Media  International Exchange  2015.03.23

Japan, China and South Korea's duty to contribute to stabilize the world order that tends to be disturbed by various factors, one of which is represented by violent activities of the Islamic State

An article published in JBpress on October 20, 2014

Challenges to world security from the violence of the Islamic State have had a negative effect internationally. This has touched not only western countries but also Japan with the case of a journalist or ordinary persons since last fall.

Hotbeds of terrorism and international conflict are anarchy in areas of power vacuum
At present, the main challengers to the United States, the sole world superpower which plays a leading role to maintain the world order, are China, Russia and non-state powers.

The conventional US policy towards Russia and China of both containment and engagement by means of military and economic power looks working to some extent. However, the huge military power and economic strength of the US does not seem be effective with non-state powers.

It has been thirteen years since the September 11 attacks in 2001, but there is no end in sight regarding various challenges from non-state powers against the US and the world order.

It is said that the basic cause of terrorism and international conflict by non-state powers is a malfunction of the state governments. That is, the existence of anarchic state in the areas of power vacuum where the minimum standards of social stability, which includes maintenance of public order and provision of poverty alleviation program, public hygiene management systems and educational opportunity, are not guaranteed. This becomes hotbeds of terrorism and international conflict.

Such areas of power vacuum are common in the Middle East and Africa, but are few in Asia. It is thought that one big reason for this is that most countries in Asia have succeeded in introducing an economic growth model and have experienced economic development, which makes realizing poverty eradication and basic infrastructure construction such as waterworks, electricity, schools, and hospitals possible.

Of course, economic development by itself is not enough to stop terrorism and international conflict by non-state powers. In the Middle East conflicts often happen due to incompetence of the state governments despite the region being, on the whole, a wealthy one.

Nevertheless, it is likely that the major factors giving rise to terrorism and international conflict (one famous American security specialist claimed it could be up to 80% of all those factors) can be eliminated by eradicating poverty and promoting economic development.

Asia, where economic development has been realized by introducing the Japanese model
Looking around the present-day world, in the seventy years after the Second World War, the area with the highest concentration of consistently economically stable nations is Asia.

After the Second World War, the defeated nation Japan was the first in Asia to progress economically. It should have been thought that Japan had no chance of recovering after the capital, Tokyo, had become an expanse of burnt ruins and atomic bombs had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan's economic development was a miracle for the world at that time.

Japan, ruined by war, made use of low-cost manpower, earned foreign currency by increasing exports of textiles and other low added value products, attempted to stabilize its current account balance, and controlled inflation by maintaining the stability of its currency. At the same time, private companies strived to increase their technological capability and modernized their industrial structure. The Japanese government set the infrastructure in place and developed industrial clusters. These factors brought about Japan's high growth.

After that, by introducing the Japanese model which had achieved such miraculous economic development, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and China have realized high economic growth.

From now, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and India are likely to follow these nations. Outside Asia, Brazil, Russia, Turkey and South Africa are also expected to achieve economic development.

Japan, China and South Korea should cooperate for the promotion of economic development and poverty eradication
Proper operation in macroeconomic and industrial policies is necessary for such developing countries to maintain economic development, overcome the middle income trap and shift to a stable economy as advanced counties. In addition to this, in the present globalized economy, attracting direct investment from high ranking foreign companies is also necessary.

Economic development will be promoted in the aforementioned countries if Japan, China and South Korea, who have succeeded in developing their economies, combine their efforts and cooperate in giving guidance on various economic policies, supporting infrastructure construction, encouraging Japanese, Chinese and South Korean companies to advance into emerging economies and providing industrial engineering know-how.

This will stimulate the economies of poorer neighbouring countries and will act as a base for economic development in wider areas.

In the areas around countries whose level of economic development is comparatively high, there are extreme low income counties or areas facing serious poverty, hunger, the spread of infectious diseases or a decline in law and order. In these countries or areas basic social infrastructure such as waterworks, electricity, schools and hospitals has not been established and minimum public services are lacking.

Such poor countries or areas cannot introduce the Japanese model immediately. They need to start by establishing a minimum social infrastructure. In addition, an improvement in governance is indispensable for poverty eradication in such countries or areas.

