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

Words of Wisdom for Japan as the Global Tide of Nationalism Swallows Up Trump
UENO Kagefumi / Professor (non-tenured), Kyorin University

March 28, 2017
Donald Trump’s victory last fall was described as the “biggest surprise of the century,” and has been explained mainly in terms of domestic US factors such as the blue-collar backlash against globalization. While that may be so, we must not overlook the international factor, i.e, structural changes that are affecting the world as a whole. The global upsurge in nationalism has more or less taken center stage of the international arena, and seen from this perspective, Trump’s electoral victory was a natural outcome of this sweeping global trend.

In retrospect, we could say that it all began in 1991. In the international community, the collapse of the Soviet Union and conclusion of the Cold War in 1991 put an end to an era dominated by ideology, and in turn opened the way to an era of nationalism focused on national interests. Thus the “basic grammar” governing international relations shifted from one characterized by confrontations based on ideology to confrontations driven by nationalism and national interests.

Sometime around 1990, many non-western countries, such as China and Russia, became aware that it was no longer possible to hold their nation together by ideology or ideal. Instead, they began to hold the nation together by drumming up nationalistic sentiments on the political front, while adhering to national interests on the economic front. As a result, nationalism began to flourish everywhere in the international community. Trump’s arrival on the scene indicates that the waves originating from this “1991 Revolution” had finally reached American shores.

Unlike many non-western countries, notably China and Russia, who began to rely increasingly on nationalism to govern their people, western industrialized nations, such as Japan, Western Europe and the United States, with mature societies, could hold their nations together without resorting to nationalism. And in fact, even after 1991 these western countries had kept the broad-minded approach of “post-nationalism,” willingly restraining their sovereignty for the “common good” of the international community.

However, in recent years, political moves that stir up nationalistic sentiment and assertive “our-country-first-ism” have begun to affect industrialized countries as they became swept up by the currents of rampant nationalism of non-western countries, or were confronted by new circumstances such as increased inflow of immigrants. A reversal in the trend, from “post-nationalism” back to “nationalism,” is underway within the industrialized west.

A moderate dose of nationalism does little harm. However, triggered by a plausible target, nationalism has the innate danger of igniting passions that easily give way to radicalism. Take a look around the world, and you will recognize that excessive nationalism causes various “maladies” such as expansionism, xenophobia, isolationism, praise for past glory, bullying of neighboring countries and domestic minorities, and contempt for international norms------in many non-western countries, such as China, Russia, Turkey, India and Egypt. However, they are not a unique phenomenon of non-western countries. Even Western European countries and the United States have now begun to show these symptoms. And, in particular, “Trumpism”, with which we have become quite familiar since last year, is seen to exacerbate such maladies.

Under Trump, the United States has become immersed in the kind of nationalism espoused by countries such as China and Russia, behaving as if it were a “Third World” country. The US has begun to abandon the role of the “defender of universal values” it has played for over seven decades since 1945. This is a major blow to maintaining world order. Moreover, not only is the US throwing away its responsibility as the “anchor” of the international community, but is morphing into a nationalistic “agitator,” which is the worst thing possible. This is a double blow to the world order.

As a result, there is now a major global countercurrent pushing us back in time towards the “low-level-order” state that was prevalent until seventy years ago, or worse, towards the “dog eat dog” world of the 19th century. In any event, through attitudes such as his disrespect for international institutions, Trump is wreaking havoc by actively seeking to nullify the wealth of wisdom that has been painstakingly accumulated by the international community over the past seven decades.

Holding back this countercurrent should be our primary concern, and in view of the structural nature of the ongoing “nationalistic rampage,” Japan would need some special wisdom to survive through these murky times, as below.

1. Japan must acknowledge that it has no choice but to cast off its ambivalence and become a “normal country.”
2. Japan must acquire the skill and cunning of 19th century-style “balance of power diplomacy.”
3. Japan must resist the current trend of disrespect for international law and strive to shape international public opinion to ensure that minimum standards are observed, particularly from the standpoint of humanitarianism and moral principles

Kagefumi Ueno is a civilizational essayist and former Ambassador to the Holy See.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

( 日本に必要な智慧とは? )
上野 景文  / 杏林大学特任教授

2017年 3月 28日








① 「普通の国」に脱皮するほかないとの覚悟を持つこと(まだその覚悟はない)
② 19世紀的勢力均衡外交の術(=ズルさ)を身につけること
③ (国際法が軽視される風潮に抗し)特に人道主義、モラリズムの立場から、ミニマムスタンダードを固めるべく、国際世論づくりに励むこと


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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Words of Wisdom for Japan as the Global Tide of Nationalism Swallows Up Trump