Copyright The Financial Times
China has thus far been stubbornly opposed to JapanÃs bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. However, a dispassionate examination of the issue shows that there are a number of reasons why China, for its own benefit, should support Japan becoming a permanent member.
One reason is diplomatic. If China wishes to take a leadership role in Asia, good political relations with Japan are necessary. At present ChinaÃs political system differs from those of the many democratic countries in the region and, although it is a big power, it is not in a position to provide substantial economic and technical assistance to poor countries. In these circumstances, it is particularly inadvisable for China to vie with Japan for leadership.
A second big reason for China to support JapanÃs permanent Security Council membership relates to the danger of China becoming isolated in the international community. ChinaÃs high economic growth rate has attracted the attention of many countries, but at the same time there is a strong wariness of China.
In the western world, in particular, there are those who see it as a rival civilisation and many people regard it with hostility from the standpoint of democracy and human rights, some even as a potential enemy.
In order to get along in the international community under these circumstances, China needs a partner that understands it. China should bear in mind that Japan can play a role in mitigating its isolation, particularly in forums such as the UN Security Council.
The third reason relates to security. If ChinaÃs military capability becomes excessively large, not only the US but also many Asian countries will grow even more wary. Such a situation risks prompting Japan to take steps to expand its own military capability. In order to restrain militaristic elements in Japan and ensure that the combination of JapanÃs military and economic strength does not exert an influence unfavourable to Chinese interests, it is important for China that Japan should be securely positioned within international frameworks. If China truly fears a resurgence of Japanese militarism, it is extremely important that Japan should hold a position of influence and respect in the UN.
The fourth reason is connected to ChinaÃs internal political situation. It is self-evident that as Chinese society becomes increasingly information-based and democratic, the question of how the country can modernise itself while making the most of the traditions of Chinese civilisation will be of paramount importance in terms of maintaining political stability. I believe that China can use Japan as a model for its own development, in reconciling the traditional and the modern. From this standpoint, projecting an image to the world of Japan and China co-operating at the UN and other multilateral forums could play a significant role in maintaining ChinaÃs stability.
The final reason relates to ChinaÃs economy. As the Chinese economy grows in size and power, increased friction between the international community and China is inevitable. Japan is the only country that will be able to understand the frictions that are sure to appear in such areas as voluntary export controls, agriculture and intellectual property, because Japan has experience of these very problems. China should not forget that it was Japan that made the greatest efforts in support of ChinaÃs accession to the World Trade Organisation. When economic friction does occur, Japan will be in a position to play an intermediary role in getting other countries to understand ChinaÃs thinking and in getting China to understand the wishes of the international community.
The Security Council is by its nature a body that should act in a manner consistent with the idea of economic security in its broad sense. Given that permanent members hold important positions also in various other UN agencies, Chinese support for JapanÃs permanent membership is important both for the stable development of ChinaÃs economy and for forging harmonious relations between the Chinese economy and the international economic community.
If China wishes to become a major power, it must first be able to establish a partnership with its neighbour, Japan. Japan used to be a permanent member of the council of the League of Nations, but lost its status as a major power in the international community because it failed to establish a partnership of equals with China. I hope that China will not repeat JapanÃs mistake.
The writer, president of the Japan Foundation, is a former Japanese deputy minister of foreign affairs
Kazuo Ogoura – The Financial Times
Copyright The Financial Times