"Japan's Valued Role in Promoting Public Goods"
Op-Ed, Asahi Shimbun
June 14, 2007
Author: Joseph S. Nye, Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security
This commentary comprises excerpts from a keynote speech Joseph S. Nye delivered May 26 in Tokyo at an Asahi Shimbun symposium on its 21 "Proposals for Japan's New Strategies" that ran in May 3 editions of The Asahi Shimbun and on May 23 in IHT/Asahi.
Japan has been dealing with globalization for more than a century and a half. In responding to globalization, Japan has reinvented itself twice, first in the Meiji Era (1868–1912) and after World War II, and grew to be the world's second-largest economy.
If this is a time for a third reinvention or strategy for Japan, it will depend on how Japan sees the distribution of power in world politics today. What is that distribution of power to which Japan needs to respond?
I have argued that this period in world history is unique because power is distributed like a three-dimensional chess game, in which you play on three boards at the same time.
On the top board of military relations between states, there is one superpower, the United States—one country able to project military power on a global scale.
But if you look at the second board of economic relations among states, the world is already multipolar. There is in fact a balance of economic power. The United States may be the only military superpower, but it is not the only economic power.
When you go to the bottom level of these three chess boards, to the bottom board—which is the board of transnational relations or things that cross borders outside the control of governments—there you find that power is chaotically distributed. Think of global climate change, pandemics like avian flu, international crime and drug trafficking and transnational terrorism. The only solution to these transnational problems is for governments to cooperate with each other to deal with them.
In that sense, from the differences of the top board and the bottom board, on this bottom board you need to use much more soft power, not just hard power.
The ability to attract others to cooperate and to deal with these new transnational threats is an area where soft power is becoming increasingly important.
If we look at the role the United States has played in this current distribution of world power that I have described as having been typical since the end of the Cold War, the United States has made a number of serious mistakes.
U.S. learning hard lessons
On the economic board and the transnational board, the United States is not a superpower. It requires the cooperation of others.
Unfortunately, it is learning this lesson the hard way in Iraq.
In cooperating with others, the United States has to define its national interests in a broad way. One of the ways that it should define its national interests is to provide global public goods.
A public good is something from which all can benefit and none can be excluded. Essentially, the vision that The Asahi Shimbun offered in its 21 editorials is that Japan should become a coordinator of international public goods.
As described in the Asahi editorials, Japan can play an important role in providing global public goods.
First in the list of editorials is to deal with global climatic change. This is a high priority. I was intrigued to see Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently spell this out as a goal for Japan with his goal of cutting emissions in half by the middle of the century.
A second role for Japan as a coordinator of public goods is helping to stabilize globalization. That means support for the institutions that underlie the trade and financial systems—which include the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and others.
In addition, it requires keeping one's own markets open. Health is another dimension of ecological globalization that Japan should pay attention to.
A third example in the Asahi editorials about Japan as a global coordinator of public goods is the task of alleviating poverty. Japan in the past has played a very important role in overseas development assistance (ODA).
There has been some fatigue with aid, but it is time to overcome that fatigue and to restore Japan's role and leadership in ODA.
The fourth example of Japan as a global coordinator of public goods is in helping prevent conflicts. Japan playing a role in the U.N. Peacebuilding Commission and the important role of U.N. peacekeeping operations and Japan's participation in them are good examples.
In addition to peacebuilding and peacekeeping, it is also important to preserve institutions like the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the regime for nonproliferation as part of a structure of global public goods.
A fifth area is the promotion of democracy and human rights.
In the United States, many of the neoconservatives came in with a rather naive view that they could promote democracy with a gun, that the basic form of export of democracy could be hard power, or as sometimes people put it, "We could transform the Middle East by producing democracy in Iraq."
Many people now realize that that was hubris and an illusion, but that does not mean that promotion of democracy and human rights is a bad idea.
Here again, I think Japan can play a leading role with soft power.
A sixth area in which Japan can play an important role is in bridging the idea of a clash of civilizations.
To the extent to which Japan is a successful Asian modernizer that has responded to globalization while preserving its own country, the role that Japan can play in bridging these differences of civilizations can be another form of a global public good that Japan can help coordinate.
Seventh on the list of global public goods that Japan can help coordinate is to promote stability in East Asia.
The most dramatic and striking thing in East Asia today is the rise and the power of China. There has to be a way of welcoming China into the international system as "a responsible stakeholder."
Put the 1930s behind us
I think a triangle of good relations between the United States, Japan and China, with good relations in all three legs of the triangle, is going to be a very important part of stability in East Asia. It is important for both China and Japan to put the 1930s behind us and to focus on the future.
Finally, the eighth of the areas of global public goods that I will identify from the Asahi editorials is the development of international institutions. In this region, in Northeast Asia, I think the idea of developing the six-party talks into a broader framework for a Northeast Asian security dialogue would be a useful position that Japan could help to promote.
These are eight ways I see in the Asahi editorials in which the country could implement this vision of Japan as the coordinator of global public goods. That does leave one question, however, which is: What about the role of force?
Here we have the issue of Japan's Constitution and Article 9. I regard this issue of Article 9 as an internal issue for Japan to solve without any gaiatsu. I think the idea of finding legal ways to put a framework under the Self-Defense Forces makes sense, as mentioned in the Asahi editorials.
The set of 21 editorials that Asahi has offered as its vision for Japan in the 21st century is welcome evidence of Japan's willingness to reinvent itself. It is welcome evidence of the continuing creativity of Japan and the role that Japan can play in contributing to the world, and of why Japan's soft power is likely to increase in the future.
The question is: How is Japan rising? I regard the Asahi's "New Strategy for Japan" editorials as a good start to a liberal answer to that question.
Joseph S. Nye is the University Distinguished Service Professor and former dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He has served as U.S. assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, chair of the National Intelligence Council and deputy undersecretary of state for security assistance, science and technology. He is the author of "Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics" and other books.
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