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2014: Japan in the 21st Century

National Conferences

International Symposium
Japan in the 21st Century

March 25 at 7 p.m. 
March 26 at 4 p.m. & 7 p.m.
Younts Conference Center

Click here to view speaker biographies. To view the program for March 25th and 26th, click here.

Tuesday, March 25, 7:00 p.m.

"United States and Japan Relations"

Michael Armacost, U.S. Ambassador to Japan (1989-1993)

In an Asia awash in change, Japan and its partnership with the United States are of paramount importance, explained Dr. Michael Armacost in his address to attendees of Japan in the 21st Century. A former ambassador to Japan Shorenstein Distinguished Fellow and past president of the Brookings Institution, Armacost described Japan today as a vibrant democracy and praised the durability, flexibility and relevancy of the 1951 Washington Tokyo Alliance. However, he warned that the Japan-U.S. relationship is facing some unprecedented challenges. The largest of these is China, whose continuous growth in population, increased defense spending, development of a navy, and 9,000 miles of coastline and good ports, has become a force to reckon with. Another problem is the dark horse of North Korea and its missile material build-up. Armacost complimented Japan’s new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s progressive policies and challenged the U.S. government to support Japan more actively, especially in ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will eventually attract more trade and influence for democracies in the region. Armacost was cautious but hopeful and urged the US to ‘tend the garden’ of U.S. and Japan relations.

Wednesday, March 26, 4:00 p.m.

"Challenges and Opportunities: Key Issues Confronting Japan”

Three internationally renowned scholars of Japan/Asia integration, Japanese economics, and comparative politics presented on three different yet complementary key issues confronting Japan in a panel moderated by Dr. Michael Armacost.

“Japan and Asian Integration” — Takashi Terada, Doshisha University

Takashi Terada opened the forum by presenting a graphic illustrating the very complex and overlapping economic partnerships in East Asia. Japan, at the center, is a member of all partnerships and is one of six democracies in the region. Terada explained that despite an acrimonious political relationship, China and Japan’s trade relationship is still ongoing. He stressed that the integration process toward a more cohesive Asian market needs to be flexible and time-forgiving, as most of the nations involved are developing countries. He concluded that the best political management mechanism will be through increasing mutual economic interdependence.

“Is Abenomics Working?” — Edward J. Lincoln, Columbia University I George Washington University

Edward J. Lincoln provided an historic look at Japan’s economy, which has underperformed for the past 20 years, and is facing other difficulties now, including deflation and an aging population. Mr. Shinzo Abe, who was elected Prime Minister in 2012, created a new economic plan for Japan called “Abenomics,” which targets three areas: expanding the money supply, creating fiscal stimulus to create more demand, and encouraging more deregulation and growth in new industries. Dr. Lincoln praised the Abe government’s concept and excellent public relations, its new aggressive stance in dealing with problems in the economy, and its new membership in TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership). However, Dr. Lincoln expressed concern that the implementation of Abenomics has been weak and may not accomplish what it needs in order to make Japan a vibrant economy.

“Japan and China: Political Challenges and Economic Opportunities" — Kay Shimizu, Columbia University

Dr. Kay Shimizu addressed the question of how Japan’s political climate affects its international relations. Japan’s one-party dominance, the wide disparities of beliefs within the two parties, and conflict between politicians and long-standing bureaucrats has meant that decision-making is a murky process. Shimizu claimed that Japan is still in a state of transition even with regard to democracy, due to the dominance of the LDP (Liberal Democratic Party). Shimizu expressed concern that the internal conflicts within Japan affect its policies toward China and Japan’s agricultural issues have been mired in the political process. 

5:30 p.m.  Attendees enjoyed a reception and the chance to mingle with speakers and other guests

7:00 p.m. “Japan and the Future of Asia Pacific”

Kenichiro Sasae, Japanese Ambassador to the United States (2012-present)

In a generous and friendly manner, Ambassador Sasae opened his remarks by praising Furman and  American universities, particularly Swarthmore. A veteran of foreign affairs in Japan and the U.S., Sasae was optimistic about Abenomics and the Japan-US partnerships in economics and security, while urging both countries to strongly support the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Sasae’s demeanor became serious when he spoke about North Korea and the missile program, which is a threat to the region, along with the country’s instability and its contradictory signals to other nations in the region. On the other hand, Sasae saw the rise of China as a good development with its political modernization and abandonment of the power-bullying of the Communist regime. However, as China has gradually built up its navy, conducting naval exercises in the South China Sea, tensions have escalated between the nations, and concerns about China’s reluctance to come to the negotiating table are prevalent in Japan. Ambassador Sasae emphasized that Japan is committed to negotiation and not military action with China and expressed confidence that the US will be there to protect Japan if necessary. In conclusion, Sasae stressed how meaningful the relationship between the U.S. and Japan has been historically, and expressed his gratitude for the friendship and trust between the two nations.



This conference was presented by the Furman University Department of Asian Studies
and the Riley Institute at Furman with generous support from the Japan Foundation.