Japan rethinks alliance with US
- The 21st century will be that of Asia, and Japan, with its "soft
power," can take the lead even in front of China and India.
Tokyo rethinks alliance with United States in multipolar world
by Pino Cazzaniga
Tokyo (AsiaNews) - The Japanese find themselves facing an historic
challenge not unlike those of the second half of the 19th century,
when they shook off feudalism, and of 1945, when, with the rejection
of militarist nationalism, they chose democracy. This time, the spur
to choose radical change is coming from the global economic crisis
and from the new American president, or better, from the America that
Prime Minister Taro Aso, at the nation's helm since last September,
has lost no time in establishing contact with the new president, in
order to plan a meeting in Washington by March. In a statement
released to the press, Aso said that he intends "to work hand in hand
with President Obama in order to reinforce further the alliance
between Japan and the United States."
The motivation for this desire is not so much national prestige as
the awareness that Japan has long required political initiative in
worldwide governance, and not only the diplomacy of economic aid. In
this context, the Aso government, in addition to its efforts to
confront the worldwide economic emergency, is proposing three areas
of collaboration with the United States: climate change, the
reduction of nuclear weapons, and support for Africa.
For Washington's part, Hillary Clinton, the new American secretary of
state, has stated that "the alliance between the United States and
Japan is the cornerstone of American policy in Asia."
From hegemonic power to a multipolar world
But the true interpreters of the position that Japan must take in the
new international situation are the intellectuals. Professor Yasuaki
Onuma, who teaches international law at the University of Tokyo, has
spoken out with particular clarity on this topic, in an article
entitled "Japan can prosper in a multipolar world," published in
Asahi. The study is of particular value because it summarizes the
convictions of historians and essayists, and is based on a cultural
analysis of reality beyond petty nationalistic prejudices.
For Onuma, the severe economic crisis, which is unprecedented because
it is globalized, is not a whirlpool into which the world has fallen,
but a dark and perhaps a long tunnel, beyond which a brilliant future
shines. The enormous global crisis is not in itself a factor of
change, but something that brings to light the process of epochal
change now underway.
Reflecting from the point of view of Asia, he distinguishes three
centuries in the historical perspective: the first two (nineteenth
and twentieth) concern the past, and the third (twenty-first) the
The nineteenth century was the century of Europe. So, he writes, "the
leading European powers built a global colonial system, they spread
modern science to the world, and guided 'civilization'. The twentieth
century was that of the United States. We enjoyed the benefits of
motorization, we cultivated the sensibility spread by Hollywood
movies and rock music, and we were brought to the threshold of a
civilization characterized by information technology."
The historiographical outline sketched by the Japanese professor is
useful from an educational point of view, although it is incomplete
and its contents. He does not underestimate the benefits that the
world has received from these two civilizations, but he also
highlights their hegemonic aspects: the world has been governed first
by Europe, and then by America.
And how will the twenty-first century be? It is a widespread
conviction that it will be the century of Asia. China is expected to
become an economic superpower surpassing America, and India will also
join the ranks of economic superpowers. When this happens, some
predict, Asia's power will exceed that of Europe and the United
States before the end of the century.
Onuma hesitates to claim that the twenty-first century will be the
century of Asia. He expects that "the world will be more multipolar,
with different civilizations than those of the twentieth century,
dominated by the values of Europe and America." The prediction of
Asia's dominance in world governance is based on the 'understanding'
of the past, while the vision of a multipolar world is based on
the 'imagination' of the future. It is an imagination that is not
fantasy, but an attentive reading of the 'signs of the times'."
Japan's role in epochal change
The second half of the twentieth century has seen the enormous and
positive economic influence of Japan all over the world. But now,
because of the decline of the Japanese economy, which has been pulled
into the vortex of the worldwide crisis, some are afraid that there
is no more room for Japan in the multipolar world. Those who base the
influence of the nation on material power - meaning military and
economic - fall into this pessimism. Much more important is the
influence that the Anglo-Saxons call "soft power," that of a
civilization that puts man at the center, and not things. In the
West, there are three elements of this power: democracy, human
rights, and, we would add, Christianity, which constitutes its
foundation. But Asia also has its own spiritual values that have
forged very ancient civilizations.
