SOURCE: Bertelsmann Stiftung

December 11, 2007 20:00 ET

The Japanese See the Greatest Global Challenges in Climate Change and the Destruction of the Environment

In Japan There Is an Incredibly Marked Sensitivity to Environmental Problems -- Lower Expectations for the UN

BERLIN--(Marketwire - December 11, 2007) - In Japan, one of the major nations in the world, awareness of the threats from climate change and the destruction of the environment are the most manifest. The Japanese see the protection of the environment and the preservation of resources as the most important task for world powers today. At the same time, the Japanese expect a dramatic drop in the importance of the USA and think that China, India and the EU in particular will become stronger. The Japanese see their own country in the future as having less of a role as a world power. They are pinning their hopes for a peaceful and stable future world on international co-operation through several regional great powers. These are the findings of a current global opinion poll of 9,000 people in the world's leading nations, carried out by the German foundation, the Bertelsmann Stiftung.

When asked what they consider to be the greatest challenges and threats to the world, 72% of the 1,200 representatively selected Japanese people cited the subject of environmental destruction and climate change. Compared to a comparative survey in 2005 this number has rocketed by 16 percentage points. This is the highest value amongst the nations polled. On average this threat was the most frequently mentioned, by 54% of people. That is 10 percentage points more than two years ago. In India, with 28% and in Russia, with 31% of the mentions, awareness of this challenge is rather less pronounced. The Japanese specify an additional challenge in international terrorism 39%, war 38% and the scarcity of resources at 31%.

The Japanese put the protection of the environment in first place with 58%, as the most important target for the world powers. In a global comparison, this is also one of the highest values. Other important international targets for the Japanese are safeguarding peace (36%) and the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons (34%).

With regard to the question of which nations today and in the future will play a decisive role in international politics, the Japanese expect a dramatic shift in emphasis. The USA is still considered to occupy this role today with 70%, followed by China with 36%, the UNO with 21%, the EU with 20% and finally Japan with 19%. However, only 46% of the Japanese believe that the USA will be a force in the year 2020. They see the USA as being on a par with China (45%): far ahead of India (20%) and the EU (20%). The Japanese also see the influence of the UN as being 15% less than today. Even for themselves they expect a further loss in significance (14%).

This self-evaluation is not shared by other nations. Today, 35% of those polled worldwide still see Japan as a world power. It was in fourth position in the mentions. 33% expect Japan to remain a big power in the year 2020. This is 5th place in international perception.

Indeed the Japanese assume that the UN, with 39%, will also play an important role in the future in ensuring peace and stability. In comparison to other countries such as Germany (82%) and the United Kingdom (83%) this is however a rather low value. That the Japanese also place less confidence in the UN also arises in the question on an optimal international peace framework. Here only 29% of the Japanese think of the UN as having a leading role. In an international comparison, this value in Japan is the lowest polled. On average, 41% of those polled wanted this, in Germany it was at 66% and in the United Kingdom it was 51%. The Japanese can envisage the optimal future world order more generally as being under the guidance of several regional powers.

Summarizing the study, Josef Janning, Head of International Relations at the Bertelsmann Stiftung, noted, "People's future expectations hold enormous sway over policymaking. All over the world, people see the US losing its dominant position and China gaining ground. However, they don't expect the kind of harmonious, balanced world order you might expect from a global government run by the United Nations. Instead, in almost every country, people plan to rely on their own strength in global competition and want their own countries to play larger roles in spreading peace and stability. If this perspective and expectation takes hold in global politics, we may see a resurgence of the sort of nationalistic brinkmanship between current and future global powers that we experienced so disastrously in 20th century Europe. However, the threat of climate change appears to be encouraging greater political cooperation at the international level."

Gallup International/TNS-EMNID, an opinion research firm, recently questioned 9,000 people around the world for the Bertelsmann Stiftung study. The representative survey was conducted in the US, Russia, Brazil, China, India, Japan, Germany, France and the UK. As a benchmark, the findings were compared with a prior Bertelsmann Stiftung poll from 2005. The results were presented at the second meeting of the Bertelsmann Stiftung's Global Policy Council in Berlin. This body brings together high-calibre experts from various fields and regions to analyze the challenges and opportunities inherent in the dynamics of globalization, the rise of new powers and the emergence of new security risks. Taking part in the debate from Japan were the former Deputy State Secretary Hitoshi Tanaka, the former UN special envoy and current Director of the Centre for the Promotion of Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, Ambassador Takaya Suto, as well as the former advisor to Prime Minister Koizumi, Yukio Okamoto.

About the Bertelsmann Stiftung:

The Bertelsmann Stiftung is a non-profit German foundation. As a think tank and political consulting institution, it is committed to developing innovative, humane solutions for the challenges faced by a globalized world. One of its main areas of expertise is international relations. Established in 1977 by Reinhard Mohn, a German businessman, it is still a majority shareholder of Bertelsmann AG, an international media company. In its projects, the Bertelsmann Stiftung is non-partisan and independent from the company.

To download details about the international survey, go to:

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