Ambassador Baker delivers Doshisha-Yomiuri Ambassadorial Lecture

Doshisha-Yomiuri Ambassadorial Lecture Series on World Affairs
October 7, 2003 at Doshisha University, Kyoto

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Thank you very much for a generous introduction. I am very grateful. And I am very pleased to be here.

I am especially pleased to be in Kyoto, which is justly famous as an incomparable repository of Japan's history and culture. This city can be proud of its many beautiful structures, but more important, its special spirit. It is truly a treasure, not only for this nation, but for the civilized world.

But my friends, let me say I believe that one of Kyoto's most important monuments is this venerable university. Since its founding in 1875, the great institution has trained generations of Japanese leaders in all fields. It has also been at the forefront of international education. Indeed, your ties with Amherst College in my own country and other institutions in America and elsewhere do honor to the memory of your founding, of your founder. But more important, this dedication to internationalization sets a model for other Japanese universities to follow and to remain strong in this new century.

My wife spoke here a year ago. Perhaps some of you in this audience were present when she did that. She came back to Tokyo to tell me what a great experience it was, and how much she enjoyed the opportunity to speak with students here and to have a more informal conversation during question and answer. She is a remarkable woman. She served in the United States Senate for eighteen years. She is a great contributor to the formulation of public policy in our country. And in my view, she stands as a symbol for the importance, the wisdom and the contribution of strong women, not only in my country, but throughout the world. She received a number of fan letters from students, once again perhaps some of you here in this audience, and for that she is most grateful. But my friends, I must say that I follow in her wake, with fear and trepidation, because of the two of us, clearly she is the better speaker. But I will attempt to match the standards that she has set for our family's appearance here at this great university.

My friends, when President Bush did me the honor of appointing me as his Ambassador to Japan over two years ago, many experts advised me that Japan was in a "deep recession". But when I arrived in Tokyo to see things through my own eyes, I thought this is the strangest recession I ever saw, because I saw a Tokyo skyline filled with cranes putting up tall new buildings. I saw streets full of new cars, many of them luxury models. I saw stores and restaurants full of well-dressed, prosperous-looking people, clearly enjoying one of the world's highest standards of living.

The point is that, despite some difficult years, this is an extraordinarily rich and successful society. Your accumulated savings, your material wealth and human capital remain the envy of the entire world. Japan is still the second largest economy on Earth by a wide margin. And aside from the United States, yours is the only country that truly can be the engine for economic growth throughout the world.

But this is not to say that the concerns you may feel about your country's economic future are groundless. For example, the challenges you will face as your society ages are well known. It is perhaps also true that Japan has in recent years lost its edge as a great manufacturing nation. As is true in my own country, many of your leading industries have moved operations to China and to other offshore locations, where economic opportunities are thought to be superior.

But there are many bright spots in the Japanese economy. For example, I recently read an interesting article in the Financial Times newspaper about Canon, one of Japan's premier technology companies. The President of that company spent 23 years in the United States, and brought back to Japan an American-style emphasis on efficiency. But the secret of his success in making Canon a world-beater has been merging American management skills with a focus on traditional Japanese strengths, primarily a focus on the long-term, investment in research and development, and in plowing profits back into that.

This hybrid approach has worked wonders for this company, and the title of the article was "If Canon can, Japan can". And indeed, I believe that. It is not that Canon is the only example of this merger of talents and opportunities between Japan and the United States, but is one that is dealt with prominently in that newspaper account. But the strength of your country, your talented and hardworking people, your accumulation of wealth, your dedication to parliamentary government and freedom, all taken together, provide an opportunity for Japan to prosper and succeed in your generation, and those that follow.

I recently asked my staff at the Embassy in Tokyo to offer me their suggestions as to what they thought Japan would be like in 10 years. The responses I got should be encouraging to you. They were to me. There was great consensus on one thing in particular. That is the view of these senior foreign policy officials in the American Embassy that, aside from everything else, they were sure that in ten years time Japan would still be Japan. That is to say, the fundamental culture, habits, and mores of the Japanese people are not likely to change in the near future.

But there is also general agreement among my staff at the embassy that in many ways Japan will be a more "mature" nation in ten years, which is to say that it will take advantage of the experience of its ancient culture, that it will learn from experience, that it will be a full-fledged member of the world community of advanced nations, and that Japan will actively pursue and defend its global interests as befits the great economic, cultural, and international power that it already is.

My friends, my contention is that Japan is and will remain a great world power, with major responsibilities and the ability to play an important role on the global stage. The fact is, I think, that the Japanese people, as is also true in my own country, may not yet have focused on what they want to be in the next ten years or in the future. But you have, I note, begun to discuss the vitally important choices that face this country, which is a certainly a healthy development. What are some of the questions I see facing you at the moment?

First of all, and foremost in the economic sphere, does Japan wish to remain and grow as a great manufacturing nation? It is certainly within your power to do so, and to achieve this you and your elected officials and your leaders of commerce and industry will face some difficult decisions. For example, I believe it is clear that you must stay the course of financial reform. I commend Prime Minister Koizumi, Minister Takenaka and others who are willing to suffer short-term pain to right your economy, the banking system in particular, and provide for its long-term health. This is the hard path, but no nation large or small can long prosper without a sound financial system.

