DAVOS – World Economic Forum
24 January 2015
KISHORE MAHBUBANI: Good morning everybody my name is Kishore Mahbubani, I’m the Dean of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore and it gives me great pleasure to welcome you to this panel on rebuilding trust in Asia. Now as you know at Davos we discuss many globally significant issues but I suspect that the discussion that we are having and are going to have this morning is probably going to touch on one of the most important issues of our time. I say that because for a long time I’ve maintained that the 21st century will the Asian Century, I think that we know that. What we don’t know is whether it will be a happy century or an unhappy century. We’ve seen both sides of the coin, I remember exactly a year ago in Davos in January 2014 when I was here the one question that everyone was asking me in the corridors was, “Will there be war between China and Japan in 2014?” Luckily I took bets with several people and gave them ten-to-one odds and I collected my bets at Davos in January 2015. So you can see I have a lot of confidence in the underlying stability of the region but despite that of course there are real issues, real challenges that we have to deal with and there are significant trust deficits in this region. So what we plan to do this morning is to initially try to see whether we can do a good analysis of what the deeper sources of these trust deficits are, and then we’ll move from there to see whether we can suggest solutions or ways or means of improving this situation in the region and towards the end we’ll also call on you members of the audience to come in with some tough and bracing questions. As you know this session is on the record and is being webcast on a Saturday morning, as you know it is difficult to fill the room but the good news that there is a large audience watching out there both today and in the future.
Now I won’t introduce the panel at great length. You all know we have a remarkably distinguished panel here. I’ll introduce them with one sentence as I pose the first question to them then we’ll try to – we conspired before this event that there’d be no long speeches, instead we’ll have a robust to and fro this morning to make sure that you’re all awake on a Saturday morning. So Dr Kil I’m going to start with you, Dr Kil has been a former diplomat, a former journalist and now a politician. Of course, when we talk of trust deficits that involve Korea it’s very clear without a shadow of doubt that there is a trust deficit between Korea and Japan reflected both in maritime issues and other issues. If you had to give a very brief analysis of what you see as the deeper sources for this trust deficit what would you say?
KIL JEONG-WOO: Well, this is my honour as always but I think this is kind of a pity or a shame for big North East Asian countries to be talking about rebuilding trust in the region. Considering the economic importance of those three countries in North East Asia and considering many different kinds of issues of the countries is contributing to the region and the world in general. We can do it better as a matter of fact. We can share geographic proximity and we are sharing cultural heritage. But I think all three major countries, China, Japan and Korea, are now playing the game of self-defeating. So my message is that we can be better. You maybe heard about the East Asian paradox – economically prosperous but we are still suffering from political tensions. Such political tensions are mostly coming out of our past history – each country still has certain feelings about our contemporary history and each political leader have probably not been courageous enough to break the shackles of past history and each leader of major countries lean on the populism so I think we are now here so we should try to find a way out of this self-defeating game. Most tensions, political tensions, are coming from the past history.
MAHBUBANI: You’re trying to start us off on an optimistic note but I’ll push you a bit later. I’m going to ask you later as a follow up question, why can’t Korea and Japan do what Germany and France have done or Germany and the UK have done and say history is history, the future is the future? Think about that for the second question. Xinbo as you know is a very distinguished academic from Fudan University, China and of course China as you know has also had challenges with its neighbours, certainly as I mentioned in my opening remarks everyone thought that China and Japan may possibly come to blows over the disputes over the Senkaku/Diaouyo Islands and there were issues in the South China Sea and so on and so forth. How do you see China’s perspective on this trust deficit?
WU XINBO: I will tell you what I think about this issue because in China there are maybe different views on this issue. I think the challenges are: one, that in this region the economic regions are becoming increasingly regional in terms of the integration and interdependence. But politically it remains very much national or sometimes in our country it is very much local even personal. So you look at the trend of this regional economic integration but politically very much driven our respective national agendas or even partisan agendas or local agendas. So that creates a lot of tension in relations amongst countries. Another reason for this is we have seen the rapid change of balance of power in this region because of the rise of China and because of the rapid development of other countries. And this change in the balance of power always leads to concern and anxiety and we haven’t been able to come up with a new regional framework that will accommodate this changing power balance and make every member of this region have a shared vision about the future of this region. So I think if we are going to address the issue of trust deficit, we really need to think about shared vision for the future and shared agenda for this region. That’s the direction we should move toward.
