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

Two-way Communication Rather Than One-way Dissemination
NUMATA Sadaaki  / Chairman, The English-Speaking Union of Japan

September 22, 2014
"Strengthening the dissemination of information abroad" has been an important policy objective under the current Abe Administration. "Dissemination" here does not mean that if you say something, it is enough. Two points should be borne in mind.

Firstly, it is not just the Japanese government authorities that project information on the political, security, economic, social and cultural aspects of Japan that will help shape the outside world's image of Japan. A host of other actors in the media, business, academia, civil society, arts and culture and sport should also be involved in the process, and the projection should be aimed at a similarly wide variety of people on the receiving end.
Secondly, dissemination is not a one-way, but a two-way process. You need to make sure that your message is received and digested by your interlocutor. You need "empathy", or the ability to put yourself in his or her shoes. Not enough attention has been paid to this point in Japan.

Referring to Japan's imperialist expansion in the pre-WWII years, David Pilling, former Tokyo Bureau Chief and current Asia Editor of the Financial Times, wrote in his recent book ‘Bending Adversity: Japan and the art of survival' :
"It is this process of rejecting Asia but failing – ruinously – to become a successful imperial power that lies at the heart of Japan's still fraught relations with the outside world."

I was reminded of a chapter in Japan's imperialist past when I recently attended the Asia Future Conference in Bali, attended primarily by Asian academics who had done their Ph. D. work at Japanese universities. An academic from Inner Mongolia gave a paper on Foreign Minister Yosuke Matsuoka's unfulfilled design to form a Japan-Germany-Italy-Soviet alliance to carve up Asia. I could not help being struck by Matsuoka's naïveté in attempting this and by the futility of Machiavellian ploys in power politics.

Surely we Japanese have become much wiser today. No sane Japanese would believe in retreading the foolhardy path of the past. But if a fear of Japan's militarist revival lingers among some people abroad, we must dispel it. We should also be careful not to give cause for unfounded suspicions. In particular, when a nationalistic assertion regarding a certain country in the heat of a domestic debate is disseminated unilaterally abroad, without heeding the sensitivity of those who hear them in the country in question, it could ignite emotions on both sides. Political leaders and those in positions of responsibility should be mindful that what resonates with the domestic public opinion does not necessarily appeal to the international public opinion, and may at times be counterproductive.

The belated admission of misreporting by the Asahi Shimbun on the "forced abduction" of comfort women in wartime Korea has given rise to a contentious debate in Japan. It is a serious question of media ethics. However, it is doubtful if any useful purpose can be served by exporting this domestic debate abroad in such a manner as to call into question the very existence of this problem, which severely injured the honor and dignity of women. It could damage the Japanese government's sincere efforts to grapple with this vexing problem. Internationally, it should be treated with a sense of balance so that it would not wreck the delicate edifice of reconciliation built block by block over the years.

The domestic debate on the use of the right of collective defense probably sounds esoteric to foreign ears. What matters to the audience abroad, especially in Asia, is the following:

1. Japan will never turn back the clock and return to its military past.

2. The new interpretation of the Constitution has been arrived at and is being implemented through a democratic process.

3. It will enable Japan to contribute better to the stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region through enhanced deterrence under the Japan-U.S. alliance and Japan's proactive contribution to peace.

Another fraught issue is the term "postwar regime". In the domestic context, it has been used often to refer to the rigidities in bureaucracy, regulated economy, education and so forth. But it can be highly misleading to talk about "breaking away from the postwar regime" in the international context. Japan has benefitted greatly from the postwar international order. It has also contributed to its preservation, based on its alliance with the United States and upholding such values as democracy and the rule of law, by making tireless efforts as a nation committed to peace and dedicated to international cooperation. It is China, on the other hand, that is demanding to change the status quo. Pronouncements that might blur this clear distinction between the basic stances of the two countries should be avoided.

With greater sensitivity and empathy to the feelings, aspirations and concerns of our interlocutors in Asia and elsewhere, Japan should be able to engage in meaningful two-way communication with them and thereby raise its positive presence in the world.

Sadaaki Numata is former Japanese ambassador to Pakistan and Canada.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

沼田 貞昭  / 日本英語交流連盟会長

2014年 9月 22日

ファイナンシャル・タイムズ紙の元東京支局長・現アジア編集長デイビッド・ピリング氏は、近著‘BENDING ADVERSITY: Japan and the art of survival’(タイトル仮訳:災いと転じて福となす:日本と生き残りの術)の中で、第二次世界大戦前の日本の帝国主義的拡張について、「アジアを脱却して、帝国主義国として栄えようとしたが、破滅的な失敗に終わったことが、日本と外の世界との未だに問題含みの関係の核心にある。」と述べている。





これにより、 日本は、日米同盟の抑止力の強化と積極的平和主義を通じて、アジア太平洋地域の諸国の安定と繁栄により一層貢献して行くことが可能となる。


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) > Two-way Communication Rather Than One-way Dissemination