In recent times China has been most successful at eradicating poverty. China will be a good model for such poor countries and areas.

However, China is a unique country in the political system. Accordingly, countries would find it easier to accept help from China if it is in cooperation with Japan and South Korea rather than if it acts alone.

The cost of supporting a minimum standard of infrastructure construction in least developed countries or areas is much lower than that needed to support developing countries that are well along the path to development. Moreover, doing so is not a big burden for Japan, China and South Korea relative to the size of their economies. Nevertheless success in supporting those extreme poor countries and areas cannot be easily achieved.

A key to success in supporting countries and areas of power vacuum is to build a relationship of trust with local populations - Japan's soft power will lead to a breakthrough in gaining support in such countries and areas

The US expert in international politics points out that the most important thing to succeed in providing support to countries and areas of power vacuum is to build a relationship of trust with the local population.

The US has been supporting Iraq and Afghanistan with extensive aid. However, these countries have not been able to build the government institutions which can provide stable governance and public services based on basic social infrastructure.

It has been suggested that one of the major reasons for this was a lack of trust between the US and these countries.

I think that building a relationship of trust beyond national borders is one area where Japan is strong at and can lead the field in unique way.

Japanese people has compassion for others, as they showed it after the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, as well as perseverance, morality, capability in the maintenance of public order and 'omotenashi', which loosely translates as hospitality, a keyword used by the Japanese bidding group in the process to host the Olympic Games in 2020. These characteristics should be useful in building mutual understanding and mutual trust among all nationalities.

A renowned American specialist on the Middle East also states his expectation that Japan will use its soft power to build trust between countries offering support and areas in need of support and may be able to provide new openings for problem solving in areas of power vacuum by spreading the Asian model of economic development.

Mutual understanding and mutual trust is the most essential element for Japan, China and South Korea to come together. It is Japan's role to unite the three countries. If Japan tries to deal bilaterally with China or with South Korea there is a tendency to return to historical problems or territorial issues that remain unsettled indefinitely but simply inflame nationalistic sentiments.

However, if Japan turns its eyes from East Asia to the world Japan's soft power can be used to reconcile these differences in order to share the common objective, which is the long term stability of peaceful world order, with China and South Korea.

If Japan, China and South Korea can unite and contribute to the economic development, poverty eradication and improvement of governance in areas where non-state powers are armed as well as neighbouring areas, particular attention to various matters such as security, cultural and religious strife is necessary.

Japan, China and South Korea have as yet little experience in such matters, so it would be too much of a challenge to achieve these aims by themselves. The US has the most experience in this area. Accordingly, Japan, China and South Korea must have support from the US, and step by step extend their support to chronically poor areas and finally to power vacuum areas.

The importance of having a sense of involvement in international stability - going beyond the conflicting emotions
As we know when we look back on the history of Asian economic development after the Second World War, it will take twenty years or more to achieve economic development and poverty eradication throughout the world. However, there is a way to spread peace and stability without using military power. The present Asian situation proves that.

Cooperation among Japan, China and South Korea will contribute considerably to stability in the peaceful world order by providing new means of support. At the same time, due to mutual cooperation over the common target a gradual easing of nationalistic sentiments regarding historical problems and territorial issues could be expected. This should then lead to growing trust and mutual understanding between the three countries.

Japan, China and South Korea are shackled by their disputes and have not tried to face the grim reality of instability in the world order.

As they turn their attention to the serious problems of the world, they should not have enough time to waste on emotional confrontation inside East Asia. In spite of that, the three countries persist in obsessions regarding historical problems or territorial issues all the while challenges to the world by non-state powers, such as the Islamic State, increase.

This indicates that the three countries care less about taking on the burden of contributing to the peaceful world order than about their own territory.

The world has become more and more multi-polarized. Now the total GDP of Japan, China and South Korea has almost reached that of the US, and East Asia will surely be in a position to lead the world economy by 2020. The three countries should face up to this fact, and should have a definite sense of involvement in the promotion of stability in the world order as a responsible stakeholder.

They have to realize that it shows a lack of responsibility to the world to continue their obsessions over their own historical problems or territorial issues.

(This article was translated from the Japanese transcript of Mr. Seguchi's column published by JBpress on October 20, 2014.)