Transition to a Multipolar Global Order and Diplomatic Challenges for Japan

Author Name NAKANISHI Hiroshi  (Faculty Fellow, RIETI)
Creation Date/NO. August 2010 10-J-048
Research Project Changes in the Order among Big Powers and Japanese Diplomatic Agenda
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The world is presently in the initial stages of transitioning from a post-Cold War unipolar structure centered on the U.S. to a multipolar order. The Obama administration is seeking to revamp U.S. diplomacy in recognition of this fact. China, whose rapid economic recovery has enhanced its presence, is also working to establish a firm foothold as a key player in this multipolar order. The EU and the major powers of Russia, India, and Brazil are similarly endeavoring to secure positions within the multipolar order. No clear-cut leadership will likely emerge in the international community for the time being, but it is also difficult to anticipate a decisive breakdown given the overall benefit of global interdependence. Without definitive leadership or a complete breakdown of the existing order, international order will be maintained simultaneously by great power constellations such as Sino-American relations and by multilateral regimes such as the G20. While political order is seeing cooperative efforts toward global governance, economic order is showing signs of a gradual erosion of the liberal economic system. Japan, no longer being the economic superpower, needs to adjust its foreign policies to these new international realities.

The international situation will become comparatively challenging for Japan, whose relative national strength is in a downtrend. It can, however, maintain a certain say in the international community by bolstering its roles within East Asia and the Pacific region and it can participate in the establishment and management of the new international order. This orientation will likely come to serve as the fundamental guideline for ensuring Japan’s stability and prosperity.