Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Raging Confrontations among Various "Values"
HOSOYA Yuichi  / Lecturer, Keio University

February 28, 2006
Drifts and turmoils cloud the world, with little indication of what lies ahead. A review of the past year, however, reveals one important new trend:
the deepening dispute over different values is turning itself into a fierce battle.

In his Inaugural Address a year ago, U.S. President George Bush used the words 'freedom' and 'democracy' many times, much more than before, and said that the United States' mission was to promote and spread those values. Promoting 'freedom,' a value that the United States has upheld since its founding days, as something that is good for the whole world, President Bush made it clear that he was prepared to confront those who would resist it. Unlike America in its founding days, America today has amassed overwhelming power, which makes such an unrealistic attempt appear almost possible.

With this trend as a backdrop, confrontations over Taiwan surfaced between the US and China. Supporting "democratic" Taiwan, America casts harsh words against fast-rising China under Communist rule. But the Chinese government tries to avoid such dichotomy-ridden polemics between "freedom" or "autocracy."

Instead, China has come up with a different set of values based on "history." In terms of historical values such as "aggression" and "war guilt," China can claim its leading position in Asia and the international community. In their view China is one of the historically correct leaders of the United Nations, as it was one of the four major powers which were once called by President Roosevelt as the "four policemen." It was in this context that public outcry over Japan's attempt to gain a permanent seat of the U.N. Security Council found its expression in the violent anti-Japanese demonstrations in the spring of 2005.

As opposed to the value of "freedom" upheld by the United States and the value of "history" upheld by China, the EU defends the values of "human rights" and "multilateralism." The EU, while restraining the US, which does not place importance on "multilateralism," criticizes North Korea, which invites serious concern about human rights violations such as abductions.

What about Japan? What values is Japan to uphold in the international community? Or will Japan move to mollify the intensification of value disputes? What is most important for the Japanese is probably not the act of upholding some value itself but to move a step further to see Japanese values permeate into the world. Values are highly manipulative. Nations are competing with each other to spread their respective values in the world, mobilizing fully their resources and wisdom. In such a stormy world, it is important for Japan to find its own compass, as it were, to guide its way in the storm.

The writer is a lecturer at the Keio University. This article originally appeared in the Yomiuri Shimbun on January 11.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

細谷雄一 / 慶応大学専任講師

2006年 2月 28日






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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Raging Confrontations among Various "Values"