Beset upon by noisy neighbors China and South Korea over historical issues and territorial claims, Japan has fared remarkably poorly in its ability to mount logical, well reasoned counterarguments. But that may be changing soon, and when it does, the rhetoric can be expected to intensify to ear-splitting levels.
On its front page of May 4, the Sankei Shimbun revealed the contents of an internal memorandum being circulated at Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs that analyzes the anti-Japanese propaganda emanating from its tormenters. The effectiveness of their propaganda is attributed to a “multilayered information strategy” described as “kanmin ittai” (united efforts by the government and the people).
Considerable differences exist, however, between the Chinese and Korean approaches. The former has been making energetic efforts to harness international organizations and major media outlets, whereas the latter’s campaigns tend to emanate from Korea’s regions.
As the internal memo notes, China “focuses on recognition of history as based solely on its own claims, and order to deploy all-out criticisms of Japan.”
In addition to the U.N. General Assembly and various international conferences, the Gaimusho memo continues, China has been expanding its campaign via foreign media and think tanks. As a result, “...more than governments in third countries, statements by intellectuals, scholars and reporters” are being energetically utilized, and “...reports influenced by Chinese pronouncements” are being disseminated. Moreover, the mulitilanguage channels of China’s state-owned CCTV and the Confucius Institute (a non-profit public institution affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education) which provides instruction in Chinese language and culture at 1,068 schools in 120 countries, “are disseminating China’s own assertions through a multilayered means.”
South Korea, on the other hand, has “energetically harnessed regional governments, private-sector groups and individuals” for such campaigns as the “comfort women,” territorial claims over Dokdo (Takeshima in Japanese) and the appellation of the “East Sea” (as opposed to “Sea of Japan”). These efforts are described as bringing “strong pressure” to bear.
Regarding the territorial dispute, for example, South Korea “makes its assertion as a historical issue, not a territorial one, but then interprets Takeshima’s history in terms that favor its own national assertions.”
In commentary regarding the memorandum, the Sankei’s reporter notes that to counter Chinese and Korean claims, the Abe government has received a considerable boost in its public information budget for fiscal 2014. Compared with 4.4 billion yen for public information activities in 2013, the prime minister’s office will receive 6.5 billion yen this year. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs budget for measures related to “territorial protection” had its budget upped from 810 million yen in 2013 to 1 billion yen this year.
What forms are Japan’s campaigns to counter its neighbors’ claims likely to take? Up to now, the government has utilized video streaming, and rebuttals in domestic and foreign newspapers to China’s complaints regarding Abe’s worship last December at Yasukuni shrine. Japan is likely to organize seminars and promote more frequent contacts with foreign opinion leaders.
One fly in the ointment, however, is that unlike China and Korea, Japan’s government and public are a long way from functioning in sync.
“In China and South Korea, the tightly knit propaganda activities by governments and citizens have been honed to near perfection,” a source in the government says in exasperation. “But Japan’s government and citizens are a long way from ‘kanmin ittai.’”
“As an economically advanced democratic nation, the data issued by our government has not been able to obtain sympathy from the world,” a senior staff member in the Foreign Affairs Ministry admits. “We’re not ready to climb into the sumo ring and mount a challenge to our opponents.”
In an attempt to change this situation, the Liberal Democratic Party headquarters set up a committee aiming to bolster PR efforts through issuing statements and assembling data from abroad. The committee is now in the process of forming a new organization to support its activities. Along with a new strategic information concept that will utilize NHK’s international broadcasts, the committee is expected to compile proposals for future moves within this year.