chapter  3
27 Pages

Japan and regional governance in East Asia: expanding involvement, stagnated influence?


Globalisation is one of the most conspicuous phenomena in the current international world. Growing linkages through enhanced flows of trade, capital and foreign direct investment have linked economies and societies in various parts of the world. Globalisation has also produced socio-political problems that a single state is usually unable to resolve unilaterally. Given this situation, the state frequently needs to resolve such problems in collaboration with other states and non-state actors, including intergovernmental organisations (IGOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Further, the types of networks, institutions and norms required to yield a positive outcome necessitate a different way of governing problems, one that draws in a range of different actors and different levels of domestic and international society. This is a reason why the governance paradigm has emerged as a critical policy tool in international society as well as in various regions, including Europe, North America and East Asia. While Europe and North America developed certain forms of regional

governance, Asia-Pacific, including East Asia was regarded as ‘pre-governance’.1

This characterisation of East Asia derives partly from attitudes of leading states in the region. For a long time, Japan, the major economic power in the region, did not show meaningful leadership in developing regional cohesion and regional governance in East Asia. Since the late 1990s, however, the Japanese government has proposed various schemes and programmes designed to consolidate a regional grouping and promote cooperation within the group. Policy areas where Japan has been involved have expanded from financial and economic cooperation to environmental, agricultural and energy fields. There are three key questions that must be considered in any study of

Japan’s recent attempts to develop collective mechanisms and programmes to manage political, economic and social affairs in East Asia. In what areas has Japan made substantial commitments to the development of regionalism and regional cooperation? How are the major aspects of governance reflected in such commitments? What problems are found in Japan’s undertaking in

regional affairs in terms of governance formation? This chapter seeks to suggest possible answers to each of these questions. In seeking answers to these questions, this chapter advances two core

propositions. First, that Japan has intensified its involvements in the development of regionalism in policy fields represented by financial/monetary management, food security and environmental protection, and that such involvements have contributed to the sprouting of regional governance in East Asia. Second, that Japan’s engagements are still weak in terms of governance formation, largely because of weak coordination among government agencies, underdeveloped perception of governance ideals, and the growing geopolitical nature of its regional policies. Before examining Japan’s concrete activities for regionalism and regional governance, the chapter first reviews the literature on regionalism and governance and identifies the major elements of regional governance.