MAHBUBANI: I’m glad that you’re taking a slightly different approach. Dr Kil spoke about the historical dimension, you speak about the shift in the balance of power which is also causing a new tension so let me turn to my good friend Akihiko Tanaka, distinguished academic who is now a very good bureaucrat running [JAPANESE]. So Akihiko from your point of view, as you know Japan has trust deficits with Korea and China, what’s your perspective and what do see as the underlying causes of this.
AKIHIKO TANAKA: Thank you Kishore, it’s a great pleasure to be on the panel with you and also two good friends of mine – Member of Parliament Mr Kil and and Wu Xinbo. And the Prime Minister! I agree that there is a trust deficit amongst the North East Asian three countries. I think there are three levels. One is the leadership level, the second is ordinary peoples level and the third is extremist level. On the leadership level I think there are issues of unpredictability of others, there are suspicions about what other leaders would do in response to my action. This level of mutual suspicion causes a background in which ordinary people are reacting and if the two leaders are afraid of seeing each other then people tend to figure that something is wrong in the relations between the two countries. What makes the deficit worse is the existence of extremists in all three countries. Particularly, working very actively on the net, they somehow fan the mutual suspicions. This could create the leadership level’s lack of dialogue and extremists’ views of each other fan each other and then affect the ordinary peoples’ level. Now the situation in the ordinary peoples’ level is quite serious because any opinion surveys we take in Japan, China and Korea indicate that, depending on the country and depending on the time, 60% to 80 or 90% of people do not trust the other countries. We need to attend to all three levels but I’m quite optimistic in the sense that there has been an improvement in the leadership level (I may elaborate on this) and there is an increase in ordinary people interactions across the three countries and then I think – well, Kishore has been instrumental at university level exchanges in East Asia – but students are becoming friends with each other studying in different campuses. Todai students studying in Seoul National, and [INAUDIBLE] students studying in Todai, and on Fudan Campus there are Japanese and Korean students. I think there are foundations. Then in contrast to the atmosphere last year, this year’s conditions are markedly better.
MAHBUBANI: I like this optimism that is flowing through the panel but I’m going to challenge it in a while. Kevin – as you know Kevin Rudd is the former Prime Minister of Australia and also a very distinguished scholar, he speaks English and Mandarin equally fluently so I have to remind him today’s session is in English.
KEVIN RUDD: I also speak Australian as well.
MAHBUBANI: Kevin, you’re in a very good position to talk about probably the most important relationship across the Pacific which is the relationship between the world’s number one power today, the United States, and the world’s number one emerging power, China. And of course the US-China dynamic is also going to affect how the whole event unfolds in the Asia-Pacific. Looking at that particular relationship where do you see the trust deficit.
RUDD: Stepping back one point, and that is, why do we talk about strategic trust? That’s a really important question in the fundamental strategic logic of the relationship between China and America. If we take as a given that security and stability can only be obtained by a balance of power then I think we are in for a world of pain for a long time in this particular relationship. One of the reasons being, from Beijing perspective, there is no balance of power because an overwhelming power of the United States in terms of its military power still today and secondly, supported by an alliance structure around it. That’s the core logic. So if that is the underpinning logic to our analysis of what’s possible for the future between China and the US and, therefore, the region then we’d have a real problem. Hence enter the trust question. And it is a relative question, never an absolute one. Trust within political systems is hard enough, trust between political systems is hard enough. In Asia in the 21stcentury it is trebly hard so it is not an absolute question. China and Japan are not going to start trusting each other tomorrow are they? But it is a relative question of how much trust is adequate to the task of building a cooperative security or strategic project between them and between China and the US.
How does China view America, therefore, on the trust question? I spent a lot of time working on this at Harvard Kennedy School this year. Number one, is that (and this will surprise many people in this room) but if you drill down within the Chinese leadership and the way they view the world, their baseline lack of trust towards America is that they don’t believe that America accepts the legitimacy of the Chinese political system. That informs so much else. In fact, the Chinese leadership or elements of it consolidated this into a five-point phrase midway through last year. Along the lines of what the United States is engaged in is a process of delegitimizing, undermining China, containing China and ultimately overthrowing the Chinese Communist Party. That’s pretty hardline stuff but if you are the Chinese Party leadership this has been a very widespread view for a long time. So if you want an element of strategic distrust there’s nothing more distrusting than the other guy thinking you’re totally illegitimate and wants to get rid of you. That’s number one. Number two, is the external domain. That’s the argument about Chinese containment and that is that not only the legitimacy of their regime domestically seen as not right, but that therefore the United States is locking them in externally. At least in a security sense and that has direct geo-economic implications for them in terms of long term energy supply.
