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

Japan should reorient its aid to China
ARAKI Mitsuya / Editor of "Kokusai Kaihatu Jaanaru"

December 5, 2000
The Japanese political world centering around Liberal Democrats presently is abuzz with calls for the reassessment of Japan's aid to China, which has continued for the past 20 years. Maybe "aid" is a misnomer and economic cooperation is a better term for it, because 90% of the so-called aid to China, totalling $24 billion cumulative, comprises the Government-to-Government provision of yen-denominated loans, commonly called yen loans.

The Japanese Government has asked the Chinese Government to "make Japanese economic cooperation better known among the Chinese people." A certain emotional atmosphere is discernible since the Japanese Government has received criticisms of "the unappreciative Chinese Government" at home.

At the root of this dichotomy lies the ambiguous categorization of China as a recipient of economic help from outside. In terms of per capita income China is a developing country pure and simple. However, its capacity to develop a nuclear arsenal on its own, to build the huge dam at Three Gorges and, to increase military expenditure year after year definitely is not that of an under-developed country.

Since 1979 Japan has extended to this huge nation economic cooperation on a scale only next to Indonesia, which is Japan's largest aid recipient. The objective of Japan's aid to China has been to help China in her efforts for reform and openness aimed at the development of a market economy in China. Japanese assistance to China started with the building of China's economic infrastructure such as transportation and communications networks as well as electric power generation, which hold the key to China's economic development. Based on my field surveys as a journalist, I am very aware that the Japanese economic cooperation has achieved its original objective of supporting China's efforts for reform and openness. In this sense, Japanese cooperation with China is now moving into a new phase.

It is desirable that in the 21st century the mainstream of Japanese cooperation toward China should shift from the Government-led cooperation to private sector led cooperation, such as that of local authorities, citizens, non-Governmental organizations (NGOs) and academic institutions in Japan. Government aid should mainly be composed of technical assistance and grants. Yen loans should be limited to environmental projects. Yen loans directed to other areas should gradually be phased out. In the interim, yen loans going to non-environmental areas should carry financial terms and conditions similar to those of the World Bank (IBRD). If need be, private lendings can be guaranteed by Government lending agencies.

Let me illustrate cooperation led by the private sector as follows; First, Japan's official development assistance(ODA) lends support to exchange programs between Japanese and Chinese local authorities. At present 23 prefectures and 15 cities in Japan are engaged in such exchanges with their Chinese counterparts mainly in environmental areas. Second, Japan's ODA lends support to activities of Japanese non-profit organizations (NPOs) and NGOs centering on environmental projects. Reflecting the keen interest among the Japanese people in environmental problems, the Federation of Economic Associations (Keidanren) supports various reforestation projects in China. Likewise, a number of Japanese foundations extend financial support to tree-planting activities by Japanese NGOs in China. Reforestation activities of Japanese NGOs are also supported by "grass-root" grants by the Japanese Government as well as by funds of the International Volunteer Saving program of the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications. The "Global Greening Center", an NGO, dispatches volunteer "Green Friendship Ambassadors", to Inner Mongolia to undertake afforestation activities to stem desertification. Third, academic exchanges can actively promote "joint research" between the two countries. We should not underestimate the importance of building solid channels of intellectual exchange between academic institutions of the two countries.

I am firmly convinced that Japan, though burdened by "negative assets" of overcoming the past, should deepen people-to-people exchanges with the Chinese people and expand genuine friendship between the two countries. It is more likely that "grass-root" exchanges, rather than economic cooperation by Government-to-Government agreements, will become the channel for new friendship between the two countries in the forthcoming century.

The writer is Editor of "Kokusai Kaihatu Jaanaru (Journal for International Development) and has made numerous field visits in the developing world.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

荒木 光弥 / ジャーナリスト

2000年 12月 5日





民間主導の協力の例をいくつか以下にあげよう。 第一は、日中の自治体交流をODAが支援するという提案である。現在すでに環境問題を中心に自治体間交流による協力は23県15市に及んでいる。第二は、環境問題を中心にしたNPO/NGO活動をODAが支援するという提案である。日本国民の環境問題への高い関心を反映して、この分野では経団連が植林協力を支援するほか、多くの民間助成財団が日本のNGOによる中国での植林ボランティア活動を財政支援している。最近では政府もODA草の根無償や郵政省の国際ボランティア貯金による基金でNGO植林活動を支援している。地球緑化センターというNGOは"緑の親善大使"という市民ボランティアを率いて、内モンゴルの砂漠化防止のための植林を行っている。第三は、「共同研究」を中心に据えた日中の学術交流を活発に行うことである。知的交流の太いチャネルを日中間に構築する意義は大きい。  


一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Japan should reorient its aid to China