[Essay] The 14th  APF Japan-US-Russia-China Forum was held on September 15, 2016

The 14th  APF Japan-US-Russia-China Forum was held on September 15, 2016

     On September 15, 2016, at Sapporo KKR Hotel, the Asia Pacific Forum (APF) held the 14th APF Japan-US-Russia-China Forum. At this event, the Slavic-Eurasian Research Center (Hokkaido University) was represented by Mihoko Kato. The forum themes were divided into three categories: 1) the Diplomacy and Security Session; 2) the Politics and Economy Session; and 3) the Society and Culture Session, with four experts from Japan, the United States, China, and Russia at each session. The forum started with greetings from Ms. Takako Suzuki, a member of the House of Representatives, who had just returned from a trip to Kunashir and Iturup. In the Diplomacy and Security Session, Mr. Robert Eldridge pointed out that, in recent years, the US-Japan Alliance has been developing steadily, especially after joint maneuvers of the US Forces and Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces during the Tohoku Earthquake. Also, he indicated a crucial role of the presidential election in the USA in the future of the Japan-US alliance.  Moreover, Ms. Yuping Zhang Taiping from the Consulate-General of China in Sapporo reported on the characteristics of the economy in 2016 and the contribution to the Asia-Pacific region after the start of the 13th Five-year Plan. Mr. Andrei Fabrichnikov, Consul-General of Russia in Sapporo, talked about the current situation of regional exchanges between Hokkaido and the Russian Far East, problems of the visa system and traffic routes, and hopes for promotion of a bilateral relationship after President Putin’s visit to Japan, scheduled for December. Finally, Mr. Iijima Toshiro, Deputy Director-General of the Foreign Policy Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, noted the importance of human factors in diplomacy and discussed general problems of negotiation and how length of tenure as a factor can dominate negotiations. In this regard, current Prime Minister Abe and Minister of Foreign Affairs Kishida expressed their points of view on the stability of Japan’s diplomacy system and expectations of strategic execution power.

     In the Politics and Economy Session, Mr. Kunihiko Miyake reviewed the trends of current US politics, with Candidate Trump gaining enthusiastic support in the presidential race, growing inequality leading to emergence of political forces opposing refugees and foreigners, and the worldwide phenomenon of distrust with the so-called awakening of the dark side. He also said that the required quality of the future leader is ability to control this dark side. Mr. Tibor Baranski, a practicing lawyer from China, gave a lecture on the “Role of Government and Human Relations in Chinese Business” discussing problems of doing business in China from a judicial viewpoint and comparing it with Japan. Mr. Jianhua Yu from the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences explained the challenges China will face in terms of security because of Prime Mister Xi Jinping’s plan for “One Belt, One Road.” Finally, Konstantin Sarkisov, Professor Emeritus of Yamanashi Gakuin University, gave a brief outline of the current geopolitical situation in Asia-Pacific and a possible cross-border relationship between Hokkaido and the Russian Far East, while looking forward to the Russia-Japan December summit.

     In the Society and Culture Session, Mr. Yang Chen, Executive Director of the Research Center of Japanese Studies (China), gave a lecture entitled “Efficiency and Challenges of the Chinese Media” explaining the differences between Communist Party media and new media (internet news, smartphone news, blogs, WeChat, etc.) and also pointing out the problem of media as the background to the rise of nationalism in China (selling nationalism). Alexander Kurmazov, First Secretary of the Russian Embassy, talked about growing Russian interest in Japanese culture and Japanese cuisine that started about 20 years ago, even touching upon Russian preferences in fish and sushi. Mr. Izumi Takeda, Associate Professor at Hokkaido University, proposed considering Hokkaido from the perspective of tourism and transportation as a “gateway to the north” instead of the “northernmost tip.” In particular, Hokkaido has already been the gateway to the sea route and air route to the Arctic from the Asian side and it is now also viewed as a future strategic and geopolitical area. Additionally, Mr. Robert Eldridge confirmed the crisis of the American type of democracy in the case of the future presidential election in the USA.

      In the final summary, Mr. Kenji Tanaka, Chairman of each session, Mr. Shinji Hyodo, Deputy Director of the National Institute of Defense Studies, and Mr. Yoshihiro Takada, Senior Researcher at the Hokkaido International Exchange and Cooperation Center – the people who organized this event – came to conclusion that presidential election in the USA and Russia-Japan December summit will give many new topics for further discussions.

     Overall, the topic of the presidential election in the USA took the central spot at the forum, but we were also able to discuss other topics as well, particularly Russia-Japan future negotiations and the territorial issue.   

(Written by: Mihoko Kato, Translated by: Aleksandra Kuklina)