The international community has been watching the rise of China and India with interest, and two recent events symbolize the growing stature of these two countries. One was the so-called Google incident. In the course of its entry into China’s Internet services market, Google Inc., a major American corporation, is said to have bowed to the wishes of the Chinese authorities by promising to suppress the distribution of information critical of the Chinese government. Google had previously resisted intervention by the U.S. government even with regard to information on criminal investigations and terrorist activities, trumpeting its commitment to the freedom of information, but it is now facing international criticism on the grounds that it caved in on this very point to China.
If it is true that Google acted to suppress information, this constitutes a challenge to the freedom of information distribution, and the firm can have little to complain about accusations that it compromised its political convictions and principles for the sake of the economic gains it hopes to reap from its foray into the huge Chinese market.
The significance of this incident is that one of the world’s major corporations recognized China as a major economic power and applied (or had to apply) a double standard to it, judging that China need not necessarily be required to observe the international rules and principles that Western countries uphold as a matter of course. To put it another way, because China is (or has been recognized as) a major power, its freedom to act as a major power has been acknowledged.
The other symbolic event is the agreement between the United States and India on the provision of nuclear technology, which was reached on the occasion of U.S. President George W. Bush’s recent visit to India. Under the deal, the U.S. will make civilian nuclear technology available to India, even though India is not a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. This amounts to recognition of India’s status as a nuclear power and acceptance of its freedom to act as a major power (such as by disregarding the NPT).
In the light of these two events, both China and India can be said to have achieved “double recognition”: recognition of their status as major powers, and recognition of the freedom of action that comes with that status. This leads to the question of whether these two countries meet the third of the true conditions for being a major power, the bearing of responsibility commensurate with this status.
China is reaping immense profits from the global trade and economic system and has acquired a certain amount of freedom of action, but what economic responsibilities is it fulfilling? It has not yet relinquished its status as a developing country; it receives official development assistance and enjoys preferential terms of trade; it is subject only to the relatively lenient requirements asked of developing countries for combating global warming; and it makes only a small contribution to the United Nations budget.
On the political front, meanwhile, what international contributions has India made? It has conducted nuclear tests, and a resolution to its conflict with Pakistan remains a distant prospect. It trumpets its status as “the world’s largest democracy,” but in reality it is hard to imagine that India’s institutions could serve as a model for other developing countries.
Some express the view that both China and India will, in due course, assume greater international responsibilities and make noteworthy international contributions. The present, they argue, is no more than a transitional phase, in which we should treat China and India warmly, recognizing the importance of nurturing a spirit of cooperation with our future partners and being willing to tolerate a certain amount of contradiction and hypocrisy. Yet while this logic may be sound from a Western perspective, can it be sound for Japan?
Japan is a non-Western country, and yet, historically, when it was a developing country it enjoyed almost no economic privileges. On the contrary, it had to deal with discrimination and prejudice in the international community. Furthermore, by embracing the three nonnuclear principles — not to possess nuclear weapons, produce them, or allow them into the country — and appealing for an end to nuclear testing, Japan has demonstrated its firm commitment to nuclear nonproliferation.
Seen from the vantage point of such a country, is it appropriate to tolerate a situation in which nuclear powers like China and India continue to enjoy the privileges of developing-country status while not fulfilling their fair share of international responsibilities? And if this is to be tolerated, to what extent, and in which fields, should tolerance be shown? Rather than leaving these questions to the somewhat arbitrary judgment of one country — the United States — Japan should undertake the hidden mission of helping to formulate standards on which the whole international community can agree.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.