To the text of this page.

Last Update : Friday, Jan 22, 2016

JapanGov Weekly

[Cabinet Secretariat] [Tuesday, Jan 19, 2016]

Address by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the“Shared Values and Democracy in Asia” Symposium

[Provisional translation]

1. Tolerance and Asia’s new self-portrait
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me to say that it is most timely that at the start of a new year, you have gathered to reflect on Asian values and democracy in the region.
The topic is fitting as we greet a new year, as it brightens our spirits, does it not? I have never once held even the slightest doubt that in Asia’s future, democracy will take root.
Whatever twists and turns there may have been along the way, Asia is now poised to become a champion of democracy. I have been told that Asia has already surpassed any other region on earth in the number of people living under democracies.
In my view, democracy can never be anything but a work in progress. It is, and will forever remain, a work yet unfinished. First moving one way, then back again, it proceeds from one generation to the next, assimilating refinements atop still previous improvements. It knows no other way.
But there is one absolute requirement -- namely, being open to others while imparting mutual respect towards differing opinions and points of view.
It is here I believe we can be optimistic.
For example, we have here with us H.E. Dr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Take a look at his country, Indonesia. Or indeed, have a look at India, led by my valued friend Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who kindly gave us a message by video.
A tremendous number of languages, multiple religions, rapid economic development, and enormous changes throughout society. Whether you consider Indonesia or India, the people of these nations keep working within societies rich in diversity to make democracy take root.
As the great Swami Vivekananda stated at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago 123 years ago, it is none other than the spirit of tolerance that formed India and Indonesia into the nations you see today.
The self-portrait of Asia that each of us should hold is one that should surely be drawn using warm colors, portraying tolerance.

2.Asia’s growth and democratization
Now, ladies and gentlemen, because of impediments like the walls between races and ethnicities, nationalities and religions, even in the 20th century, it was not until the latter half that we could say the values of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law were “universal” among the peoples of Asia and Africa in the true sense.
Which brings me back to memories of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
They were the first Olympic Games to come to Asia. In celebration of that, the Olympic Torch relay visited lots of countries in Asia. At each stop people shared in that celebration as their own. Even at only ten years old, I felt very gratified at that.
I also recall that I felt very upbeat, having heard that for many newly independent African states, the Tokyo Games were their very first Olympics. The athletes who marched below the flag of Northern Rhodesia for the opening ceremony held aloft the brand-new flag of Zambia during the closing ceremony. On that very same day as the closing ceremony Zambia achieved its independence.
Half a century has passed since then. The Olympic and Paralympic Games, having come to Seoul and Beijing, will again return to Tokyo.
A great many Asian countries have achieved remarkable economic development during this interlude. The sacred flame, which will soon burn against the Tokyo sky once more, will come to symbolize the rapid progress achieved by the region.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games will surely also be an opportunity for many of our Asian friends, having persevered through numerous difficulties, to embrace democracy and mutually and vigorously confirm human rights and the rule of law to be principles that they themselves hold.
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen: alongside Asia’s growth and steady democratization, the universal values we speak of have become values that cover more people than any other region in the world, and “universal” in the true sense of the word. Can you think of anything else that could please us more?

3. The water veins in Asia supporting democracy
And yet, Asia's democracy has a distinct mark engraved in it from ancient times, reflecting the values we have held dear for generations.
The statues of Buddha we see in Myanmar and Thailand sometimes lie on their side, truly feeling at ease.
Japan’s Buddha statues, perhaps because they are in Japan, are quite upright, standing or seated, but the features we all think of are invariably those of a kindly face.
We have been taught that theirs is a face of ‘lovingkindness’.
As a child, I was also told that “medicine is a ‘benevolent art’.” I knew that the Confucian concept of “benevolence” should mean loving attachment and a kind spirit.
Those of you from Indonesia, Malaysia, or Pakistan will, I believe, say that you find a morality identical to lovingkindness and benevolence within the teachings of Islam as well. Japan, too, has a tradition of putting the utmost priority on harmony.
Mahatma Gandhi himself said, did he not, that for him democracy was something that would give the weak the same chance as the strong.
I have renewed my belief that, within the veins of water that have run continuously since ancient times under the ground upon which we stand, there is endless nourishment fostering democracy and imparting value to freedom and human rights, namely tolerance and lovingkindness.

4. Due process and the rule of law
We say that the democracy found in India demonstrates its durability during each and every election.
The same was the case with Taiwan, as we learned just three days ago. I heard that the election held recently in Myanmar was also conducted in a fair manner, impressing observers from abroad, including Mr. Yohei Sasakawa, who headed the Japan mission.
Democracy is always a work in progress. Still, it is an unmistakable truth that what improves it one step at a time is a commitment to due process and an adherence to the rule of law.
The same is true with fostering civil servants immune to bribery, police and judicial administration that are impartial, and a military organization serving under civilian control.
The foundation for everything is ensuring due process while promulgating the rule of law. This is what we ourselves have learned over a long time.
And yet, creating and then upholding just, fair, and transparent procedures and making the rule of law absolutely steadfast is also ultimately up to the skills of human beings. Everything starts from making each individual human being wiser and stronger.
And it is that awareness post-war Japan has held dear.
Japan wasted little time after losing the war in beginning its assistance to other Asian countries, acting under the credo that it is human resources development that brings about nation building, and that there can be no nation building without human resources development. This became Japan’s approach in carrying out foreign assistance and is the approach we still embrace today. I believe you can agree with me on that.

