Recognizing the changes in global circumstances/ environment that have taken place since its inception, the members of the committee, as CULCON approaches its 50th anniversary, decided to take a fresh and comprehensive look at the role of cultural and education affairs in the overall Japan-US relationship and the proper role for CULCON in the future.
That there is inherent value in culture and education is beyond dispute, but the significance of cultural and educational affairs between nations has to be measured in part against the larger political and economic context of the relationship.In the years since Kennedy and Ikeda met, the Japan-US relationship has undergone a remarkable transformation, but one premised on the original understanding that our alliancebased on our shared democratic tradition, was indispensable to both nations’ security and prosperity.Today the United States and Japan are the first and second largest economies in the world.Massive Japanese foreign direct investment into the United States after the appreciation of the yen in the 1980s initially caused alarm for some Americans, but today thousands of people in every State of the Union are employed by Japanese companies and consider them a valued member of their communities.US foreign direct investment into Japan was always a much smaller fraction of the flow into the American economy from Japan, but that number has also increased and in 2006 American companies quietly made four times more profit from their investments in Japan than they did in China.
On the political and security fronts the changes have been equally stunning.Ikeda and Kennedy had to refer to the Japan-US relationship as a "partnership" in their joint statement because the word "alliance" was considered too sensitive in Japan. Nevertheless,the Japanese public has supported the dispatch of self-defense forces abroad to provide logistical support in the Indian Ocean in the war against terrorism and humanitarian reconstruction in Iraq.In the G-8, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, and the Six Party Talks on North Korea, American and Japanese diplomats coordinate strategies to enhance peace and prosperity for Asia and the world.In recent polls 92% of the American policy community said that they have confidence in Japan as a "trustworthy" ally.
Yet even as the Japan-US relationship has become closer in all aspects, the world around the two nations has been changing at an even faster pace.Globalization has created new opportunities for entrepreneurship unimaginable five decades ago, but it has also caused anxieties for workers in developed and developing countries who are uncertain of their own place in the new economy.The rise of Chinese economic power has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty and contributed to the integration of Asia, but also raised new challenges for the United States and Japan not only in terms of shifting balance of powers, but with respect to such matters as the environment, energy, food safety and transparency.
Climate change now dominates the discourse of American and Japanese political leaders, but the multi-generational dimension of the challenge and the paucity of effective mechanisms for international cooperation have delayed concrete action.The gap between rich and poor around the world is growing, and the international food supply has suddenly and unexpectedly come under stress, yet foreign aid practices by the developed countries remain little changed and governments are working toward conclusion of a successful Doha Development Round of trade talks.The catastrophic human tragedies wrought by the recent earthquake in China and the cyclone in Myanmar have brought into sharp relief the plight of masses of vulnerable people in these and other parts of the world.None of these challenges can be dealt with in a piece-meal fashion; they are causally interlinked and call for concerted actions by the global community.
Nor can any of these problems be resolved by the United States or Japan alone on the one hand, nor by the international community without joint leadership between the United States and Japan.Yet in spite of the enormous strides made in the Japan-US alliance and the general consensus that the relationship has never been stronger, the reality is that the American and Japanese people are both once again uncertain of themselves in one important area: the effectiveness of their capacity for persuasion through their ideas and values. This is where CULCON can play an important catalytic role.
For Japan, having achieved its post war aim to catch up with the US in terms of its economic activities, it is now in a period of transition.It is deregulating and moving towards a small government.It is in the process of redefining its objectives within the changing global context.Inevitably, during such a period of change, there is some uncertainty and loss of direction.Japanese intellectuals and thought leaders have been less visible in the great debates of the age than they were in more dynamic economic times.Japanese students are less ambitious than they once were about studying abroad, even as the numbers of Chinese, Indian and Korean students in American universities are rocketing upward.Japan remains one of the most respected countries in the world, according to annual polling done by the British Broadcasting Corporation and others, yet the Japanese ability to shape the international agenda seems to be flagging, giving rise to the concern about its declining profile in the world..
For the United States their uncertainty derives from a public perception that America has lost ground in world opinion in the aftermath of policy shifts following 9/11, and the challenging situation in the Middle East, the sub-prime crisis, and the sliding value of the dollar.The truth is that in much of East Asia, the United States is as popular as ever, but in other parts of the world the American image has come under assault.In response, American think tanks have commissioned studies on "Smart Power" and the State Department has made efforts to enhance its public diplomacy. These changing perceptions of the US role in the world affect Japan-US relations as well.
The ability of the United States and Japan to exercise intellectual leadership in the international community depends also on the health of intellectual exchange between our two countries.A vibrant intellectual relationship between the United States and Japan provides an incubator for new ideas for the international community; it nurtures internationalists who can shape opinion abroad; and it strengthens the foundation of our bilateral partnership.The intellectual relationship in turn draws energy from bilateral cultural linkages; finds new leaders in educational exchanges; and builds on the broad foundation of grass roots cooperation.
CULCON finds a disturbing drift, if not decline, in the intensity of intellectual exchanges between persons in leadership positions in the two countries, something that had been a positive feature throughout the period of competitive friction.This decline has occurred even while communication at popular levels has increased.CULCON notes this trend with concern.