Final point is how do the Americans view all that in return? The United States perceives that the Chinese strategy is kind of along these lines: number one, that China will wish to avoid any military conflict with the United States for the long term future simply because the United States would win because it’s overwhelmingly powerful; number two, the Chinese strategy as the Americans perceive it is to economically overwhelm Asia and ultimately therefore cause Asia to become more politically compliant to Beijing. That’s the internal American conclusion and a lot proceeds from that underlying strategic logic.
But finally, the good news. This Obama-Xi Jinping meeting in November on the back of APEC was probably the best that has been had since Xi Jinping took over and reason is – based on my understanding and Xinbo should answer from the Chinese side, I’m just a third party looking at it from the Southern Hemisphere – that these two questions were explicitly addressed in the leaders’ discussion with each other. Because unless you are talking about the elephant in the room – in my argument the two elephants in the room – domestic legitimacy and containment, then frankly everything else is a bit of folkdancing. The second good news I think out of this meeting is that there is now the beginnings of a framework, the beginnings of a process to manage the really hard stuff and of course to advance the cooperative stuff in order trust-build over time.
MAHBUBANI: Thank you that was wonderful. I see that Xinbo has raised a two-finger thing and I’ll give it to you in a minute. But I think in the first round you can see we have touched upon many of the key issues that have to be addressed – the history issue, the balance of power and as Kevin mentioned the question of domestic legitimacy and so on as a new factor. And here Xinbo, as you think of your response too, the paradox in East Asia is that in theory the most difficult relationship is always between the number one and the number one emerging power because there is a real contest there, not about those who have had old ancient historical dispute. Surprisingly, it is – and I am genuinely surprised how well the US-China relationship is going in contrast to the China-Japan relationship or the Korea-Japan relationship. So that, I agree with Kevin, gives us a lot of hope because if you can take the most difficult relationship in the region and manage it well then there is hope for the region and there may be other lessons to learn from it as well. But Xinbo, when you raised your two fingers were you going to agree or disagree with Kevin? I hope you disagree.
XINBO: Partly different from what he described the Chinese view of how the US approaches China when China rises. I think one thinking in China and maybe other parts of Asia is that when we talk about the deficit in trust in Asia, the US is the single most important external factor affecting this equation. To some extent people think the US may not want to see an Asia that really has committed to a shared agenda of regional cooperation and a community because of that way you run the risk of excluding the US from regional affairs, undermining the depth of US influence in the region. So when China rises the US tries to balance China in working with its security allies in this region like Japan, Korea, the Philippines et cetera, even Australia. That somehow undermines the trust between China and its regional members and economically China is becoming, like it or not, the centre of regional economy. However, this has also alarmed Washington so it tries to create some new regional economic framework like TPP, Asia Pacific framework to challenge China’s central position in the regional economy. These kinds of trends really strain the confidence building and the trust building between China and its neighbours and also between China and the United States. I think that the core for Washington is it realizes that Asian countries are doomed to have much closer economic, political and security cooperation in the future with or without the United States and too whether a rising China will inevitably have more influence in the Asia Pacific region even if that comes at the expense of some of the US influence in this region. These are kind of two philosophical issues that the political elite in Washington really have to figure out before they sit down to think about policy towards Asia and towards China.
MAHBUBANI: Both Dr Kil and Kevin raised their hands but before I get to them, do you agree Xinbo, very quickly, with Kevin’s key point that the Obama-Xi meeting in November was amazingly successful? Do you agree with that?
XINBO: We feel pleasantly surprised with the outcome of this and what’s even more important –
RUDD: That’s Chinese for ‘amazingly successful’.
XINBO: The US side was also pleasantly surprised because Obama after losing the mid-term elections, he was greeted very warmly in Beijing. Treating him like someone who is going to be the President of the United States for the next ten years.
MAHBUBANI: How many hours did they spend together?
XINBO: Ten hours. The fourth day for the Zhongnanhai Dinner they were supposed to stay together for three hours from 6.30 to 9.30 but then it turned out to be protected for another two hours. Two more hours than originally planned so this is important because that was informal discussion, very substantive, very personal – really a free exchange.
MAHBUBANI: Dr Kil I’m going to ask you a mischievous question that you respond to what was said earlier, can you see President Park and Shinzo Abe spending ten hours together?
