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Home > Debates Last Updated: 14:30 03/09/2007
Debate: Comment

Comments on the Taniguchi paper and the Kawai paper

Dr. Takashi TERADA (National University of Singapore)

On the Taniguchi paper:

I find the Taniguchi paper interesting and informative, with citations from key policy makers in the Bush administration. This helps persuasively explain how distinctively the United States under Bush pursues its Japan policy, compared with the Clinton administration. Also, Tanaguchi's message is clear in claiming that "unless we come to think of ourselves in much more proactive terms, be it about Japan's ties with the US or about its roles in Asia, Japan cannot become a mature responsible partner to anyone". I think many agree.

Yet, I find a little irrelevant and less persuasive the last paragraph, in which he articulates his hope that Japan can gain decisively useful advice by setting up a new think-tank under the Cabinet Information Research Office. I am not so familiar with this plan, but his claim that creating a new think tank under the Cabinet Information Research Office through involving scholars and strategists would lead the Japanese Government to be informed of better policy advice is questionable and it is not certain that this movement would contribute to Japan articulating its international role and help establish the better relations with the United States under the Bush administration. We probably need know first what functions this think tank would be equipped with and what legal status its policy advice would have.

I believe that political leadership is more urgently necessary in this sense, so who is chosen as a next Prime Minister and whether the prime minister can put the right person in the right post and open up opportunities for young and talented politicians. Administrative reorganisation should involve top-level reform by selecting capable ministers; otherwise, the thesis that politicians are taking the reins from bureaucrats would be an idle fancy and Japan would fail to clarify its international role.

On the Kawai paper:

I think the author's message simple and clear, and I believe he successfully conveys it, but I am not sure whether his ideas can be shared by many of the Japanese public. He wrote that "Japan has a moral obligation to repay the debts to the international community" and Japan should "make a great contribution to the international community" through "ODA", as Japan's post-war economic growth was made possible thanks to "a lot of invisible debts to the international community". Yet the author did not specify what "invisible debts" Japan owed at that time. Failure to articulate them does not help urge us to have "a moral obligation". In arguing this, he might have needed to take into account other factors that helped Japan's post-war growth, such as the international structure of the Cold War and the nature of Japan's reparations to Asian countries. It seems too simplistic to attribute the necessity of maintaining a huge amount of ODA at present to the very fact that Japan owed too many invisible debts in the early post-war period.

Also, I think one of the major concerns the Japanese public has in terms of the current Japanese ODA is not whether "Japan should give economic assistant or not", but why Japan, under such a harsh economic condition, has to carry on allocating such a huge amount of money to ODA, and why Japan has to continue to provide ODA to China, which is suspected to utilize Japanese ODA for military build-up.

The author also insists that it is "fundamentally wrong" to expect that the provision of ODA to other countries would "in turn help Japan in some way". Yet he does not explain how and why it is "fundamentally wrong" to expect so. I believe ODA can be utilized to achieve Japan's or it's allies' national interests, as seen in the case of Vietnam in the late 1970s and Myanmar in recent times.

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