Japan’s Position in the G8 Club

As a member of the G8, Japan often does not get the attention it deserves. Perhaps more than in any member country, domestic politics have dictated Japan’s engagement in the summit process and the issues it chooses to discuss through this forum. A year after the Hokkaido Toyako Summit, there is a different Japanese leader in the G8 “family photo” and likely to be another one before the next summit begins.

In this video, Andrew F. Cooper interviews Hugo Dobson – Professor of East Asian Studies at the University of Sheffield – to discuss the differences between the 2008 and 2009 summits and the factors that play into Japan’s performance in the G8 process. First and foremost, he points to the more relaxed atmosphere in L’Aquila where activities at Toyako were quite regimented and organized. Press briefings by the Japanese foreign ministry have been conducted in a much more informal manner, contrasting starkly with last year.

Secondly, Dr Dobson observes the much reduced presence of Japanese civil society organization at the L’Aquila Summit. At Toyako, there appeared to be a “head of steam” growing among these groups, while mostly regionally based, and in their more formal participation in the summit process. This momentum, in his observations, has subdued partially due to the broader concerns of recovery in the world economy.

In the 35 years of its membership, Japan has positioned itself as the Asian representative and has resisted any changes that may jeopardize this position. At the same time, China’s economy has doubled many times over since its economic reforms in the late-1970s and is now a major economic power. Dr Dobson points out that during the G20 London Summit earlier this year there was great talk of a new power dynamic between the United States and China, dubbed the ‘G2’. China’s emergence has shifted the balance in East Asia, and through the Heiligendamm Process, a greater case has been made for full membership in the G-club; a change that Dr Dobson suggests Japan will very actively defend its position and avoid stall reform initiatives.

Disclaimer: This blog is solely intended to spur discussion, while the opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of CIGI, Chatham House or their respective Boards of Directors.

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