Invest in U.S. think tanks
On April 29, during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the United States, a crowd gathered in a conference room at a luxury hotel in Washington, D.C. The meeting was hosted by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA in honor of Prime Minister Abe, and familiar think tank scholars were in attendance. Hundreds of people were mingling over refreshments outside the conference room.
The Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA spearheads the promotion of Japan by supporting Washington think tanks or hosting various seminars and conferences. It also sponsors the Congressional Study Group on Japan and funds their trips to the nation. Before Abe’s visit, the Japanese government also announced it would provide Georgetown University, Columbia University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a fund of 5 million dollars each. While the fund is for Japanese studies, its hidden intention is to block Korea’s campaign to expose the wartime past in the United States.
China has joined the competition for think tanks. The Institute for China-America Studies (ICAS) hosted the first conference in February, signaling its entrance in Washington, D.C. It introduces itself as “an independent, nonprofit academic institution launched by the Hainan Nanhai Research Foundation.” However, the Wall Street Journal reported that it was set up by the National Institute for South China Sea Studies and that “Its establishment follows an appeal last year from Chinese President Xi Jinping for new types of think tanks to improve governance and enhance China’s “soft power”- the ability to further its interests through culture, media and academia.” In the end, the founding of the ICAS is not free from Chinese government influence. According to the Wall Street Journal, Chinese ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai “gave a keynote address defending China’s efforts to build artificial islands In the South China Sea” at the inaugural conference,
The Korea Foundation will soon open a Korean studies program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center. However, Korea’s public diplomacy on think tanks is insignificant compared to Japan’s effort. The Kakehashi Project, which the Japanese foreign ministry announced during Abe’s U.S. visit, is a 3 billion yen program supporting Japan-US exchanges and Japanese studies research. Korea lacks such funding and largely relies on the grassroots movements of Korean organizations. Now China is expanding its presence in Washington, and Japan is buying the opinions of think tanks. Korea cannot afford to remain idle and worry about costs. We need to invest in Washington think tanks to create friendly policies and public opinion.
The author is a Washington correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 11, Page 33
by CHAE BYUNG-GUN