culture, has made it possible for Korea, with less than half the population of Japan and with that population aging more rapidly than Japan's, to exert such a robust, active influence in the international setting in so many different fields.

Professor Kazuko Mori gave us her analysis of China's remarkable progress in the face of its inherent contradictions. Since the reform and open-door policy put in place by Deng Xiaoping on the eve of 1980, followed by his series of speeches during a tour of southern China in 1992, the course was set to achieve the national strategy of economic growth within the context of the global market. During the 30 years of high economic growth, there has been a sense of having been running full tilt, suppressing the problems among ethnic groups by having everyone making a profit, making everyone richer. The failure of the Lehman Brothers, in particular, was a profound shock to the global economy, and China was no exception, with the migration of rural workers to the cities to look for work coming to a stop. But the Chinese rural areas themselves have incredible depth. In China, the cities and regions have developed side by side, and as a whole the country is moving with an enormous amount of dynamism. Even if Shanghai is down, the other regions are thriving, and that energy will come bouncing back to Shanghai. There is good reason to believe that there is a significant possibility of 8-percent growth continuing for the time being.

Notwithstanding problems such as the risk of a bubble, the highly vocal lobby groups, riots, and corruption, we still must assume that the outstanding competence of the human resources concentrated within the Party and the expansive breadth of authority still remaining in the hands of the government, to a level unthinkable in Japan, give China a considerable amount of power to deal with its issues. Even so, the country is at a crossroads, and there is only so far it can go with the dearth of political freedom and the existing system of decision-making.

So then the major issue becomes the future of Chinese democracy. China in its present state has a system which allows large numbers of its people to keep from starving to death, and offers its citizens a better lifestyle. When we look at the big picture, we can say it is unlikely that the system will fall apart like its historical predecessors did in the aftermath of the Taiping Rebellion or the Boxer Uprising. Whether it will eventually resemble something like the Korean or Taiwanese model, or Indonesian, or perhaps the soft authoritarianism of the Singaporean single-party system, the fact remains that China will probably have no choice but to continue to grope its way toward its own form of democracy. With the fourth generation of leadership aiming toward democracy but at the same time fearing it, the way China comes to its conclusion to this issue will have repercussions beyond the nation's borders.

On another note, the strength of the Chinese economy in the context of the global economic crisis is a lifesaver for its Asian neighbors as well as the entire outside world. At the same time, the nation's pursuit of military expansion is a major concern. It is unacceptable for China to remain stuck in a traditional, power politics view of international politics, vying to resist American hegemony by maneuvering for control of the Pacific, Indian, and other surrounding ocean areas. There are many people in China who already realize that this is no longer the era of imperialism, but rather the age of globalization and interdependence. The crucial task for the United States, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asian countries will be to activate that segment and work with them.

The Chinese people have a toughness and resilience that allow them to relax and be themselves anywhere in the world, as if they were in their own living room. This trait, as well as the dynamism of the Chinese and Korean leadership classes, is something the Japanese should learn from. It has been pointed out that China and Korea are in the process of overcoming the limitations of the Japanese. When we look at Korea and China, we find that what is staring back at us in the mirror is the Japanese culture of “defensiveness,” particularly among our young people. While this may be an aspect of the ancient virtue of valuing harmony, it is an inward-oriented attitude, risk-averse and shunning work that is dangerous, dirty, and demanding. In addition, we can observe a strange, perhaps even extreme, situation where respect for vested interests is firmly legalized and the opinions of a few can put a stop to the whole. Resting atop such a system, our leadership is unable to come up with a national strategy and appears to be drifting along with the massive waves that keep crashing into us one after another. Can present-day Japan be capable of getting itself back on track for re-emergence without having to go through another disastrous war defeat or similar major downfall? The key to re-emergence without truly falling is to realize we are in an overwhelming crisis situation. We must share the sense of crisis that we are already rolling downhill, in order to avert another defeat in war and resurrect ourselves.

