Japan, Europe, United States Face Common Challenges that Require Cooperative Response
The United States, Europe, and Japan face one of the most challenging geopolitical environments since the Cold War: a volatile nuclear-armed North Korea; large scale political interference and military adventurism from Russia; and a risen China that is set to undermine the existing liberal international order. At the same time, the United States and Europe are struggling with divided internal politics that is impacting their ability to form a united, coherent approach to external challenges.
Challenges from Within
In Europe and the United States the large centrist parties are under pressure. They have demonstrated their continued ability to win elections, but they are struggling to preserve unity. Be it the question of migration and eurozone reform in Europe, or health care and tax reform in the United States. Leaders must increasingly bridge a widening gap between the positions in the center and on the fringes.
— Janka Oertel (@oertel_janka) October 23, 2017
This development is also a response to the rise of populism around the world. Despite the successes of mainstream political parties in Germany, France, and the Netherlands, populism is not in decline in Europe and right-wing nationalist voices remain strong in Southern and Eastern Europe in particular. The vote for the Front National in France was higher than ever in the most recent election, and more than 90 right-wing nationalists are now represented in the German Bundestag. In the United States, a similar development can be observed. The rifts between and within the established parties and in society at large have become more exposed than ever before after the election of U.S. President Trump. It can be argued that both Europe and the United States must deal with an identity crisis that is underlying these tendencies, which will be a challenge for years to come.
In Japan, Prime Minister Abe scored a landslide electoral victory, winning a super majority in Diet. The reasoning behind holding a snap election also had the unity and strengthening of his governing party in mind. Especially considering the threat emanating from North Korea, the decision was preceded by the clear assessment that times are likely to become even more uncertain and less predictable. The election was therefore intended to provide a clear mandate to the ruling party. Whether or not Prime Minister Abe will use the election results as a mandate for constitutional reform, including changes to Article 9, remain to be seen. The comparatively stable political situation in Japan, particularly at a time of increasingly tense regional security environment, is viewed by many as a bright spot in a challenging political landscape. However, the continued strength of Prime Minister Abe and his administration will depend on his ability to sustain economic growth in a country that has long struggled with stagnation.
— Janka Oertel (@oertel_janka) October 23, 2017
Challenges from Outside
The experience of the last U.S. presidential election has shown that authoritarian states — in this case Russia but also potentially China — are increasingly willing and able to disrupt political processes and undermine democratic institutions. Disinformation campaigns use the existing cracks in society to insert false or exaggerated information and widen those rifts. European countries are also experiencing these developments, and need to stay vigilant. Because Japan has yet to be a target of disinformation and interference campaigns, there is little awareness regarding its own vulnerability or possible risks. The largest overall challenge, however, beyond the domestic situation between Europeans, Japanese, and Americans is dealing with a risen China.
Goal of disinformation is to undermine our institutions & gov't at a time when it's already extremely low. But disinformation didn't create the problem, Fractures in society already existed & until that is fixed we remain vulnerable #EUJapanUS
— Sharon Stirling (@SharonStirling) October 23, 2017
Chinese investment in strategic industries, often with dual-use capacities, is one of the areas warranting close trilateral cooperation on how to strike the right balance between an outright economic containment strategy and level-headed protection of national security interest. Europe, Japan, and the United States need to adapt their economic and trade policies to this “new normal.” Chinese capabilities are growing, with indigenous innovation, better universities, better talent, and enormous potential in the realm of data collection. The question can be raised, whether it is still possible to hang on to the idea of integrating China in to the global trading system. Do the supporters of a free trade, level playing field approach to international business, accept the fact that these rules cannot be applied to this new form of “authoritarian high-tech state capitalism”?
— David Nakamura (@DavidNakamura) October 23, 2017
As Chinese economic and security policy has become more assertive in the immediate neighborhood and beyond, there is growing concern about the effects this will have on the established rules of international order. It creates an important space for cooperation between Europe, Japan, and the United States. For this cooperation to live up to its full potential, a realistic assessment of the situation at play and more creativity in responding to the challenge is imperative.
For further suggested reading on this topic, please see below:
Joint Statement by the United States, European Union and Japan at MC11
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.