Illustration: Liu Rui/GT
According to the Diplomatic Bluebook 2017 released by Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, about 800 Japanese nationals are working as professional staff members in UN-related agencies around the world. The Japanese government has set the aim of increasing the number of Japanese employees working at UN-related agencies to 1,000 by 2025. Now it seems that the objective can be achieved ahead of time just like their goal of winning Nobel Prizes. The government not only aims at spreading Japanese influence in the global society, but also in the UN.
Japan has been seeking to become a great political power and the UN has been its target. After the Treaty of Peace with Japan, also known as the Treaty of San Francisco, came into force in 1952, the country tried to become a member of the UN. Yet due to the Soviet Union's boycott, Japan's membership wasn't approved until 1956.
Around 2005, Japan proposed a reform of the UN Security Council (UNSC) and tried to persuade India, Germany and Brazil to apply for permanent membership of the UNSC. However, the request was opposed by China, South Korea and other Asian countries because of some Japanese politicians' arrogant and absurd attitude on historical issues and the "comfort women" issue. Then prime minister Junichiro Koizumi even visited the Yasukuni Shrine six times.
However, Japan hasn't given up on trying to become a permanent member of the UNSC. When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Brazil in 2014, he issued a joint statement with then Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff to promote UNSC reform.
Perhaps Japan realized that its goal to influence the UN by becoming a permanent member is not possible within the foreseeable future, it started to look for other ways, such as increasing its staff members in UN-related agencies.
As an intergovernmental organization formed of sovereign states, the UN is supposed to hire employees from different countries. However, according to one UN report, Americans (9.5 percent), the French (6.1 percent), and Britons (4.9 percent) formed the largest chunk of UN employees until 2015. Japan and China, as the second and third biggest contributors to the UN, only had 2.5 percent and 1.7 percent staff. Hence, it would be reasonable for Japan to seek to increase the number of its employees, because besides European and American ideas, the UN needs Asian wisdom as well.
However, Japan's goal of increasing its employee strength at the world body may also include its motive to disguise its intention of distorting history, considering some Japanese politicians' remarks negating objective history. After all, Japan has played such tricks before.
For example, documents of the Nanjing Massacre from China were successfully inscribed in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register in 2015, and yet the documents related to "comfort women" submitted by South Korea failed to make it. In 2017, South Korea submitted the documents again which were still not chosen. Japanese and South Korean media, reacting to the incident, said that the Japanese government did a lot of work.
If more Japanese employees work at UN-related agencies or as high-ranking officials, the UN may become biased toward Japan on historical issues and territorial disputes. It will not only harm the UN's fairness and authority, but also affect public memory.
Although China is a permanent member of the UNSC and will surpass Japan to become the second biggest contributor to UN budget, we have to admit that compared with Japan, China still has a long way to go in the number of Chinese employees working at UN-related agencies, especially as high-ranking officials. With its rapid development, China needs to send qualified Chinese personnel to the UN and other international organizations to promote a fair international order and equitable global governance system. As a responsible country, it's reasonable for China to voice its opinion within the UN framework.
The author is an editor at the Global Times and a research fellow on Japan issues. [email protected]