China on the rise, Japan on the wane in region
Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE
"China on the rise, Japan on the wane in region"
The Straits Times
APEC, as everyone who talks about it should know, stands for "Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation." It is supposed to be a forum seeking economic growth, cooperation, trade, and investment in the Asia-Pacific region. The members are technically not "states" or "countries" but "economies." This is how both China and Taiwan could both become members of the forum, which has facilitated the pursuit of well-being of the people without getting bogged down in a political morass.
Recently, however, there have been concerns expressed with regard to the forum being overshadowed by political agendas. At this year's meeting, held in Bangkok earlier in the week, terrorism became one of the top agenda items. In a carefully worded declaration adopted at the meeting, it said that the members "agreed to strengthen our partnership not only to liberalize and facilitate regional trade and investment, but also to protect our peoples and societies against threats to their security." As such, Japanese government wished to have some sort of resolution condemning North Korea, for its abduction of Japanese citizens, adopted and printed. To the dismay of Japanese government, however, such expression was not formally placed on the documents released out of the meeting.
A number of Japan's media lamented the outcome, too, that other countries had no sympathy toward Japan for being its sovereignty denied, and that nobody is willing to help. But there seems to be a couple of points of misunderstood here. One is that APEC is not really qualified to discuss this sort of subject, unless a sense of immediate danger is shared among the members. And the other is that it was Japanese citizens who were abducted, and not of other countries'.
The ultimate responsibility to remedy a situation caused by someone's wrongdoing rests with the party which was offended. This has been the rule of nature since life was formed on earth. True, retaliation is generally discouraged in a civilized society. But the international society, as evidenced by a number of incidents to say least, is unfortunately not quite that civilized. Thus, if (and this is a very big "if") Japan really wants to establish what it believes to be justice, then it is Japan who has to initiate the necessary action, as no one else is going to do it for the poor country.
The frustration of Japan's delegates at the meeting was amplified by their recognition that Japan is not considered to be a leading economy in the region by other countries any more. In fact, Japan is now considered to be a major opposing force to the main agenda of the meeting and the APEC itself, formed to seek free and open trade. Japan is now considered a selfish country that rejects any proposal to share its wealth with others, without recognizing that it would lead to its own doom.
Although there have been a flood of accusations domestically, from industry and commerce sectors as well as economists and analysts after the failure of the FTA negotiation with Mexico last week, Japanese government merely tried to put blame on the Mexicans for tabling issues which Mexicans had known to be unacceptable to Japan. The government's explanation may be true to an extent, but it only reveals the fact that they could think only in a shortsighted manner in a world where a very long-term strategy is needed.
Scant presence of Japan at the APEC meeting was a reflection of the feelings of the countries in the region that Japan could not play a leading role in the global scene, that it lacks capabilities to formulate a consolidated strategy domestically and internationally.