"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] Remarks by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Symposium Hosted by the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), "Reflections on Global History of the 20th Century Towards a New Vision for the 21st Century"

[Date] July 9, 2015
[Source] Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet
[Notes] Provisional Translation
[Full text]

Dr. John Hamre, President of the CSIS,

Prof. Michael Green, Senior Vice President for Asia of the CSIS

Mr. Yoshiji Nogami, President of the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA),

Distinguished panelists,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today, I wish to extend my heartfelt welcome to the scholars of history and political science who have come all this way from around the world to attend this symposium.

This year marks for Japan and, indeed, for the entire world, the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

Having heard that the authoritative U.S. think tank CSIS was teaming up with the JIIA to hold this highly valuable symposium on world history, I have come in order to convey my encouragement and support.

I heard that this symposium is probably the first endeavor in the world in which historians and political scientists from around the world have gathered under the same roof to discuss global history at a worldwide level. I wish to express my sincere respect to the CSIS as well as to all of the participants in this project for taking on this bold and intellectual challenge.

When you are asked about "a major event of the 20th century," what is it that comes to mind?

I see that quite a large number of older people are here today. I imagine that the tribulations of the last world war will never be forgotten by those who experienced the war directly.

For the generation who enjoyed living through the period of high economic growth, it will probably be the Tokyo Olympics watched as a child.

How about for people in other countries? They might think of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin journeying to space, or perhaps commander Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. Or it might be the reunification of East and West Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall. For Asian and African nations, it may very well be the day they cast off other nations' rule and triumphantly declared their independence.

I believe that the 20th century was filled to the brim with both painful and delightful memories of a great number of people.

The history lived by humanity in the 20th century had both "light" and "shadows." The "shadows" were the large number of wars, including no less than two world wars, as well as revolutions, conflicts, and violence, human rights infringements including the suppression of freedom and thought, the Great Depression and the formation of bloc economies, rule by other nations, and racial discrimination. The issues of sexual discrimination, pollution, and environmental destruction, among other problems, were also major parts of these "shadows."

And yet in the 20th century, particularly in the latter half, "light" begins to return to human history. By rectifying humans' own errors, humankind's reason brings ethical maturity to human society. I consider these to be the kinds of universal lessons we drew:

- "Never intimidate other countries with military force in the background."

- "Never commit violence against other countries."

- "Never make changes to one's territory without other countries' consent."

- "Never rule over other peoples or make them subordinate."

- "All persons enjoy human rights as inherent rights."

- "The dignity of each individual human being must be respected."

- "Never discriminate against people because of sex, race, religion, or the like."

- "Men and women have exactly the same value."

- "Never hinder free commerce or trade."

- "The natural environment must be handed down to the next generation as beautiful as it now is."

These are the universal lessons that humankind learned from the 20th century.

Since the end of World War II, based on feelings of deep remorse over that war, Japan has consistently followed the path of a peace-loving nation. Further, Japan accomplished so-called miraculous economic development and prosperity together with other nations, including Asian countries. Japan's path became a model to many Asian countries which achieved their independence after the War. In addition, Japan consistently built up an extensive record of international contributions such as ODA and peacekeeping operations, among others, in accordance with our national capability.

Moreover, since the 1990's, Japan's pacifism has changed to a position of actively supporting peace. Since my administration was inaugurated, I have advocated Japan being a "Proactive Contributor to Peace based on the principle of international cooperation."

Japan's modern history is just over 70 years from the beginning of the Meiji era to the outbreak of World War II, and 70 years from Japan's defeat in that war to the present day. Before long, the post-war period will be the longer of the two. I take pride in the path Japan has followed over the 70 years since the end of the war.

We are now in the year 2015. More than a decade has already passed since the dawn of the 21st century. From now on, what kind of century should we make the 21st century into? We must have a vision.

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

That is a quote from the famous speech by Martin Luther King Jr. that made a huge impact on the civil rights movement in the U.S. The vision offered by Reverend King touched the hearts of a great many people and created the United States that we know today.

I believe that the universal ideals he advocated are one and the same as those set forth by father of Indian independence Mahatma Gandhi and South Africa's Nelson Mandela.

A large number of people make all-out efforts one after another, aspiring to the lofty visions advocated by great political leaders. This is how humankind has carried out quite a number of outstanding achievements. On one occasion, it was freedom and equality that people won; on another occasion, it was peace; on still another, independence.

There are some who went to their final resting places without having fulfilled their dream. Today's 21st-century world was built upon the sacrifices of an enormous number of people unacknowledged by the world.

A world that takes as its foundation the universal values of freedom, democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law.

A world in which diverse nations and peoples can coexist by making rules through discourse.

A world in which people who have a wide variety of backgrounds are able to respect each other across national borders.

A world in which all people can realize a happy life with smiles on their faces.

This is a treasure of humanity that we must never spoil again.

How did we, the human race, arrive here? What did humanity experience in years past and what did we learn from those experiences? And how will we apply that in the future?

In order to know that, we must have a common viewpoint for looking at global history. This will also provide an answer to the question of what sort of vision we will sketch out for the future generations of humankind.

The shape of the world will surely change rapidly in the 21st century. The new world must take shape based on rules.

It is through the clash of a wide range of opinions within a free, tolerant, and open system that a new global vision will emerge. I believe a "liberal international order" makes that possible. Japan intends to play a leading role in order to create and realize this new global vision.

I understand that as part of this CSIS project, you will come together for discussions in Washington, D.C. again this winter, and that afterwards your report will be compiled into a book. I very much look forward to your book being published.

Thank you very much for your attention.