The Evolution of ODA Diplomacy in Japan – The Diplomat

In March 2022, Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) to China is expected to be completely phased out. Japanese ODA to China began in December 1979, when former Prime Minister Ohira Masayoshi visited Beijing. In total, Japan’s ODA to China amounts to 3.65 trillion yen ($32.4 billion) in the form of aid in the form of loans, while promoting 231 projects related to the establishment of basic infrastructure. chinese prime minister Zhou Enlai decided to give up pressure on Japan for war reparations, saying in a meeting with then Foreign Minister Miki Takeo on April 21, 1972: “It is true that the Chinese people is a victim of Japanese militarism, but the Japanese people are also in fact the victims. We cannot accept compensation because it is immoral. In this sense, it can be said that Japan’s ODA to China has played an indispensable role in the bilateral reconciliation process instead of war reparations.

The end of Japan’s ODA to China was announced by former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo in 2018. Now that China is the world’s second largest economy, eclipsing the Japanese economy, it seems only natural for Tokyo to put end to its ODA to China. Beijing itself is now a economic aid provider and promoted its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to build infrastructure overseas. At the same time, it is strategically imperative for Tokyo to end ODA to China amid Sino-US economic and geopolitical competition in the Indo-Pacific. Sankei Shimbun reported the end of Japan’s ODA to China as the “end of a resounding failure of foreign policy”. Japan’s economic aid, especially aid in the form of global health grants, has been redirected to Southeast Asia, South America and Africa.

Essentially, Japan’s ODA strategy has been integrated into its diplomatic vision, namely the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) concept as pointed out by the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren). Does the end of Japan’s ODA to China mean a change in Japan’s foreign policy in its ODA diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific region? Or is Japan’s foreign policy undergoing a paradigm shift in its ODA diplomacy for global health towards the post-COVID world?

Historically, Japan’s ODA policy was developed as part of its post-war economic recovery and reintegration as a member state of the international community. Recognizing that trade restrictions after the Great Depression led to the prolonged recession that eventually led to World War II, the Bretton Woods Agreements were signed in July 1944. Against this backdrop, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) , the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) were established to stabilize the world economy and provide financial contributions for the reconstruction of war-damaged countries as well as developing countries. Japan’s rapid economic growth in the postwar period was due to the financial assistance and free trade system of these international organizations.

However, as part of its post-war economic recovery and reconstruction, Japan ceased to be an aid recipient and began supporting developing countries in Asia amid the Cold War. . Japan signed the Colombo Package in 1954, began its ODA diplomacy to countries mainly in the Asia-Pacific region, and eventually became the world’s largest ODA donor in 1989, surpassing the United States. From 1991 to 2000, Japan was the largest ODA provider in the world. Since 2001, the United States has regained the top spot, but Japan has remained a top ODA donor as a member state of the Cooperation Organization’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) and of economic development (OECD).

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from Japan first ODA charter was created on the basis of a cabinet decision in June 1992. The philosophical elements of the charter are: 1) humanitarian considerations, 2) recognition of interdependent relationships within the international community, 3) the need environmental conservation, and 4) the need to support the self-help efforts of developing countries. The charter paid attention to environmental protection; the non-military purpose of the aid and the military expenditure of the beneficiaries; and the achievements of recipient states in establishing an economic system based on market, democracy, human rights and freedom. It should be noted that Japanese ODA diplomacy was conditioned by its war reparations policy as well as the political context of the Cold War.

Japan ODA Charter has been revised in 2003 with a view to clarifying the importance of “national interestsin its ODA policy. The four basic philosophical elements were not changed, but the revised ODA Charter focused on 1) supporting the self-help efforts of developing countries, 2) the importance of the concept of human security, 3) assurances of fairness, 4) use of Japan’s experience and expertise and 5) cooperation within the international community. Specifically, he raised the following points priorities: poverty reduction, sustainable economic growth, peacebuilding and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Thus, although it emphasized the importance of human security and international cooperation, the revision of the Japanese ODA Charter reflected realistic perspectives on Japan’s policy on international cooperation based on the importance national interests.

In March 2014, then Foreign Minister Kishida Fumio announced a formal plan to revise the ODA Charter, indicating, “As we enter a new era, ODA which has built a 60-year history must also evolve. With this in mind, I have decided this year to review and revise the ODA Charter. In 2015, the Japanese government decided to change the name of the ODA Charter to the Development Cooperation Charter. The Development Cooperation Charter was drafted on the basis of a cabinet decision of February 2015. The Development Cooperation Charter allows the Japanese government to provide assistance to foreign military forces for non-military purposes, such as humanitarian activities. The Japanese government explained that the Revised Charter was not designed to help prolong Conflicts. At the same time, the Japanese government attempted to legitimize its ODA diplomacy by featuring an animated character called “ODA-man.”

Writing for The Diplomat, Ankit Panda observed that Japan’s ODA policy is consistent with a “realistic mercantile approach” to international affairs and that the Revised Charter includes “non-combat military assistance”. For example, as part of his ODA diplomacy Japan provided musical instruments to the Papua New Guinea Military Bands in 2017. Japan also provided the Philippine Army with rescue equipment used by the Self-Defense Forces during disaster rescue missions. natural.

In December 2021, Finance Minister Suzuki Shunichi and Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa decided to increase the amount of Japan’s ODA for fiscal year 2022, a budget movement related to Japan’s FOIP vision. This decision was made and facilitated by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). against the opposition of the Ministry of Financewho pointed out that there are still funds remaining within the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Clearly, Japan’s ODA policy has been influenced and shaped by the changing international security environment. Moreover, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Japanese ODA diplomacy has faced the need for further readjustment of policies. Japan’s ODA policy may need to prioritize economic assistance for global health, especially international cooperation for current and future pandemics under the COVAX facility, Gaviand CEPI.

This summer, the Eighth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 8) is supposed to be held in Tunisia. During this diplomatic event, the Kishida administration is expected to make a proactive contribution to international peace and global health to curb the spread of COVID-19, especially the Omicron variant, which is more transmissible compared to the other variants. Japan’s ODA diplomacy is therefore undergoing a political transformation to include new contributions to global health, as well as to facilitate the JTFP’s vision vis-à-vis China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

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