KIL: I hope so. I really hope so. I’m not representing majority voices in Korea in the current situation but I’m always arguing and emphasizing that a summit meeting without substantive outcome is better than no meeting. Especially, because Korea and Japan is very unique and very important so let’s come back to 1998. South Korean President Kim Dae-jung at that time, Japanese Prime Minister Obuchi – they made an agreement and declared the common future of both countries. That’s simple, we can come back to this agreement and respect this type of spirit. Then we can resume anything in a positive manner. But let me add one thing about the changing strategic map in East Asia, that comes from the rise of China and the US Administration’s pivot to Asia strategy. Probably that kind of changing strategic map might to some degree affect the Japanese government’s direction. Some people call it ‘historical revisionism’, some people call it a ‘masochistic view of history’ referring to the South Korean Foreign Minister’s comment yesterday. But the problem is that the change of the strategic map surely affects Japan’s future path, Japan’s leader’s decision on which way to drive the Japanese country. That might quite possibly affect Korea-Japan relations so that’s why the Japanese, not all the Japanese people, still think Japan are the victim of the Second World War, Pacific War. Japan was first the victim of the atomic bombing but that kind of psychology of victim of the Second World War, shared by some Japanese people, that is a major hurdle to get out of this vicious cycle in Korea-Japan relations. Japan is concerned that Korea is the victim of the victim of Japan.
MAHBUBANI: Both Kevin and Akihiko have raised their fingers to respond, I’ll give you the floor in a second but before doing so I want to prepare all of you for the second round. And the second round, since the theme of the panel is rebuilding trust, I want you all to suggest concrete things that can be done that will help to rebuild trust. For example, I’m glad Dr Kil agreed with me that we should have a ten hour summit meeting between Prime Minister Abe and President Park. I think even a ten hour meeting without a substantive outcome is better than no meeting, that’s a good example because it worked the magic for Obama and Xi clearly. So Kevin you’re going to respond to Xinbo’s comments and then Akihiko?
RUDD: I was but now I’ve changed my mind. This is fascinating we’ve got in this triangle the underpinning dynamic –
MAHBUBANI: Which triangle are you referring to? Not including the United States?
RUDD: No, just these three. We’ll come back to the Americans in a moment. I would like to hear – and this is your job and I’m sorry to supplement a question to three representatives from North East Asia – do they believe the history question is resolvable in any form? Because we know that from all of these engagements in these relationships, and I’ve had engagements in all of them, is that it is the silent and sometimes very noisy elephant in the room. If it is solvable what is the formula between Japan and Korea and between Japan and China? What is the baseline here? There’s a separate question about what is politically possible or not but what is the baseline? Or, thirdly, are we saying that this now must wait the passage of yet another generation before it is “forgotten” and there I’m not sure. Everyone in our families, looking at our respective ages, everyone would have a family narrative about their engagement in the Pacific War. I do and I’m sure these folks do as well.
I’ll just leave that to one side. On Xinbo’s point about the region, I think he’s right in a sense. I live in the United States, I’m with the Harvard Kennedy School and I take over as President of the Asia Society Policy Institute in New York fairly soon. There is a general non-acceptance I think, or non-awareness across American policy elites on the extent to which China is now such a central economic power not just in Asia but in many other regions in the world. This is not grasped intuitively in America, it is seen by some in the academy. And when I say that the economic world is changing under America’s feet I’m usually stared at blankly. So Xinbo’s point about that in terms of the United States is correct. But the point about common regional engagement is this, if it’s a security concept that has a different set of answers, if it is an economic concept around either FTAP – Free Trade for Asia and the Pacific, currently backed by China – or TPP as is backed by the United States, that has its own internal disagreements. But if you add the security concept, frankly, it becomes even more complex. So the point is this in terms of a Chinese concept of what would be a common dream for the region, that’s Xi Jinping’s term. Is it a common dream for the region which in economic and security terms has America in? Or is it a common dream for the region which just has America in economic terms in? When I look at Xi Jinping’s statements and he talks about the new Asian security concept it is one which, as I read it, does not automatically seem to include the United States and when I look at his articulations at APEC about a dream for the region, it is an economy wide Asia Pacific concept. So therefore, you have a concept of Asian security regionalism excluding the United States perhaps and you have an Asia Pacific economic concept emanating from the same Chinese Government saying the United States is in. Frankly, my own view having spent the best part of one year thinking about this is that unless you embrace the lot it won’t work, on the core question which you have posed us which is how do you begin to build manageable levels of strategic trust.
MAHBUBANI: Akihiko go first and then we’ll come to you Xinbo.
TANAKA: Thank you very much. I believe there are in my understanding two built-in stabilizers in East Asia. One and most fundamental is the deepening economic interdependence. Everyone loses if they squabble with each other and this is the most fundamental business.
MAHBUBANI: That’s why my bets of China-Japan.
