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Dinner Speech by H.E. Mr. Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan on the Occasion of the Nineteenth International Conference on "The Future of Asia" Hosted by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun

Thursday, May 23, 2013

An Asia of Tolerance and Humility That Learns from Each Other

[Provisional translation]
Imperial Hotel, Tokyo

1. Introduction

2. The words of José Rizal

3. How to define "Asia"

4. The "Abe Doctrine"

5. Why I decided to pursue "Abenomics"

6. A song of encouragement

1. Introduction

As I begin my remarks today I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Messrs Kita and Sugita for inviting me to make this address. I consider it a great honor to be able to spend time this evening together with friends of mine and other highly esteemed participants who have joined us from all around Asia.

There is nothing so challenging as a speech you have to give at the end of a long day when the only thing left is to enjoy a sumptuous dinner. I would like to share a few thoughts with you tonight, taking care so as not to be told to hurry up and finish.

2. The words of José Rizal

Looking back, I think that it was a matter of considerable foresight to conceive of the topic of contemplating the future of Asia and coming together annually to consider the future, and then to establish it as the theme of this meeting.

Our ability to apply ourselves so devotedly to education and to work with hope for the future and in pursuit of ideals comes from the fact that we are children of Asia.

I would like to present for your consideration two quotations of José Rizal, the great hero of Philippine modernization.

The first is, "It is a useless life that is not consecrated to a great ideal. It is like a stone wasted on the field without becoming a part of any edifice."

The second is one I like very much. Rizal says, "Without education and liberty, which are the soil and the sun of man, no reform is possible, no measure can give the result desired."

Some Japanese people who deeply admired José Rizal erected a memorial to him in Hibiya Park, that's right across the street, in 1961. This is because when Rizal came to Japan in 1888, he stayed at a hotel located there at the corner of the memorial. Later, in 1998, a magnificent bust was added atop the memorial.

The Asia that values education and desires freedom, the Asia that tries to eliminate "wasted" stones wherever possible, has now invited Myanmar to an "idealists' club" known as Asia.

My wife Akie and I will be visiting Myanmar from tomorrow. Akie has taken on the building of schools in Myanmar as her life work, so she is very much looking forward to being able to visit there again.

3. How to define "Asia"

Now, there is a map that shows the state of the world in 1950 - exactly the midway point of the 20th century.

There are two circles on the map, indicating New York and Tokyo. Perhaps I should say, the map's circles indicate only two cities, New York and Tokyo.

This is a map showing where in the world there were cities with populations exceeding 10 million people. In 1950, New York and Tokyo were the only two megacities that existed.

If we look next at the same kind of map showing the world in 2010, we find that the number of circles increases eleven-fold, to 22. How many of those 22 megacities do you suppose are in Asia?

Twelve, if we include those in southwest Asia. More than half of the world's 22 megacities are located within our region.

This fact teaches us three things.

The first is that Asia's growth both stemmed from and resulted in the rise of its cities.

The second thing it teaches us is that the various forms of demands arising from city dwellers quickly come to resemble each other in the case of Asia. Demand for well-maintained public transportation and demand for commercial operations such as convenience stores are phenomena that can be found indistinguishably in countries all around Asia.

What also springs from this situation is the phenomenon of culture being both identical and simultaneous, with the things in vogue in Tokyo or Seoul gaining popularity more or less simultaneously in the other cities of Asia.

While needless to mention to an audience such as this, in Asia, a two-hour flight will enable you to travel to a completely different country with an entirely separate culture.

Yet, in that other country, we will find commonalities and a sense of simultaneity emerging in the young cultures and dynamic lifestyles created by city dwellers. There is uniformity within our diversity.

That said, the third thing I would like to point out is that the challenges we face are rapidly becoming one and the same.

A host of worries arise alongside the process of urbanization. Water and air quality issues spring up in cities with large populations and concentrated industrial activity. Inadequate infrastructure also emerges as a problem. Disparities in wealth are apt to exhibit intense contrasts while also becoming a hotbed for infectious diseases.

If we were to try to define what Asia is, perhaps it would go something like this. It is a place where the pleasures and the dynamism of cities intertwine with each other. It is a place where interlinkages also result from the challenges of every type that are associated with cities.

This alerts us politicians to a certain mission. The lesson is that we must be tolerant in communicating our experiences to others, and we must be humble in learning from experiences. Our mission is to be faithful to that lesson.

Countermeasures to infectious diseases are an excellent example of this. Efforts to contain them domestically also serve as efforts that prevent the disease from spreading to other countries.

Asia, which has grown through urbanization, will make its leaders humble because common problems are found within that urbanization.

As a result, I would also like to define the future of Asia as a future of learning from each other. It is an Asia of tolerance as we communicate our experiences and one of humility as we learn from them. Extending that as we go forward is the mission of those of us responsible for the fate of a nation.

4. The "Abe Doctrine"

This year I visited Jakarta, where I announced five principles for Japanese diplomacy. Though not grounded in the words of José Rizal, education and freedom are at their foundations.

In the past, Japan caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations. Feelings of deep remorse regarding these matters were the starting point for Japan after the war.

Over the past 60-plus years, Japan has tirelessly cultivated a national character that rigorously upholds freedom and democracy, basic human rights, and the rule of law.

