I would like to extend my greetings as the newly appointed Executive Director of the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership.
Established in April 1991, the mission of the Center for Global Partnership, or CGP, is to enhance understanding and cooperation between Japan and the United States with a vision to address international issues. In operation now for a quarter of a century, the Center was headed by Minoru Kusuda, Nagayo Honma, and Yoshihiko Wakumoto over the first ten years and by Hideya Taida, Sadaaki Numata, and Akio Nomura the following 15 years. Under the exceptional leadership of my predecessors, CGP has been instrumental in driving globally-attuned Japan-US intellectual exchange initiatives and locally-based, grass-roots exchange programs essential for greater mutual understanding. The Center has also engaged in the development of future generations of leaders to promote Japan-US relations.
Since joining the Japan Foundation in 1982, much of my career has been closely associated with the Center for Global Partnership. I served as director of the New York office during the 1990s and as director of the Tokyo office in the 2000s, under the previous executive directors whose guidance and leadership offered many valuable lessons. It is daunting to consider the enormous responsibilities that accompany the role of executive director, a position occupied over the decades by exceptional public intellectuals who staunchly supported closer ties with the United States. Nevertheless, I humbly look forward to contributing my experience and expertise, as well as the network I developed as a visiting fellow of Johns Hopkins University SAIS, to further strengthen Japan-US relations and to pilot the Center to the next level of international relations.
Conceived shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and established with a Diet-approved public endowment of 50 billion yen, CGP has from its early years aspired to promote both intellectual and grassroots-level exchanges in the post-Cold War period through Japan-US partnership and cooperation. The Center operates on the basic assumption that - and here I quote the words of founding executive director Minoru Kusuda - “Japan-US cooperation is indispensable to create a new international order and achieve peace and stability in the post-Cold War world.” The executive director stressed the importance of fostering vibrant intellectual and civil communities in both countries through extensive dialogue and exchange with a view to achieving greater mutual understanding, a prerequisite condition for a successful alliance. He also clearly defined what he believed to be the mission of CGP, stating that “the Center should not limit its role to the promotion of friendship; rather it must extend its reach, support and stimulate the creativity of intellectual societies, help develop networks of civil societies, and be part of the solution in addressing worldwide problems.”
That such a vision shaped itself among the early CGP leadership and staff is not unexpected in light of the fact that in the early 1990s, the combined GNP of Japan and the United States surpassed 40% of the global economy. This global economic landscape created a sense that any cooperative partnership between the two economic powers must, necessarily, direct its focus on the welfare of the global community. It is apparent that CGP envisioned the two countries acting together as leaders of the post-Cold War era.
One can also speculate that the vision to foster cooperation with the United States was designed to help ease the underlying tension existing between the two countries at the time. It reflected the desire to overcome the economic and cultural friction of the late 1980s and to put an end to the discord that flared in the aftermath of the First Gulf War.
The events over the following decades have brought monumental change to the post-Cold War world. Japan experienced two lost decades and the world witnessed the rise of BRICs, and then “the Rise of the Rest,” most notably in Asia. Impacted by these changes, the share of the combined nominal GDP of Japan and the United States has now declined to 30.6% of the world total.
Japan-US relations have also experienced shifts over the years. The revisionist debate that raged in the late 1980s is now a thing of the past, and the rift that undermined the two countries’ relations after the First Gulf War and inspired the term “a drifting alliance” has been mended. Various players are now continuously at work to cultivate friendly bilateral relations in line with the changing world system and the demands of the times.
Given these trends, has the Center’s vision embraced in its earlier years - one that sought to address international issues through a collaborative Japan-US partnership - become irrelevant, at least in terms of economic measures? In the current world system, often characterized as multi-polar or non-polar, are we to dismiss as obsolete CGP’s guiding principle that puts Japan-US alliance at the center of its activities?
My answer is a vehement “No!” The policy to promote Japan-US partnership in a global context, and to nurture closer relations to that end, first expressed by Kusuda and passed on to the subsequent executive directors through the years, must be recognized as an increasingly relevant and vital concept, albeit in different ways from when first proposed in 1991. In an ever-changing regional context and in a world that has become increasingly complex over the 25 years since the end of the Cold War, this concept is one that should be firmly embraced as the Center’s guiding principle into the future.
It is also the responsibility of CGP to keep pace with global trends and developments, such as the emerging public discourse on the revival of geopolitics and the growing awareness of and advocacy for public diplomacy in a competitive environment. The Center’s ability to stay attuned to the shifting global landscape will be crucial to effectively serve as a medium that connects organizations and individuals of Japan and the United States, and brings together intellectual and civil societies from both countries.
Furthermore, given the dynamic nature of regional and global circumstances, maintaining a positive relationship between the world’s largest and third largest economies is in itself part of the global challenge. As such, it is imperative for Japan to recognize the importance of developing and sustaining cooperative, trusting relations with the United States and to demonstrate both the drive and initiative in the pursuit of this goal.
With this understanding, our team at CGP is determined to do its best to play a positive role in furthering the Japan-US global partnership. We look forward to the continued understanding and support of our friends and partners for the Center’s activities, and for stronger and deeper ties between our two countries.