TANAKA: And then the second built-in stabilizer is the strategic understanding between China and the United States. As long as they have mutual understanding and then they have certain consensus about what should be the role of the United States, what should be the role of China in the Asia Pacific region? From other countries’ perspectives if the agreement is a condominium of dividing the region into two spheres of influence then we do not agree. But otherwise the existence of a strategic understanding between the two countries is beneficial to correct any of the issues that Japanese-Chinese have or Japanese-Koreans have, there are in my understanding limits of the degeneration of relations. What we need more is we need to create a third build-in stabilizer which is to gain more trust between regional countries. If we could have these three built-in stabilizers I think East Asia could be a lot more stable place.
As to Korea-Japan relations I think it is quite possible for the leaders to meet for an extended period of time to discuss many issues. So far it hasn’t been realized but then thanks to the organizers of various ASEAN related meetings Mr Abe and Ms Park because of alphabetical order they share a table together. They I assume had a fairly good conversation with both of them did not reveal what they discussed but that is a good beginning and there are issues of history we need to sort out. As somebody who has studied international history in the 19thand the 20th century it is a fact that Japan colonized Korea, it is a fact that Japan made aggressive war in the 1930s and very few serious historians would deny these fundamental facts. There are extremists who tend to revise this type of views but their academic force is so weak that I think with the determination on the leaders level I think that these could be managed.
MAHBUBANI: I’m looking at the clock very carefully because as you know the clock runs out very fast. Xinbo you can respond to Kevin when you do your second round quickly but I do want to focus on specific things that we can do and some examples. But I’m very glad, Akihiko, you mentioned ASEAN’s role and that, by the way, is not the first time that ASEAN has played a role for North East Asia. You remember ten, fifteen years ago there were tensions between China and Japan and the only face-saving way for the leaders of China and Japan to meet was at an ASEAN meeting. So an ASEAN an incredibly important, silent diplomatic role which is not recognized by many in the region and I think ASEAN’s role as well will be very important in terms of rebuilding trust in East Asia. But I’m going to give three concrete specific examples of how to rebuild trust within the various countries. One, on history, I mean the Germans and the French said let our historians sit together and write history books together, so we agree on a common history and that would have to resolve a lot of tension – one concrete example. Second concrete example, Japan has very wisely told Korea, “Let us refer our dispute over the islands to the ICJ.” Why doesn’t Japan make the offer for the Senkaku/Diaouyu Islands dispute with China, “We will refer the dispute to the ICJ.” As you know in South East Asia, Singapore and Malaysia, Indonesia and Malaysia have resolved their disputes through the ICJ and that’s one way of rebuilding trust. And within US and China, to pick a very sensitive example, it is clear that one of the things that I think China finds quite naturally irritating and aggravating is that the United States is carrying on this sort of Cold War pattern of a very aggressive naval patrolling ten to twelve miles off the shore of China. I think that’s completely unnecessary, it’s a Cold War relic, you don’t pick up any information, or any more, from ten to twelve miles offshore that you can’t pick up from satellites and other sources but it is a continuation of an old pattern of behaviour that is no longer needed in today’s environment. There’s another concrete thing that can be done. These are examples of concrete things that can be done to rebuild trust in the region. In that spirit, Dr Kil what would your concrete specific suggestion be?
KIL: As far as the history book, I recall editing by the countries concerned on and off but the project is continuing. But as Akihiko mentioned earlier, the exchange of visits especially for youngsters, I think that is very productive and constructive. The so-called ‘Campus Asia’ project in 2010 and they started in in 2011. 100 students in each county exchanging a visit and exchanging the credit and share the classes and making a joint curriculum of the Universities. It’s still ongoing but it’s a very constructive project. Another one was initiated by a peace foundation, Korea and Japan’s so-called ‘Peace and Green Boat Project’. For ten days thousands of people from Korea and Japan – professionals, academics, youngsters, journalists – on board a cruise ship and cruising over many different ports of Korea and Japan. They shared the lectures and attended the same cultural activities and I want to emphasize that there are many problems between bilateral and trilateral relations but this is a time to highlight the success stories and sharing the success stories, not only the cultural diplomacy as well as some economic cooperation. There are many good cases – Tore Industries, that is a Japanese global company on textiles and fabric and other materials. Fifteen years ago they invested in Korea in joint ventures and it is a very lucrative business. Now they invest to China and are running the laboratories for research and development for Shanghai and the Japanese mother company – the Korean and Japanese joint venture company, Tore, have co-invested in Indonesia. This are many success stories. And Sony and Samsung’s cooperation.
MAHBUBANI: Excellent, those are very good examples. Thank you. I liked the boat one. Xinbo.
