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2009.10.07

On the Value To Be Presented from Japan to the World -Concept of "Wa (Harmony)"-

  • Kiyoyuki Seguchi
  • Research Director
    Kiyoyuki Seguchi
  • [Expertise]
    Chinese Economy and Relations among Japan/China and the United States

1.The Meaning of Presenting Japanese Values to the World
The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) established the new Hatoyama government on September 16, 2009. The DPJ's emphasis is in having politicians lead through their policies, rather than, as with the Liberal Democratic Party in the past, relying on bureaucrats. This is how the state should be governed. Politicians should consider and determine the overall direction of policies. The function of bureaucrats is to carry them out in accordance with that direction.

To determine the overall direction of policies, a vision about the future constitution of Japan should be presented. For some time, Japan has not been presenting a clear national vision and the values that it wishes to present to the world. The rest of the world has a hard time figuring out just what kind of a country Japan is. When it is hard to figure out the country, it becomes difficult to deepen mutual understanding with Japanese people.

The world universally recognizes national values, such as "freedom, equality, prosperity," in the case of the United States, and, for China, "a person-centered society, a harmonious society, and the scientific development concept," as a result of the two countries continuously presenting these as their values. Japan has no equivalent national value that it presents to the world. In order for Japan to engage in active and constructive diplomacy, it needs to show what kind of a nation it wishes to be and what it wants to accomplish internationally. If Japan can demonstrate that it has such a vision, the international community will have an easier time understanding Japan.

If Japan were to promulgate such a vision, that could act as a basis for trust in Japan-U.S. relations and Japan-Sino relations. During the Bush administration, the United States tried to pursue concrete steps toward strengthening its cooperative relations with Japan, but, as Japan was not clear about its goals and intensions, these efforts were not successful. If Japan can more clearly demonstrate both its goals and intentions, concrete cooperation between Japan and the United States may be facilitated.

2.A Proposal for Japanese Value; Concept of "Wa (Harmony)"
Then, what kind of value should Japan be presenting to the world? Since the Lehman shock of September 2008, the world economy has faced a sudden recession. It was the most serious economic recession since the Great Depression of 1929. When one looks at how each country responded to the recession, however, there is a great difference between then and now. The most significant difference is that the international community can now coordinate its policies rapidly and closely, so that it was able to forestall the more serious effects of the deepening economic recession. Imagine how much worse the recession could have been if the international community were only able to have cooperated to the extent that was possible in 1929. In addition to mechanisms by which the international community has been able to cope with the current global recession, there are other frameworks for international cooperation, in such areas as the global environment, in promoting free trade through the WTO, and rescue efforts in times of natural disasters, such as earthquakes and tsunamis.

All these efforts at international cooperation have become possible due to close communication advanced by the development of transportation and telecommunication technologies, which have enabled the international community to share information and foster mutual understanding. These effects are an irreversible result of globalization. Although globalization has both its positive and negative aspects, one can say that international cooperation is obviously beneficial.

How best to make use of globalization turns on the countries that constitute the international community. One of the essential prerequisites to taking advantage of globalization is establishing a mutual trust among those countries, i.e. "Wa harmony". Since the early 7th century, when Prince Shotoku promulgated the Seventeen-article constitution, the first article of which was "Wa (harmony) is to be valued" Japan has treasured "Wa (harmony)." "Aloha spirit" in Hawaii, where President Obama grew up, "Harmonious society" promoted by the Hu Jintao government, and "Fraternity" promoted by Prime Minister Hatoyama, all lead to"Wa (harmony)."

"Wa (harmony)" is a value that the Japanese people have treasured from time immemorial, and also is a value that is a condition of realizing international cooperation. Therefore, it would be meaningful for Japan to promote this concept. By presenting to the world Japan's standpoint on "Wa (harmony)" Japan can nurture the positive aspects of globalization and can contribute to the world in a way that is becoming to Japan.

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