[Viewpoint] Diplomacy for the next decade

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[Viewpoint] Diplomacy for the next decade

Ezra Vogel, an honorary professor of Harvard University, wrote the book “Japan as Number One” in 1979. That year marked the biggest trade deficit ever for the United States, at $28.4 billion, and one in which Japan gained much more clout on the global scene.

The book solved the riddle of Japanese industrial competitiveness and growth through analysis of the country’s corporate, government, leadership and educational systems. The conclusion was that the United States should learn from Japan.

In 1986, Vogel published a study, “East Asia: Pax Nipponica?” It stated that Japan would lead a new industrial revolution. They were controversial words at the time. Vogel then started to examine Chinese reform. In May 2008, he presented “Deng
Xiaoping and an Age of Reform” at a seminar held at Harvard University - 30 years after he wrote Japan as Number One.

I still remember the words of a Japanese authority I met at the seminar: “Times have changed.”

The expansion of Vogel’s field of research symbolizes a shift in academia to China from Japan.

It is clear that the tables will turn when it comes to Japanese and Chinese GDP this year.

China is growing at a rapid clip and appears to be on pace to capture the No. 2 spot in GDP behind the United States in 2009. Japan will likely fall to third for the first time in 42 years. This will represent the start of the United States-China “G2” age. And what better way to usher in this era than with Expo 2010 Shanghai China, which will be an exquisite event.

It would’ve been tough to imagine this scenario a century ago, when China was a colony and the sign “No Chinese or dogs allowed” was posted at the entrance to Shanghai National Park.

The fact that the tables are turning between China and Japan signals that the new decade will be an age of turbulence. The pride or pessimism of a country will easily be expressed as external policy.

Look back on Germany during World War I and World War II. Where will China go after it passes the point of inflection? There is a small chance that the egocentric Chinese ways, the country’s strategy for peaceful development and its aggressive volunteer diplomacy will change. The entire world is interested in how much its military power will expand.

There is even talk of overseas base construction coming from the military.

The basis of the Liberal Democratic Party’s international philosophy was tied to a U.S.-Japan strategy. Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who effectively ended the domination of the Liberal Democratic Party, is attempting to break the “55-year system,” though. He has one foot in the U.S.-Japan alliance and the other in Asia.

Yet he also is pursuing qualitative changes in the U.S.-Japan alliance. It is more of an equal relationship now. With relations between the two countries wavering a bit over the relocation of U.S. forces in Japan, the conservative camp is shouting out that the nation must fully commit itself to the return to a strong U.S.-Japan alliance.

The overall mind-set among the Japanese on this issue will not change easily. The situational awareness of strategists and the DNA of national leaders are linked to this theory.

The chairman of the Japan Research Institute, Jitsuro Terashima, who heads up diplomacy efforts under Prime Minister Hatoyama, promotes the idea of maintaining friendly relations with the United States and at the same time deploying a new strategy in Asia. But he paradoxically states that Japan needs to break away from diplomacy led by the United States with the dawn of the G2 age on the horizon. Hatoyama’s idea of an East Asian community definitively shows his pet theory of brotherly love.

Even skilled politicians and the chief secretary of the Democratic Party, Ichiro Ozawa, do not support the theory. They place importance on Asia and the United Nations. However, this does not mean China and Japan will not have their guards up against each other.

It is unclear what kind of triangle the United States, China and Japan will create. A new world order is certainly beginning to take place. The denuclearization of North Korea and the health and succession of the country’s leader, Kim Jong-il, will play big roles in this new order.

So what road should Korea take? I would first like to say that the Korea-U.S. alliance must not be damaged. The United States needs a clear door to Asia. Cooperation among Korea, the United States and China is imperative.

The loop of freedom and democracy interlocks with Korea’s pursuit of unification. How about if we create new ties with Japan? Strengthening cooperation with China cannot be left out, either.

Diplomacy, after all, is not a game of choosing one or the other. Now is also the time to take the initiative to turn the imaginary East Asian community into a network of peace and politics. Let us rediscover diplomacy to start the new decade.


*The writer is the foreign policy and security affairs editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Oh Young-hwan

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