XINBO: First I want to –
MAHBUBANI: Talk to Kevin and then examples.
XINBO: Yes, his question about whether the history question is resolvable. I think it is, or is at least manageable. Actually between China and Japan we used to be very close to closing the gap on the history issue. One, in the past Japan’s leaders all made statements acknowledging the aggression against China and the big casualties that occurred to the people in China. Secondly, they didn’t go to visit the Yasukuni Shrine where the World War Two A-Class criminals were enshrined and certainly they tried to work with China to solve the issue of chemical weapons left by the Japanese soldiers in China in World War Two. So we were very close to solving these issues. But the last several years, the shift in Japan – I think someone just mentioned this kind of political shift, strategic shift. Because of the rise of China Japan has shifted from liberalism and pacifism to strategic realism but also in our history issues there is a shift to historical revisionism so leaders begin to say, “Aggression is a term difficult to define, what do you mean by saying ‘aggression’? Comfort women, that’s more or less a voluntary act not really forced by Japan’s soldiers.” And then the leaders began to pay visits to Yasukuni Shrine so in many cases it was not China or Korea that brought up the history issue at the first hand but rather only when Japan’s leaders began to defend the World War Two history, pay visits to Yasukuni Shrine and do these kinds of things this history came up again. So I think if we follow the good example set by Japan’s previous leaders and then get back to the right path it is very likely we can leave this issue behind rather than put this in front of us.
On the US role in Asian security, I think it is not fair to say that Premier Xi intends to exclude the US from our regional security. He’s not. Even though in his statement he said Asian security ultimately should be managed by Asian countries but he added we also welcome the constructive role played by the external powers and organizations. That’s fair because if you look at the US’ role in Asian security, the did a lot of things in the past like the Vietnam War, the War in Afghanistan, Iraq that didn’t solve the issue very well so we think that at the end of the day it has to be Asian countries to find their way out of the security challenges with the assistance of US and other external actors.
Finally, getting to your question on what kind of specific approach we should take. In addition to this kind of leadership relationship, student exchange, I think the media is very important in Asian countries especially in these three countries because this is an era of information and the young generation maybe they are more influenced by the media rather than the class or work. If the media is just contented with attracting audience then they will make a lot of sexy reports on provocative things but the media as an industry should provide good products to its consumers like other industries, like the food industry. So the media we should count on them to become responsible media – encouraging regional cooperation, reconciliation between countries, building trust, promoting exchanges. So that’s how in the future we should create a kind of regional media platform and create a kind of media exchange program. You invite the media people to your country and they stay there for some time and talk to the local people and this kind of exchange should be very interesting and useful.
MAHBUBANI: I’m going to make a very naughty comment that a responsible media may be an oxymoron. Akihiko, very quickly because I’m going to send it to the floor. I’m going to get Akihiko’s and Kevin’s suggestions on concrete things and then we’re going to throw the floor open to you and then we’re going to finish. I know a lot of hands are going up, so many.
TANAKA: I have to be very brief but I believe there are already attempts of joint studies of history among historians of the three countries. And in my understanding there is a significant amount of consensus although there are areas of disagreement amongst historians such as specific numbers of victims of incidents and specific numbers of this or that. There may be some differences between historians but then I think the general understanding of the difficulty that the three countries faced in the early 20th century have been investigated fairly jointly and on the historians level there is quite a strong possibility of mutual understanding. Or agreeing to disagree on certain interpretations but that’s natural in any kind of historical studies.
MAHBUBANI: What concrete measures do you propose?
TANAKA: Well I think the leadership level, they should be mindful of the impact of their statements and that’s what is needed for the leadership level. And then in the level of media I think there is a danger of too much simplification – already now because the Yasukuni Shrine issue has been so politicised that the meaning of somebody’s visit may have been fixated into certain interpretations but then if you look into the history of the Shrine then there are a lot of nuanced things going on. But then in the media is appears impossible to see these nuances and so I think somehow on the one hand the leaders should be mindful of the impacts of their statements and the media should make reports that gives each issue a more historically oriented perspective. And then I think what is needed is the management of this year’s so-called anniversaries – two anniversaries – the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, the 50th anniversary of the diplomatic relations of Japan-Korean since 1965. I believe and I hope that the leaders of the three leaders should be mindful to make these anniversaries the anniversary to celebrate the achievement of the past 50 years or 70 years instead of focussing too much on what brought about the 1945 and others. I believe of course that to do the Japanese leader should be candid about Japan’s conduct that lead to 1945.
MAHBUBANI: Kevin, as you see lots of hands coming up, can you get a quick comment on you for concrete suggestions?