As for Japan's status as a leading manufacturing nation, I certainly don't believe that decline in this country is inevitable or even likely. If all of you, as the leaders of tomorrow, choose the example that I cited of the Canon company as well as other forward-looking Japanese enterprises, you can have whatever economy you desire to have. The choice here, it seems to me, is to be open to ideas and investment from around the world, to make the best of your traditional strengths. You will continue to benefit from a highly skilled and intelligent work force.

The dedication to precision and quality that we see in the traditional arts of Kyoto is still an important part of your national character today, and are a firm basis of strength for tomorrow. To succeed in the so-called knowledge economy, you don't necessarily have to work more than the competition, but you certainly need to work smarter.

Your nation has remarkable strengths. You have tremendous accumulated wealth. You have essentially no external debt. You have a stable society, governed by laws. You have a vital and functioning democratic system, and a well-run government. All of these factors give me confidence that Japan will continue to rise to the challenges of the global marketplace.

Another question. Does Japan aspire to be a great citadel of science and technology? Nobel Prizes are not the only indication of scientific success, but the decisions your government and university and corporate leaders make today could set many young Japanese on that path to Nobel awards. Japan is already dedicating significant resources to basic science. For example, your country has the largest supercomputer in the world. You own the largest single mirror optical telescope in the world. You are in the vanguard and forefront of advanced research and development in many fields and I expect that you will continue to do that. I admire many things about your country. I am frankly envious, for example, of your train system. Recently, Mr. Kasai, the President of JR Central, invited me to join him for a ride at 500 kilometers per hour on the experimental "Maglev" train. I freely predict that before too long you may be able to travel from Kyoto to Tokyo by train in less than an hour, and Japan's wise investments in transportation technology will pay off in continued leadership in this vital sector.

Another project that I have particular interest in is the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, or "ITER". This unprecedented international collaboration holds the prospect of one day harnessing the power of fusion for peaceful purposes. Japan is one of the four finalists to host this important project, and frankly I'm a strong supporter of Japan's candidacy. I think there would be no better place to bring together scientists from around the world to collaborate on that project, which holds so much promise, than here in Japan. But win or lose in this particular competition, Japan's economic resources, industrial achievements and talented and creative people make your nation well-placed to continue as a world leader in science and technology.

Another question: Does Japan want to be a great cultural and educational power? Ever since your nation began to open to the world in the Meiji era, foreigners have been attracted to and influenced by this nation's unique achievements in aesthetics, literature, and philosophy. And today, Japan has become a global power in popular culture. A recent article in "Foreign Policy" magazine by an American journalist detailed what the writer called Japan's "Gross National Cool," or the influence Japanese pop music and fashions are having around the world. The symbol of international youth culture used to be blue jeans, born in the USA, and now it is probably anime, born here in Japan.

I can testify to the truth of this by my experience with my grandchildren, who are just as enamored of Japanese animation as the rest of the world. The worldwide admiration for this art form was borne out in the Academy Award last year for Mr. Miyazaki and his film "Spirited Away."

Japan's dynamic popular culture gives your nation what is sometimes called "soft power", or the subtle influence that comes from cultural attractions across borders. Similarly, the Japanese educational system is justly admired internationally for producing one of the highest levels of literacy and basic knowledge in the entire world. Japan needs to decide how it will use these strengths for the future.

I believe that the key decision will be how much do you truly want to open your society and your educational system to people and ideas from other countries. If you look at the great intellectual and cultural centers of today - such as New York, London, Paris and Berlin - you see that they derive much of their energy from the mix of ethnicities and ideas from all over the globe. Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and the other major cities in Japan are marvelously creative places to be. But just imagine what it would be if you mix in Japan a tolerance of ambitious people and talented people who come here from other places in the world. I'm speaking, my friends, of an examination of Japan's policies on immigration, nationality and employment.

Let me also point out that Japan has a long cultural tradition of strong women. However, it is fair to say that today the half of your nation that is female is Japan's most underused natural resource. You could reduce your worries about a shrinking workforce if you could devise new ways to support families with children and increase women's participation in the job market. Certainly that will not be easy, nor inexpensive, but once again the choices are yours.

In education, unless other Japanese universities follow the path blazed by this university and bring in foreign students and faculty in full equality with their Japanese counterparts, I believe that Japanese higher education will fall behind the more internationalized university systems in America and elsewhere. Change in the cultural and educational areas is always difficult, but your nation will have to make some hard choices to become a society with a creative and dynamic future matching the artistic and intellectual achievements of your distinguished past.

Finally, my friends, a fourth question: Does Japan aspire to have a full seat at the table when international policies are decided? I don't think Japan has reached a full consensus on this question, and it will be largely up to your generation to decide that. How the thinking of the Japanese people will develop on this is an open question. But I have been impressed by the evolution of the debate on this issue during the short time I have been here. The vigorous public discussion about Japan's global role we are seeing now is a healthy, and I believe an inevitable and desirable, development in your political system.

