After introductions by Steve Clemons, David Shorr discussed the project that led to the book Powers and Principles: International Leadership in a Shrinking World. Various policy experts on separate countries offered their theories on what the leaders of those countries needed to do over the coming years to act not just in their own interests but as responsible stakeholders in the international system. After giving a brief glimpse at the issues facing the countries featured in the book--including China, Russia, Turkey, the EU, Brazil, Iran, and South Africa--Shorr expounded upon the need for a "council of stakeholders." Only by states acting together in this fashion to uphold an international system capable of dealing with these problems, Shorr said, could the challenges be met.
Weston Konishi, co-author of the Japan chapter in Powers and Principles, argued that Japan has been, for the most part, a responsible stakeholder since the Second World War. His main question was how Japan really take the next step and work on a system to expand the "common good," not just preserve a desired identity. Konishi stated that Japan must consider moving beyond "dollar diplomacy" and its tendency to "throw money at problems around the world" and begin to contribute more to global security questions, without necessarily adopting some of the overtly nationalist characteristics appearing in Japanese politics. Also, Konishi argued, Japan must play a larger role in foreign trade; for instance it has been too low-key within the WTO. In order to become a dynamic leader, Japan must ensure its own economic and political house is in order, and while the new regime may take these necessary steps, Konishi said it remains to be seen if it will indeed increase Japan's role and visibility on the world stage.
Steve Clemons, the other co-author of the Japan chapter, repeated that Japan was a responsible stakeholder before many other states. It has had a prominent place in most elements of the postwar international system, from Bretton Woods to the WTO. Indeed, in a way, Clemons said, Japan has been the perfect partner in international institutions for US, which has then taken on the more overtly interests-driven role. In the wake of the early 2000s and the Iraq War, as the US became increasingly unilateralist, Japan faced a decision, and sided in large part with the US. He said Prime Minister Koizumi's realpolitik decision took Japan away from its previous role in the world community, and aided the appearance of "darker" shaded of nationalism and the adoption of "mild neoconservative" views. The Abe government and other successors have had problems as the traditional Japanese image broke down. Clemons finished by arguing that Japan needs to either restore its image or recraft a new one as a more assertive player, and that it should strive for the latter. By becoming a true, more assertive partner with the United States, Clemons made the case that Japan will reclaim a productive spot on the world stage by fulfilling a positive, more forceful role.
Matthew Caris, research intern with the American Strategy Program