But the fever of rapid economic and industrial development is
playing havoc with these values in the two nations that were the
cradle of Asian civilization: India and China. It is at this level
that there emerges the "soft power" of Japan. The various threads of
Asian culture over several centuries have arrived in the country of
the rising sun as if coming to their last shore, and here they have
undergone a process of elaboration that has continued even over the
past 150 years, in spite of the grim tragedy of imperialist
militarism. "The Japanese were among the first peoples of Asia to
learn modern Western civilization, and use it extensively," Onuma
observes. "But at the same time, they have maintained their identity
as part of Eastern civilization." Now they are in a position to
assist the nations of Asia to accomplish this synthesis. The power of
Japanese culture elaborated by these experiences is the "soft power"
of Japan, which Onuma does not hesitate to describe as "colossal."
Economic misery threatens peace, Japanese bishops say
In a message released on the occasion of the 60 years of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights the bishops say that
immoral "market fundamentalism" humiliates human dignity. They call
on the country's laity to join a new path of mission.
Tokyo (AsiaNews) In occasion of the 60 years of the United Nations
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Catholic bishops of Japan
yesterday released a message to their "brothers and sisters"
titled `Respecting everyone's human rights' in which they stressed
the urgent need to guarantee human rights for everyone, freeing them
from economic misery.
Criticising "market fundamentalism", the Bishops' Conference calls
on "individuals, enterprises and nations" to transcend their own
narrow interests, and instead guarantee everyone the right to life.
If we want to guarantee peace in the world, "there is no time to
lose," the bishops said.
To emphasise its importance and policy nature, this document must be
seen in conjunction with an equally solemn message titled `Resolution
for peace' which the bishops issued in 1995 on the occasion of the
50th anniversary of the end of World War Two.
In it they engaged in a courageous purification of the memory,
acknowledging that the Catholic Church in Japan "had failed in the
prophetic role it was supposed to play to protect human life and
accomplish God's will," hence asked for "God's forgiveness and that
of the people who had to endure immense suffering during the war."
If the 1995 message was a reflection on the responsibilities of the
past, this year's concerns the future.
The image of war, a demonic event that crushes human rights, links
The introduction to the new message says that the General Assembly of
the United Nations "adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
after reflecting upon the great number of human lives destroyed in
the two world wars."
Certainly war can shake minds but cannot renew them. For the
bishops "human rights are violated at home and abroad even now, 60
years after the adoption of this declaration."
The message relies on knowing this in order to show Catholics, and at
least indirectly, Japanese society, the path to follow for the future.
Citing Article 1 of the Declaration which says that "All human beings
are born free and equal in dignity and rights," the bishops clearly
indicate its theological principle.
"Based on the Bible, we believe that God creates each human person in
His image and that God-given human dignitynot created by human
societyis universal and that no one can violate it."
New human rights crisis
It would be self-defeating to say that the UN Declaration was a
failure. In the past 60 years many people have worked to protect and
promote human rights, in Japan as much as in other Western countries.
As much as economic misery is one of the main causes for the
violation of the dignity of millions of human beings, no one can deny
that this country has been in the forefront of the struggle against
such violation in Asia and Africa.
But it is a fact that "unequal distribution of the means of
subsistence and thus the unequal distribution of benefits deriving
from them (John Paul II, Encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis) have
widened the gap" between rich nations and poor peoples.
Japan's bishops acknowledge this fact and identify the cause of such
a situation in the ideology that pervades the modern world and which
they call merciless "market fundamentalism."
"Market fundamentalism," they say, "has caused great harm like
environmental degradation and climate change. It has wrecked the
lives of the world's countless poor and threatened their fundamental
right to life."
Peace under threat
Inspired by Pope Benedict XVI"s address to the United Nations, the
bishops said that "if individuals, enterprises and nations continue
to pursue their own self-interest, human dignity will be trampled
upon and the world will become an even more violent and twisted place
where victims of deprivation and desperation, whose human dignity is
violated with impunity, will become easy prey for the muse of
violence and will thus become themselves violators of peace."
"There is not time to lose" is the key expression with which the
bishops conclude their analysis, as they stress the crisis' urgency.
"If we do not take up the case of the marginalised," they warn, "we
are bound, even unintentionally, to be on the side of those who say
that some human rights violations are inevitable."
For them the crisis is above all moral, not structural. "Every
offence against human rights is an offence against humanity," they
said, citing John Paul II. Everyone is responsible for everyone else.
Will this Church document have any influence in a country where
Catholics represent 0.5 per cent of 130 million people?
It must be remembered that the letter is meant for Catholic laymen
and women, like most of the 188 Japanese martyrs beatified two weeks
That beatification was a starting point for a new journey of inner
and outer evangelisation, especially by the laity.
With the message on `Respecting everyone's human rights', the bishops
show the first steps.
WORLD VIEW NEWS SERVICE
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