One of the great strengths of Japan is that it is not only a rich nation, but also a great functioning parliamentary democracy. One of the challenges for any democracy, whether in Japan, the United States, or any nation, is to move policy forward into untested areas, particularly when constitutional matters are at stake. We Americans have developed a remarkable ability to keep our Constitution up to date as times and circumstances dictate. Certainly as U.S. Ambassador, it is not for me to tell Japan what it should do about its charter document. But I am confident that you, too, will find your way forward, and eventually devise a legal framework permitting your nation to promote and defend your national interests in this dangerous and uncertain world.

Your government has expressed its desire for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. Over the years, both Republican and Democratic Administrations in my country have publicly stated consistent support for the idea of a permanent seat for Japan in the Security Council of the United Nations. Japan has shown its dedication to the work of the U.N. in words and deed. The participation of the Self- Defense Forces in peacekeeping operations in Cambodia, the Golan Heights, and East Timor is what the world expects of a nation aspiring for a permanent seat at the table. Similarly, I am confident that whatever role your government chooses to play in Afghanistan and Iraq will and should reflect Japan's own interests in this world and its standing in the world community. The fact is, there is no doubt Japan is a great world power. But with great power comes great responsibility.

Now what do these questions facing Japan have to do with relations between our two countries? The history of our relationship over the past 150 years is one of the most fascinating stories in the history of nations. Particularly in recent years, Japan and the United States have become more than just allies. They have become friends. And this transformation, my friends, is little short of a religious miracle, given the fact that a relatively brief time ago the United States and Japan were mortal enemies and fought a great war in the Pacific. I believe that our two peoples are genuinely brought together by a deep and well-felt mutual admiration. I remark again, not only are the United States and Japan allies, but we are friends.

And I think this is especially so among the young people of our two countries. As young people such as yourselves get to know your counterparts from other countries better, mutual appreciation only increases. Once again, if I may refer to a personal note, my own oldest grandson recently spent his junior year in college in Tokyo at International Christian University. He loved Japan so much that honestly I think he would have stayed here for his senior year, but his stern and austere grandfather thought it best for him to go home and finish his degree in the United States. I have an idea that my 21-year old grandson so thoroughly fell in love with Japan, with its culture and its people and with its opportunities, that when he finishes his undergraduate education it's very likely that he may return to Japan. And if he chooses to do that, I will certainly support that.

While our two nations are joined by strong shared interests, our relations are cemented by this kind of personal tie. The example of my grandson is repeated over and over again by other young men and women in my country who travel here, and young men and women in Japan who travel to the United States and other countries around the globe. It is often said that we live in a global community, and indeed we do. It is sometimes remarked that in this age we have instantaneous electronic communications around the world, and sometimes I think almost instantaneous transportation around the world. But these times, I think, young men and women from every walk of life and from every country have an opportunity to formulate policy, not only in the United States and Japan, but the relationship between nations everywhere. It is safe to say that in every way, bilateral relationships between the United States and Japan have never been better. But I think the best is yet to come.

In speaking with our President about the relationship between Japan and the United States, I point out that indeed I think the relationship between our countries is the best it has ever been in history. But it is still a high maintenance operation, because there are inevitably conflicts, difficulties, disagreements between two nations, two rich and powerful nations, as they exercise their rights, their sovereign rights, as they go about the business of defining their own future. So in my position as Ambassador of the United States to Japan, I have two responsibilities. The first is to try to improve and extend ever further the alliance and friendship between our countries, and the second is to make sure that we understand each other. My friends, on both these things I foresee only greater cooperation between our nations. On behalf of global prosperity, stability and human rights, and our joint resolve against intolerance and terrorism. As Japan takes its place among the great powers of the world, it will be able to deploy its wealth and creativity in ways that benefit its citizens, and will benefit as well the entire planet. And if the Japanese people choose to exercise global leadership, you will find no more steadfast partner in your endeavor than the United States.

None of the scenarios I have sketched out today is foreordained. A wise man once said that it is always dangerous to make predictions, especially about the future. But what is certain is that the questions confronting you demand answers. It is also certain that the Japanese people, as citizens of a great and strong democracy, have the power to decide themselves what kind of nation you want Japan to be. Not only in the next ten years, but for the indefinite future. My friends, I look forward with great confidence that this great nation and her great people will make decisions that are appropriate for your welfare, your safety, your security; that you will be a contributor to peace and stability throughout the world; that you will lead the way in creating new wealth for the poor and disadvantaged everywhere; and that you will join together with other likeminded countries, including the United States, to see that this occurs. It is a major challenge for young men and women, and you are the ones who will have to decide that. It will fall on your shoulders to decide what Japan will be in ten years. You are the trustees of a great tradition. You have the responsibility to pass on that tradition and that culture to the next generation, better than you found it. I am confident that you will.

Thank you very much.