Home > Opinion
  print button email button

Friday, March 28, 2008

Bringing in China and India

The rise of China and India is a frequent topic of discussion in the international community. In pondering the global repercussions of this rise and how the world might cope with it, it is instructive to examine how the international community dealt with Japan, and how Japan adapted to the international community between the mid-19th century and World War II.

From the middle of the 19th century through Meiji Era, "the West" adopted a policy of making Japan adhere to the basic rules of the international community through "gunboat diplomacy," or pressure diplomacy.

One of the reasons why this policy resulted neither in a decisive military confrontation between Japan and the West nor in Japan's colonization by Western powers was that it proceeded concomitantly with Japanese society's own internal reform efforts.

Japan's adaptation to international rules had two sides. One was the pressure applied by the international community, which employed various means to persuade — and at times force — Japan to toe the line. The other was Japan's determination to join the international community by reforming itself and its ability to carry out the necessary changes. The key point is that these two processes took place in parallel or conjunction with each other.

At the next stage, the challenge for the international community was how to assign international responsibility to Japan — in other words, how to make Japan fulfill its responsibilities as a member of the international order.

For Japan, of course, the big challenge was how to fulfill these responsibilities. The alliances and pacts that Japan concluded at the beginning of the 20th century, such as the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, the Franco-Japanese pact, and the understanding between Japan and the United States, served both to pressurize and motivate Japan to fulfill its international responsibilities. Japan, for its part, aimed to use these alliances and agreements to avoid international isolation and gain acceptance as a member of the community of nations.

Let us consider the significance of the emergence of China and India in light of Japan's historical experiences. The use of gunboat diplomacy to make China, India and other emerging powers adhere to global rules and order is out of the question in today's international community. It is, however, possible to coax or pressure these countries to follow international rules using economic power, that is, investment and trade measures.

From this perspective, it is vital to ensure that China and India join various international economic and trade frameworks, and that they act within the rules of these frameworks.

A major stumbling block in this connection is Chinese and Indian insistence that they should be granted special exemptions because they are still developing countries.

Japan never asked for such special treatment; indeed, it was on the receiving end of discrimination under the unequal treaties. Today, however, China, India and others frequently use their status as developing nations to demand exemptions from international rules. The question of how to handle such demands is tremendously important in considering future relations between these countries and the international community.

The task of getting China and India to obey international rules is complicated by the fact that both are affected, in different ways, by internal division.

China still faces the Taiwan and Tibet issues, while India is involved in a long-running dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir. Making India a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, a status China already enjoys, might help to ensure that, in addressing these issues, both act in a manner befitting their international status.

As neither China nor India has a security alliance with a third country, the international community cannot make the two nations fulfill their international responsibilities solely through the framework of bilateral alliances. To help bring Chinese and Indian actions within international frameworks, therefore, the U.S., Europe and Japan should build strategic relationships with China and India by engaging them in strategic dialogue.

Both China and India are major powers, and major powers tend to insist on their own freedom of action. Freedom of action is, however, granted only to those who fulfill their responsibilities. China and India must pause to consider that a major power's freedom of action is the reverse side of its international responsibilities.

The roots of Japan's international isolation and plunge into a tragic war in the 1930s lay in its exclusive pursuit of the freedom of action that came with great-power status and its neglect of the other side of being a great power, namely, international responsibility.

While accepting China and India as major powers, Japan and the other countries must at the same time learn from history and stress unequivocally to these nations that major-power status brings with it responsibilities that must be fulfilled.

Kazuo Ogoura, a former Japanese ambassador to Vietnam, South Korea and France, is a political science professor at Aoyama Gakuin University and president of the Japan Foundation.

Back to Top

About us |  Work for us |  Contact us |  Privacy policy |  Link policy |  Registration FAQ
Advertise in japantimes.co.jp.
This site has been optimized for modern browsers. Please make sure that Javascript is enabled in your browser's preferences.
The Japan Times Ltd. All rights reserved.