We cannot just stand around bemoaning the disposition of today's youth. It is not as if all our youth are inward-oriented; there is no shortage of enthusiastic young people who are willing to work hard. The key is to create a momentum in society, and to give the right kind of education. As adults and as a society, we cannot afford to back down just because we perceive our young people to be a certain way.

As for the recent vogue of negating the bureaucracy – the question, then, is whether we have think tanks like those in the United States, where an endless supply of ideas are produced and aired for every conceivable problem from the left to the right. And the answer is no, we do not have such things here. In that context, when we negate the bureaucrats who do the intricate calculations to formulate our plans, we run the risk of having politics without expertise. This is evident in the insufficiency of the recent political manifestos.

What we need is for our society to have an open, high quality perspective, and for the government to capitalize on that. In that sense, the crucial factor becomes human resource development and the utilization of knowledge which comes out of that process. However, Japan has not engaged in creating leadership classes like China has been doing, or in sending its elite overseas to study like Korea has been. The Japanese forte has been in creating leaders not by discriminating but rather by giving all its ordinary citizens the ability to read, write, and do the abacus, and by these citizens having the solid morals and work ethics of the long-suffering and incredibly hardworking heroine of the enormously popular television series, “Oshin.” However, this advantage inevitably began to fall apart at the seams with Japan's successful modernization and the subsequent pluralization and maturation of society. All developed societies must be the same in that a diverse range of people are born into them, all with their own preferences and intentions. In that context, Japan is face to face with the fundamental issue of how to supply ourselves with a class of leaders and the elite experts to support them. Criticism toward the existing elite continues to grow, but we have not yet fully developed new classes of elites. It is also important to encourage people who put their special skills and expertise to work in specialized fields such as culture, sports, and medicine.

It has been pointed out that the things we use in our society can be manufactured by 20% of our population, which means the remaining 80% are facing potential job loss and the governments of developed nations are all nervous about this. It is essential for developed societies to encourage and allow our pluralistic human resources to make the most of their abilities. We need to have a breadth that is not limited to mere economic activity. No matter how decentralized our governments become, and how developed our civil societies may be, there are three tasks the central government cannot abandon. Those are diplomacy, national security, and the designing of systems at the national level. Politics need to maximize the visions in society and exercise leadership to create overall systems. The importance of the private sector and rural areas must be focused on in that context as well.

As we have seen, the challenges facing Japan are enormous, and another point we emphasize is our participation in global governance. For Japan, it is particularly important to nurture our relationship with our neighbor, Korea. This year is the 100th anniversary of the Japanese annexation of Korea. Although we Japanese may not wish to be reminded, this is a wound that festers deep within the hearts of Korean people. For the Japanese government to ignore this issue at this point in time is in itself a form of harassment, deepening the wound. Prime ministers Murayama, Hosokawa, Koizumi, and Obuchi have all issued honest statements toward Korea which indicate an awareness of Japan's responsibility. The present government would do well to issue a sincere statement along the same line, in its own words.

The important thing is cooperation of the private sector, particularly to proceed with Japanese-Korean FTA. Our nations are becoming increasingly similar, and we need to go beyond this situation where our bodies are one but our heads begin to argue at the slightest provocation. Having this kind of cooperative relationship is essential for Japan to overcome its inward-looking tendency and move forward. We also need to dialogue with our giant neighbor China, to be a good sounding board for China on how its civilization is going to unfold, and to be a partner in leading the Asian region.

Now that we have a trilateral framework of Japan, China, and Korea, we must cherish this relationship and deal with the issues facing our region, as well as participate in global governance. At the same time, it is important to engage in concrete endeavors and projects in all parts of Japan. Seeing our energized neighbors in the two days of this conference, We have learned that the rise and fall of nations is dictated by overall leadership and the connection between citizens' momentum in society. This makes it all the more important for us to be courageous in promoting visionary projects toward making our nation strong in technology and the environment, as well as in fostering special agricultural zones and marine farms in Awaji. It is the hope of the Awaji Conference that these actions will lead to increased momentum for Japan as a whole.

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