Pooling Wisdom to Promote Global Growth and Peace

To begin, please allow me to express my most profound congratulations, to the organizers and everyone else involved, upon the holding of the Fifth Global Think Tank Summit. For myself, it is a distinctive honor, and equal pleasure to be invited to take part in this esteemed gathering. It is a further privilege, moreover, to be granted the precious opportunity to address this distinguished group.

Today, the world has most definitely moved into the era of full-fledged globalization. This is a trend characterized by increasingly free flows of people, commodities, money and information across national and regional borders. Against such a dynamic backdrop, however, the move toward globalization has become excessive. The benefits of neo-liberalism have been celebrated to extremes, giving rise to a dog-eat-dog world comprised of two major groups: One, a tiny super-rich class; and two, the rest of the people living in far less prosperity.

Meanwhile, the majority of citizens in most nations have come to harbor deep dissatisfaction with their governments. This is fueling alarming levels of nationalism in certain countries, ushering in an area marked by rising incidents of terrorism.

In the United States, voters chose as their new President Donald Trump, a man who stridently advocates the doctrine of “America First.” In Great Britain, last year’s national referendum produced the “BREXIT” decision to leave the European Union. General elections in both the Netherlands and France have witnessed growth in the power of right-wing political forces. Such a trend is also visible in Russia, as well as my own nation of Japan. The escalation of nationalism in these and other countries leads to friction, pushing different sides toward potential conflict.

For myself, I strongly support the benefits of “regionalism.” I consider regionalism to be a viewpoint capable of curbing the drift toward excessive “globalism,” while also blocking the descent into nationalism. Simply stated, regionalism is the conception of uniting blocs of nations into regional communities. Compared to that, globalism seeks to tear down the walls between nations. Nationalism, strives to raise the height of those walls.

Standing in sharp contrast with these mindsets, regionalism taps into the desire for harmonious coexistence, while respecting national differences. I sincerely believe that regionalism holds the key for surmounting the present era of confusion and turmoil.

In that regard, I am an ardent supporter of the “One Belt One Road Vision” championed by President Xi Jinping of China, and everything that this grand plan seeks to accomplish. Such confidence stems from the inherent power of the initiative to fortify the bonds between the nations of the Eurasian Continent through roads, expressways, energy and other basic infrastructure. It is conceived to particularly bolster growth in the developing economies, narrow gaps in wealth, bring greater prosperity to people’s lives throughout the region, and otherwise transform the Continent into an inclusive community with a shared and enlightened fate.

The origins of most disputes, wars and other conflicts can be traced to poverty, discrimination and similar failings. Taking this reality to heart, if we can raise all people up to greater heights of affluence and fulfillment, it should be possible to reduce clashes and warfare within the region.

In that sense, I very much anticipate the massive region of the Eurasian Continent serving as the canvas for portraying the One Belt One Road Vision. Bringing to life, that is, an exquisite portrait of coexistence rooted in respect for the lifestyles in each nation, while focusing on infrastructure building.

I am truly proud to have been named to the International Advisory Panel of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank – the institution launched to advance the One Belt One Road Vision. In that capacity, I want to help promote projects – primarily targeting the developing economies – useful in attaining the core aim of the AIIB – elimination of conflict in the Eurasian Continent. As we also know, a sustainable planet is indispensable for the survival of the human race. This means that our top priority must be placed on the mission of achieving “green infrastructure.”

Among all bilateral ties within the Eurasian Continent, those between China and Japan are the most important for the region to emerge and excel as a fully functioning community. Healthy Sino-Japanese political and economic collaboration will also convey a vital sense of security to surrounding regions. As I have noted on previous occasions, there is still ample time for Japan to join the AIIB. My country’s government should declare that intention at once.

President Trump, upon taking office, has embarked on a path of bold revisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as well as other policies pursued by President Obama. Mr. Trump has an intense interest in measures to increase domestic employment in the United States. Clearly, if the U.S. were to participate in the AIIB, there would be a jump in opportunities for American companies to land orders. That would obviously be a major plus for domestic jobs as well.

Thus, with the possibility having surfaced for the U.S. to also join the AIIB, Japan cannot afford to lag behind America in that area. This is linked to the tremendous role that Japanese experience and know-how can play in promoting the bank and its programs.

On a related front, I sense a pressing need to expand the ranks of AIIB employees. However, rather than criticizing the AIIB for inadequate staffers, I support active cooperation by the Asian Development Bank and other institutions in supplying key information to move in the right direction.

We Japanese have profound reverence and awareness in the Silk Road. In fact, Japan is generally viewed as the so-called “final station” on this trade route. The Shosoin Treasure House in Nara contains many artifacts in support of this theory. Sadly, the One Belt One Road Vision, a contemporary Silk Road envisioned to cross both land and maritime domains, does not yet include Japan. I am certain, however, that the majority of Japanese are eager to see the One Belt One Road extended to the shores of our nation as well.

For myself, it would also be wonderful to have Okinawa become the final station on the “Maritime Silk Road.” As we know, Okinawa has developed into a major base of military might. While the whole prefecture accounts for a mere 0.6 percent of Japan’s total land area, an overwhelming 70 percent of U.S. forces stationed in Japan are concentrated there. I want to transform Okinawa from such an armed stronghold, to a foundation of peace. With that passionate purpose in mind, I look forward to Okinawa blooming as the true hub of the “East Asian Community” – a vision that I have vigorously promoted in recent years.

Specifically, my idea is to transform Okinawa into the nerve center for discussions and exchanges between the nations of East Asia, covering education, culture, economics, trade, environment issues, energy and other key sectors. Looking to the future, I feel secure that Okinawa has ample promise to act as the Eastern frontier of the “Maritime Silk Road.” Therefore, having Okinawa comprise the Far Eastern rim of the Maritime Silk Road would significantly bolster the peaceful and economic roles played by that island prefecture. This, in turn, would set the stage for Okinawa to excel as a genuine and enduring “cornerstone of peace.”

In this address, I have attempted to communicate my conviction that the One Belt One Road Vision is an initiative positioned to strongly contribute to regional peace. It is certainly true that this One Belt One Road thinking can serve as an essential support for global economic growth. As I mentioned, however, on one hand, today’s global economy is expanding the gap between rich and poor. Within that pattern, the One Belt One Road initiative will help to strengthen developing nations, narrow disparities in wealth, liberate people from poverty, and otherwise help reduce discontent. In these and other ways, the vision can play an infinitely essential role in contributing to world peace.

I strongly hope, therefore, that world leaders become earnestly aware of this basic truth, joining hands in the critical quest to instill greater peace and harmony in our world.

Thank you so much for your kind attention.



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