RUDD: Three concrete ones. Number one, Japanese leadership needs to declare that future Japanese leaders will not visit Yasukuni again. This is not just a Japan-China problem, it is a problem for most of us and the reason is if you walk inside the Yasukuni and go to the museum it is a monstrously distorted view of history. Secondly, the equivalent would be if there was a cemetery in the middle of Berlin today in which latterly were interred the remains of Hitler, Goering and Goebbels and annually the German Chancellor went to pay respect. I hate to say this so stridently with my Japanese friends in the room but it is a huge stumbling block and for friends of Japan and the region, I fail to see why the rest of us need to be constantly engaged in foreign policy frictions which arise from this core question which can be resolved by a single action. That then creates an atmosphere where the other questions of history can be dealt with.
Second point is common regional institutions or common region vision as Xinbo said before. I think there is enough in the public language of the Americans and the Japanese and the Chinese to start moving towards a common regional vision. As you know we’ve got APEC, we’ve got various ASEAN related institutions, we’ve got the ARF. I think our model, Kishore, to go back to Singapore and ASEAN, should be an expanded ASEAN in this sense. You have been remarkably successful as a regional institution which has turned conflict into peace and into common economic opportunity. Look at the history of ASEAN over 40 years, it’s terrific frankly, against what it was. Therefore, my strong concrete suggestion is with ASEAN at the core mindful of the ASEAN example, we use the East Asian Summit – which is ASEAN based – to evolve a common concept of a regional community for the future which incorporates both the security and the economic dimensions. It’s one of the projects I intend to launch this year through the Asia Society Policy Institute.
Thirdly, for China, Japan and the rest of the region to merge the concepts of TPP and FTAP on the basis of trade principles. The argument from trade policy specialists is that TPP is a high quality agreement and that FTAP would be a geopolitical agreement. I think that there is a capacity to find a middle point there which then causes us to incorporate common economic engagement as continued net regional advantage and confidence builder and trust builder rather than it turning into yet another terrain for conflict.
MAHBUBANI: Excellent suggestions. Great. There are so many hands that I’m going to suggest this, ladies and gentlemen, with exactly ten minutes left – each of you if you don’t mind stand up, state your name and quickly pose your question. We’ll take all the questions in one go but we have to finish all the questions in exactly five minutes so please be very short and sharp as the panellists have been. Then we’ll give five minutes for the panellists to respond and we’ll have a very robust ending.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: As a Korean woman I’d like to raise one issue about sexual slave issues. Even though there are many issues Korean-Japanese relationships there are many great Japanese people who officially apologized for that issue. But we as Koreans only need official apologies from Japanese leadership but they don’t say sorry about that. There are only 55 comfort women alive at this moment, we don’t have much time for official apologies. As Dr Tanaka said, it is the 50th anniversary between Japan and Korea relations and the end of the Second World War. I really want Japanese people to do official apologies for all people of the world, this is not only a Korean women’s issue but everyone’s issue I think.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Tian Wei, CCTV. Thank you everybody. I just want to say something about the media because many of you talk about that. The media is always to be blamed on whatever difficult issues, but having said that I’m a member of the International Media Council for the WEF and I have to brief everyone. This year we have an enormous amount of discussion about the role of the media for the betterment of society as a whole, given the Middle East and many other areas. My question is, I think there are two issues here that we are talking about, one is that the enormous amount of cooperative spirit that I see not only with Kishore but all the panellists to get things right so that relations go ahead, which is important. But on the other hand, may I just ask a question, can we just easily brush off all the facts and move the relations further to a “better situation” but brushing off all of the important facts and realities? I think that’s not realistic and I want to invite the views of our panellists.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Gideon Rachman, Financial Times. I just wanted to ask, the perception I have and a few others have that there’s been a change in the tone of Chinese foreign policy in the last three months – a more conciliatory approach to Japan, to Vietnam. And also a report I read, I’d be interested to know if it’s accurate, of Mr Wang Yang in Washington where he apparently said that China had no desire to challenge a US-led global order. Was that an accurate report and can it be taken at face value?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you professor. My name is Wihad from Malaysia. Now Malaysia and many other ASEAN countries do enjoy a relationship between those countries and China, Korea, Japan and Australia too. In the case of Japan, although Japan was an aggressor to Malaysia during the Second World War, we’ve seen those issues almost forgotten. For example, my grandmother would never forgive the Japanese because she lost a sister but my father and myself, we don’t have any ill-feelings towards Japan and in fact in my case our relationship with Japan is one of gratitude because Japan within three decades of the Second World War invested into Malaysia and brought Malaysia up to become an industrialized nation where a quarter of our GDP is now contributed by the manufacturing sector and a big portion of that was complemented by Japanese investors. My question is that, why is that in Malaysia overcome this issue and welcome Japan where other countries may have some difficulties?