(Nikkei: January 1, 2015 – p. 2)
The year 2015, which marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, has started. This is an important year to look back on history.
The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is celebrating the 60th year of its founding. This year will mark the 50th anniversary of the normalization of Japan-ROK relations. It will also be the 40th anniversary of the summit of advanced nations, the 30th anniversary of the Plaza Accord, the 20th anniversary of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the 10th anniversary of the effectuation of the Kyoto Protocol. These were all events that shaped the frameworks of domestic politics, foreign policy, and economics.
The world and Japan are moving ahead rapidly today. Where are we going, and what are our goals?
The postwar order in flux
The U.S.-Soviet Cold War that dominated the postwar order ended 25 years ago in December 1989. This put an end to the era of ideological confrontation, and with the “end of history,” it was hoped that the world would become one through democracy and free economy.
America was at the center of this world order and it was thought that a unipolar world would ensue. Yet, the U.S.’s influence has waned with rapid economic globalization and China has risen to achieve a transfer of power, ushering in an era of dispersion of power, or a so-called “G-Zero” world.
Meanwhile, globalization has also resulted in social disparity. Political leaders who wanted to alleviate discontent in a divided society and unite the nation have often resorted to inciting nationalism. This is one reason behind Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and China’s maritime advances.
Not only that, it now appears that China and Russia are challenging the U.S.-centered postwar order and making moves to create a new order.
The same is true with the “Islamic State” straddling Iraq and Syria. This is a challenge to the concept of the state through religious and ethnic bonds. The independence movements in Scotland and Catalonia are also manifestations of the same.
The same thing is happening in the economic realm. The postwar international financial order dominated by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is in flux.
China came up with the idea of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Twenty-two countries have signed up as founding members of this bank to be launched toward the end of 2015. This is most probably meant as a challenge to the existing framework.
So how do we deal with China and the other challengers? The point is how to develop a framework of governance to unite the world. This is a question of establishing global governance.
The U.S. is still powerful. First, the G7 members need to strengthen cooperation around the U.S. to enhance their influence. They will need to work for the creation of a consensus-building mechanism involving also the newly emerging nations. It is no longer possible to have a world without China’s participation.
This is not about destroying the existing order to build a new order. Concerted efforts need to be made to engage China in the maintenance and strengthening of the existing order based on the principle of rule of law and international public opinion.
A new framework for governance is also needed in Japan. The recent House of Representatives election has resulted in the LDP’s political predominance and the opposition parties are still a collection of weak entities, rendering them incapable of fully performing the check-and-balance function in the Diet.
Look to the future, not the past
Policymaking is now firmly controlled by the Prime Minister’s Official Residence. With the disintegration of the factions, there are no longer forces of resistance within the LDP and the party may become a mere aggregate of Diet members. The great majority of party members now consist of relatively young Diet members with a strong conservative ideology.
Now is the time to develop a consensus building mechanism under a two-thirds majority by the ruling parties.
Special attention needs to be paid to history issues this year, the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Japan needs to be aware that the statement the Prime Minister intends to issue on this occasion will not only affect relations with neighboring countries but will also be closely watched by the U.S. and the rest of the world.
Japan needs to reaffirm the path it has taken in the past 70 years as a peaceful nation based on its remorse for the past war. It needs to look to the future and not the past. (Slightly abridged)