Genron Report: American, Japanese, Korean and Chinese Views of the International Relations of Northeast Asia

December 14, 2015 7:00 AM

The Japanese NGO Genron NPO was established in 2001 by a group of Japanese intellectuals who were dissatisfied with the national media. One of the organization’s strengths is periodic polling on public opinion on foreign policy in Northeast Asia; we have drawn on several of their Japan-Korea polls—conducted jointly with the East Asia Institute (EAI)—showing the unfortunate meltdown in bilateral relations (for example, here). Recently, Genron has managed to pull together a credible polling effort of 7000 citizens across four countries—the US (Chicago Council on Foreign Relations), China (Horizon Group), Korea (EAI) and Japan (Genron)—on a range of issues having to do with leadership in the region. We focus on a few findings of interest with respect to the Korean peninsula, but the report reaches to the whole region.

The report contains some things we would expect, such as common expectations that China’s role will increase. But a subtest of the report is the divergence on a number of issues between Japan and the US on the one hand and China and Korea on the other. For example, Koreans are as convinced as the Chinese themselves on China’s future influence while Japanese and Americans are somewhat more skeptical.Genron blog post_1These differences are also visible with respect to the countries seen as most able to deal responsibly with world problems. The US gets roughly equal votes of confidence in Japan and Korea. But Koreans are much more positive on the ability of China to do deal responsibly with world problems than Americans and Japanese respondents. Interestingly, Chinese views of Japan in this regard are much more skeptical than Koreans; Chinese also give disturbingly high marks to Putin’s Russia.

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On possible sources of conflict, respondents in all countries saw the Korean peninsula as a potential source of trouble. But the Asian respondents worried less about North Korea than the Americans did and Koreans were the most sanguine of all; fully 30% said that the Korean peninsula was not likely to be a source of conflict.Genron blog post_3A final finding has to do with hedging. On the one hand, Koreans are increasingly seeing China as an important bilateral relationship. On the other hand, the poll suggests that Koreans favored a constant—or even increased—US military presence in the Asia-Pacific. Whether these two views are explicitly linked is not answered by the poll but the conclusion certainly seems plausible.

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Stephan Haggard Senior Research Staff

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