5. On the bank of the “Mother Ganges” River
It was a little more than a month ago while I was visiting India that Prime Minister Modi kindly took me to Varanasi. There I experienced with him a Ganga Aarti ceremony, which began just as dusk fell and was gorgeously showy within a solemn atmosphere.
I knew that Varanasi was among the most sacred places, and while observing the ceremony, one thought after another struck me.
A feeling of respect for the flow of water... that is something we Japanese need no explanation to grasp. I might also add that this is why the Government of Japan has for a long time lent a helping hand in the remediation of the River Ganges.
Varanasi also reminded me of samsara, a teaching the Japanese have also valued since ancient times. People are born and ultimately die and transform into something else, and that is precisely why we must live treasuring the present. Somehow, we have been thinking that way.
Though I could not make it during my last trip, I knew that nearby was the place where the Buddha bestowed his very first teachings to his followers.
He told them to venture forth for the gain of many. This teaching spread to far-off Japan and lives on today as a sutra.
On the bank of the Mother River, as I allowed myself to become lost in the music and the rhythmic movement of the flames, I was dazzled at the bottomless depths of history connecting both ends of Asia.
Be it lovingkindness, benevolence, fraternity, or harmony, I believe that in Asia, there extends an underground rootstock of thinking that supports democracy and values freedom and human rights.
From there, a beautiful and large-blossomed lotus flower is now coming into bloom. Coupled with increasingly flourishing trade and investment, it is bringing peace and prosperity to Asia. If this is not something for us to rejoice about, then I must ask, what on earth is?
At the beginning of a new year, as we unmistakably feel the curtain lifting on a new era for Asia, an era in which we make freedom, human rights, and democracy our own and respect the rule of law, Japan reaffirms its determination to continue to be a member of Asia that you can count on. With that resolve, I conclude my remarks.

Thank you very much.

[Cabinet Secretariat] [Thursday, Jan 21, 2016]

Message from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the 2016 Davos Meeting Side Event “Japan Night”

[Provisional translation]

Good evening to all. I am Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan.

Three years ago, I sent a message to Japan Night, saying, “I will come back and speak to you again, next year and beyond.”
It is with great regret that this year I am not able to join you for this “Sushi Night,” but to fulfill that promise, I am handing this message over to Japan’s business leaders and economists I trust.

Likewise, three years ago I made a pledge to you, saying, “I’m not easily fading away,” and I have delivered on that promise. These three years, I have also invested my all-out efforts in ‘Abenomics.’

Beyond the first reform of agricultural cooperatives in 60 years, reforms to the medical care system, and complete liberalization of the electricity market, we have also brought bold reforms to corporate governance. I myself have become the “drill bit” breaking through the solid rock of vested interests. I took the decision to decrease, in one stroke, the effective corporate tax rate into the twenties at the beginning of the new fiscal year starting from this April. I also firmly led the negotiations to agreement on the TPP, which will create a free, fair, highly transparent, and rules-based economic order in the Pacific region.

Through three years of Abenomics, Japanese corporate earnings reached their highest level in history while new jobs were created for more than 1 million people. Tax revenues have increased by more than 20 trillion yen, and as for our primary balance, the deficit ratio to GDP has decreased to less than half its previous level.

But that’s not all. Japan also pulled off something virtually no one thought possible: a come-from-behind win over powerhouse South Africa in the Rugby World Cup.

So as you can imagine, the Japanese people, having taken these successes to heart, have now unmistakably found the light of hope at the end of the long, dark tunnel they have found themselves in for no less than two decades. They are poised to regain great confidence in themselves.

We need to seize this opportunity to press forward still further with Japan’s structural reforms. The Abe Cabinet will begin tackling new challenges here in its fourth year.

For the first time in history, Japan’s political administration has assigned itself the long-term task of maintaining the population above 100 million people fifty years from now. Having set a clear target of raising the current birthrate of roughly 1.42 children per woman to 1.8, we are determined to draw fully on all manner of policies to bring that about.

We will create more opportunities for women. Japan also has quite some scope for utilizing our elder workers, who are full of energy and abounding in enthusiasm.

For Japan, population must no longer be a constraining factor. I will continue to serve as a “drill bit” that breaks through the solid rock preventing our society from making that transition.

Therefore, what I must do is quite simple. I must take on challenges head-on, never avoiding the issues confronting us. I will fight, fight and keep on fighting.

This year I will chair the G7 Ise-Shima Summit.

With the world economy now increasingly unpredictable, we must make this a summit that charts out a path leading to sustained global growth. I am keenly aware of the responsibility on my shoulders. That is precisely why Abenomics must be something solid and unshakable.

The summit will take place at the scenic seaside. I look forward to this opportunity for people around the world to learn more about the natural beauty and the culture of Japan. Tonight is a good chance for you to sample a small part of that. Bon appétit!