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I’m Harvy Liwanag, one of the Global Shapers attending this meeting and I am from the Philippines. Now we are aware of the tensions in the Spratlys and the South China Sea. As a result of China’s aggressive behaviour the Philippines has filed a case in the International Court, the Philippines wants a dialogue with China – multilaterally through ASEAN for example – but China has always refused to approach it multilaterally. China insists on a bilateral approach. What are your thoughts on this?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Vuk Jeremic, Editor-in-Chief of Horizons. During our tumults in the European theatre, geopolitical tumults with Russia, getting frictions between Russia and the West and that is causing Russia’s first pivot to Asia. So how is that influencing, if at all, the geopolitical and geo-economic equation in Asia through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, through the new energy deals? So the emergence of Russia in the theatre, does it change things at all?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Ken Choi from Chosun Ilbo Newspaper, Korea. What we are missing in this region is some sort of military arrangements whereas in Europe we have NATO and it’s impossible to have a war in that region. Whereas in Asia, like the Philippines gentlemen mentioned, there is no security arrangements that prevents or simply makes war impossible in the region. Why aren’t we talking about this?
MAHBUBANI: Okay let’s go in reverse order. Kevin, one minute, and I’m sorry but I am going to but you off at one minute.
XINBO: 40 seconds for him.
RUDD: Thank you Xinbo, I’ll interrupt on you too. Gideon to respond to your question, the key speeches are Xi Jinping’s 30 November speech last year, partially reported in the Chinese media. It outlines an approach to the world that has China very much on the front foot, China will a new constructive global diplomacy and the key phrase I think is so for China assuming what it describes as a ‘new great power diplomacy’ with Chinese characteristics, cooperating with the rest of the world on the construction of the future international order. It’s the key speech. I think Wang Yang’s speech partially reflects that.
Secondly, on the question of the ICJ and the Philippines can I just say this, I think a smart solution for everyone is, as you ASEANs have demonstrated, is to use the ICJ comprehensively and everyone wants different approaches to that.
And thirdly, on –
MAHBUBANI: I’m sorry to interrupt you but I want to give each one of them one minute.
RUDD: And thirdly, that’s the end.
TANAKA: On the issue of comfort women I personally feel for the victims who are becoming older and older and we need to do the things that could console them. I would like to mention that the Japanese have been trying to alleviate the damage done to these victims by establishing what we called ‘Asia Women’s Fund’. It is a joint activity by the government and the private sector and the government used the government money to handle the fund with the donations. And I’m one of those who contributed with an amount of donation to the ‘Asia Women’s Fund’ but then this activity unfortunately was not accepted very much by, I think, some of the Korean victims and others. So I would like to hope that the leaders will create wiser frameworks in which substantively the victims will be compensated.
MAHBUBANI: The clock is very brutal, it’s not me.
XINBO: Very quickly on the media role, I think it can do a better job by (a) putting facts in perspective and (b) reporting more rational voices rather than this extreme voice in certain cases. For China and the Philippines I think the problem is if China and the Philippines have a dispute over particular islands, what’s the use of bringing other Asian countries like Singapore in this equation? China and the Philippines also used to reach some agreement and cooperation projects but it was after the current President Aquino came into power then he changed his mind. So that’s how the domestic politics could spill over into this issue. Final question is Russia – we think of Russia as also an Asian power so Russia is expected to play a constructive role in regional security affairs.
KIL: It seems to be very difficult for all major East Asian countries to rebuild trust in the region but I think we should try first to stop the game of self-defeating and let me finally quote former the President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible until it’s really done.”
MAHBUBANI: I think you’ll all agree that we’ve had a remarkable discussion today because we’ve gone into a very deep dive into history, we’ve looked at the big picture, we’ve looked at the larger strategic trends, we pointed out the negative dimensions, the positive dimensions. But at the end of the day what I take away from this panel actually is a renewed sense of optimism that, even though some of the challenges will remain, there are what Akihiko said at the beginning – many strategic stabilizers in the region driven the economic and trade integration in the region, driven by a new generation emerging and driven by the ability of these countries now to talk frankly to each other about issues which they could not discuss before and I think that is a positive new development so I leave this panel feeling optimistic and I hope you’ll leave this panel feeling optimistic. With that please join me in thanking the panellists.