Accordingly, the first of my five principles is that we must allow the universal values that humanity has gained - freedom of thought, expression, and speech - to flower to the fullest in our region, Asia.

The second principle is ensuring that the seas, which are the most vital commons to us all, are governed by laws and rules, not by might.

The third is that Japan will pursue free, open, interconnected economies. Japan is working to accelerate this further by attempting to join multilateral economic partnership frameworks.

The fourth principle is increasing intercultural ties and the fifth is a program known as JENESYS 2.0 through which we will invite 30,000 young people from Asian countries to Japan. These are the five principles that I laid out.

I would like to provide you with a "preview" of the fourth of these, which is my determination to increase our intercultural ties.

I have asked eminent persons to come together now to consider what Japan should do to help create a new Asian culture. They have come up with "fusion and harmony" as a key concept.

I expect to announce the results of their deliberations on the occasion of the ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit that Japan will host this December with the participation of the leaders of the countries of ASEAN.

In order to forge a future in Japan and Asia in which we learn from each other, we will hammer out policies governing new kinds of cultural exchanges. I hope you will look forward to these in the future.

5. Why I decided to pursue "Abenomics"

I started this speech by defining Asia as a collection of people who have continued moving forward pursuing ideals, with their eyes fixed firmly on the future, valuing education and desiring freedom.

At that time, I thought to myself that it must have been Japan who was the original founder of that approach.

Please try to imagine the reasoning behind my pouring my utmost efforts into the reconstruction of the Japanese economy ever since I once again took office as Prime Minister.

Recessions cause people to hang their heads. In particular, the sickness of deflation directly undermines people's hopes and expectations. When this situation becomes chronic, optimists disappear from the country.

People who gaze at the future with bright aspirations vanish from Japan. Young people stop getting married and there is also little increase in the number of babies, who will shoulder the responsibilities of the future.

And so, I thought, at exactly the time that young people in Asian countries are moving forward believing in the potential of the future, is it all right for that same generation only in Japan to keep their eyes cast downward endlessly?

At the same time, I thought, if we were to raise Japanese to be pessimistic about the future and withdraw further and further into themselves, that would be an abandonment of our responsibility to the world. I felt that is absolutely unacceptable for a nation's leader.

To begin with, Japan is too large a country to be shrinking away into itself. Comparing Japan to the countries of Europe, Japan is slightly larger than Germany and the U.K. combined. In light of this, Japan shrinking away economically would bring quite an unwelcome impact to other countries. Earlier, I said that we must ensure that the seas, which are the vital commons to Asia, are governed by laws and rules. However, even though it is we Japan saying this, there is the possibility that Japan might become unable fully to carry out the efforts that would make that a reality.

Such a state of affairs would simply not do. That thought conveyed to me a sense of crisis.

Japan must once more become a vibrant member of an Asia that is young and full of vitality. This was one reason why I thought that we must restore our former selves.

The other motivating factor was my belief that we have to restore a Japan that has gained the trust of others, for the benefit of the world and of humankind, and also in order to do good and strive for virtue.

That was a major reason why I wanted to undertake the elements comprising what is now popularly called "Abenomics" all simultaneously.

6. A song of encouragement

There is a song that I have introduced several times in recent months which I would like to mention one more time. It is the song Sakura Yo - "O, Cherry Tree."

In May 2011, two months after the great earthquake struck Japan, nearly 500 Indonesian college students came together in Jakarta to sing this song with great emotion.

It was a song that the students, who were going to put on a musical in Japanese, had written and prepared for a new program. In response to the earthquake, they newly added the following lines to the lyrics, which were originally in Japanese, to try to encourage the people of Japan, who were on the verge of becoming desperate.

"There is loneliness in losing something and sorrow upon giving up.

But spring comes again, next year and each year thereafter, endlessly thereafter."

The song says,

"Bloom proudly, o cherry tree, bloom in the heart of Japan.
Bloom proudly, o Japan, bloom in the heart of the world."

Upon hearing it, I first felt astonished and then also deeply moved. I was astonished at the power of 500 people singing in unison, and the very fact that Indonesian young people were singing so ardently for Japan in the Japanese language.

And naturally, I was also very moved by the fact that in Asia there were young people encouraging Japan, singing, "bloom proudly in the heart of the world."

I once again realized that the path that we Japanese followed after the end of the war had cultivated such good will, and I bowed my head deeply, with the feeling that I wanted to be engaged with a more earnest attitude.

To the distinguished participants gathered here, my role is to make Japan a country that is able to stride forward vigorously once more towards a future befitting this song.

This means making Japan reborn so that it becomes a vibrant member of Asia, which is achieving a dynamic fusion as a result of the common orientations and shared culture that city dwellers cultivate within a context of truly dazzling diversity.

Within the "idealists' club" known as Asia where we learn from each other and mutually value freedom, together with the Japanese people I will make Japan vibrant once more so that we become a member that shows tolerance when sharing experiences and humility when learning from them, being neither proud nor arrogant while also becoming neither servile nor narrow-minded.

This last part became a bit like a campaign pledge. Although this may not have been an adequate substitute for an aperitif, I will end my remarks here. But I won't say, "Bon appetit" just yet, as that is what Chairman Yonekura is going to say. So please, Mr. Yonekura, let me just give you the floor.

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