The Japanese Bridge to Global Reform

This year Japan will host the G20 summit. As the world’s third largest economy, especially when the top two – USA and China – are slugging it out in a trade war, Japan’s Presidency of the G20 becomes all the more significant.

The Group of 20 (G20) of the world’s leading economies has become the natural centre of international leadership, especially since the economic crisis of the previous decades in developed economies allowed developing powers to close the gap. In a geopolitical environment that is witnessing rapid shifts in power, G20 has to become the forum for reshaping global multilateral norms.

Japan has realised its responsibility. Till last year, Japan’s relationships with China had been rapidly deteriorating. But Shinzo Abe, wisely, checked the slide by making a state visit – a first in seven years by a Japanese leader – to China. This was significant. Japan and China’s economies are deeply interlinked. But Japan also has a legacy of historical disputes with its giant neighbour, and, consequently has to rely on the US nuclear umbrella for protection.

Rather than becoming a geopolitical contradiction, Japan’s position allows it to play the role as an interlocutor which engages both China and the United States. Also, Japan’s relationships with other Indo-Pacific powers, such as Australia and India, place the country at a potential core of an interlinked geopolitical web, which can create new norms for a fast changing world.

The G20 Osaka Summit in June, then, is a significant upcoming geopolitical event. Japan must grasp the leadership opportunity it offers.