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What if Japan rejects U.S. influence?

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热度2153票 时间:2009年9月12日 20:56

By Yang Hengjun
Guest Commentary ( http://www.upiasia.com/Politics/2009/09/08/what_if_japan_rejects_us_influence/3587/ )

Guangzhou, China — The leadership in Japan has changed overnight, with power handed to the opposition Democratic Party of Japan through its election win of a majority in Parliament. Surprisingly, this seems to have aroused no concern – not even from China, the “stability expert” – as to whether this will cause turbulence.

By contrast, almost everyone is worried about Japan’s neighbor North Korea, which has long enjoyed one-party “stability.” Every outsider wonders whether an upcoming power shift from leader Kim Jong-il to his third son will cause trouble.

Why are people responding so differently to political developments in these two countries? The answer is simple – because of their different political systems.

The democratic system has protected the peaceful transfer of power to the greatest extent in history. It has taken the source of power from the “barrel of a gun” and handed it to the people in the form of the ballot.

In countries with a one-party dictatorship, however – such as North Korea and Cuba – the whole world pays attention when their political systems are challenged, questioning whether their governments will remain stable and which other countries will be affected by their shifts.

Although Japan’s dominant party has ruled for 54 years, it is a typical democratic nation with regard to its political setup and its political values, which include democracy, freedom and human rights. Then why did its dominant party remain in power so long? I would like to add one point to the existing expert analyses: It could be related to the fact that the United States “imposed” this system on Japan after occupying and stationing its army there.

After the end of World War II, Japan’s U.S.-designed democratic system was established overnight. The Japanese therefore derived gain from misfortune; they went through the process of acquiring democracy without much effort of their own. Besides, as U.S. troops were always there, the Japanese merely had to follow the rules of democracy and the system ran smoothly without much trouble.

However, the Japanese seemed to have little political passion, since their system was imposed rather than created by their own initiative, and required little input. Hence, the outcome in Japan was a one-man show put on by the Liberal Democratic Party. Luckily, freedoms of speech and of the media were put into full play. So even though the LDP behaved as the only dominant party, it did not enjoy the unrestricted power commonly seen in other states with a one-party dictatorship.

Still, people seek change if their system remains in place a long time, gradually losing vitality and failing to generate the expected result. I’ve noticed a “democracy fatigue” in the United States and other senior democratic countries in Europe and Asia. When the faces in power remain the same for too long, voters begin to lose interest, which leads to lower voting rates.

For example, U.S. presidents have always been middle-aged or elderly white males. But last year the United States elected its first young, black president, Barack Obama, sending waves across the Atlantic and the Pacific, hitting Europe and Japan. The Japanese couldn’t just sit still – so they elected the DPJ, formed in 1998, to power.

Yukio Hatoyama, head of the winning DPJ and soon to be named the next prime minister, recently spoke about his China policy, which made many Chinese feel good. He said he wanted to limit U.S. influence and draw closer to Asia, build an “Eastern Asian Community” and tighten relations with China.

As far as I recall, more than half a century ago, when Japan launched its war of aggression against China and other Asian countries, its major excuses were quite similar. Japan wanted to help Asia get out from the shadow of the United States and the West, create a “Great East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere,” assist China and prevent it, along with other Asian countries, from falling under the control of the West.

Even though the words appear similar, Hatoyama’s statements have not aroused worries about renewed Japanese militarism, even among the Chinese. Rather, the Chinese are excited and inspired to hear from this incoming prime minister.

Does this mean there can be no more wars of aggression, or that the Japanese have thoroughly reflected upon and repented their invasions of other countries? Or is it because China has become too strong to fear foreign invasion? Why do other small and weak Asian countries not fear Hatoyama’s message?

After some consideration, I came up with my conclusion. The international environment has changed and the law of the jungle in international relations has been replaced by the new values of human rights and sovereignty set up after World War II. More significantly, the political system of Japan has changed; it has become a democratic country.

In other words, democracy not only allows the peaceful transfer of political power within a country, but also plays a role in facilitating the country’s international interactions. I may not be able to trust the Japanese, but I have confidence in their democracy.

This is exactly the result of U.S. influence in Japan. If the Americans had not forced Japan to adopt a democratic system, set up a pacifist Constitution and accept the core values that Western countries hold, in the light of Japan’s scientific technology and great national unity, Japan might have been an irresistible force, even post-World War II, for many Asian countries.

It is the democracy and core values that the United States “imposed” on Japan that prevent people today from feeling uneasy when they hear statements resembling those made by militarist Japan in the old days. If Japan really abandons U.S. influence, people had better weigh what kind of “goodwill” it has to offer, and what kind of “East Asian Community” it is aiming for.

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(Yang Hengjun is a well-known Internet critic on current affairs, author of political spy novels, and former researcher on international relations and politics for the Chinese government. This article is translated and edited from the Chinese by UPI Asia.com; the original may be found at http://yanghengjun.blog.hexun.com/36818523_d.html ©Copyright Yang Hengjun.)


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