Japanese Regionalism in the Era of Shinzo Abe through the Prism of Value Approach

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2019-63-9-38-49

D. Streltsov (d.streltsov@inno.mgimo.ru),
Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO-University), The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, 76, Vernadskogo Prosp., Moscow, 119454, Russian Federation;
Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences (IV RAS), 12, Rozhdestvenka Str., Moscow, 107031, Russian Federation

Acknowledgements. This work was supported by Russian Science Foundation (grant 19-18-00142). 

Abstract. The article analyzes the value component of Japan’s approach to East Asian regionalism in the period of Shinzo Abe’s cabinets. After the end of the Cold War, Japan has taken several institution-building initiatives in the sphere of multilateral regional cooperation in East Asia, including ASEAN plus Six, East Asia Summit, TPPCP, etc. All these institutions had different underpinning in terms of their origin, structure, membership or functional mission. Yet, a characteristic feature of Japan’s approach to East Asian regionalism lies in its “value orientation”. Abe became the first Japanese leader after Koizumi to widely use the rhetoric of “democratic values” for substantiating Japan’s formula of institutional up-building in East Asia. Japan’s vision of “open regionalism” is based on the principles of democracy, mutual trust, transparency and inclusiveness. A special emphasis is put on the principle of functional relevance, which in the eyes of Tokyo should be indispensable for combating nontraditional threats, promoting economic development, expanding cooperation to different areas such as health, environment, finance, etc. The functionality of such cooperation should be provided by the spillover effect. The value-based approach adopted by Japan in reality was intended to “dilute” China’s influence in the multilateral regional structures through the admission of new “likeminded” members, such as India, Australia and New Zealand, which shared liberal economic values and were faithful to the principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law (like Japan). The Japanese vision of regionalism, from the value point, does not constitute a coherent doctrine, because of the mutual incompatibility of different values accentuated in Tokyo’s rhetoric. For example, Abe’s phraseology combines “universal” and “Asian” values, open and closed regionalism, future-oriented approach to regional relations, the desire “to draw a line” under Japan’s postwar past, etc. Yet, skillful combination of these slogans in Abe’s rhetoric gives him an additional diplomatic leverage against China, as many of Japan’s Asian neighbors are wary of the phenomenon of “China rise”. While remaining on the same side of the barricades with the United States in the paradigm of the “new bipolarity in Asia”, Japan relishes a freedom of maneuver for putting forward various political initiatives in East Asia and even providing a counterweight to Washington.

Keywords: East Asia, Shinzo Abe, Japan, open regionalism, “Asian values”, “Arc of freedom and prosperity”, like-minded democracies, “free and open Indo-Pacific region” 


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For citation:
Streltsov D. Japanese Regionalism in the Era of Shinzo Abe through the Prism of Value Approach. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2019, vol. 63, no. 9, pp. 38-49. https://doi.org/10.20542/0131-2227-2019-63-9-38-49

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