Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Japanese ENGO’s role in Promoting Sino-Japan Friendship

Japanese ENGO’s role in Promoting Sino-Japan Friendship
Alison’s post on Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival as a great PD effort makes me think of the Japanese ENGO (Environmental Non-Government Organization)’s tree planning in China . I think this would be a good example to show how civil society as a stakeholder has helped improve a country’s image abroad and act as a communication channel between two countries. Japan and China have been described as “neighbors separated by a mere strip of water,” an expression that emphasizes both the physical proximity of the two nations as well as their extensive and longstanding cultural affinities. However, China and Japan has also been called historical enemies because of the Japanese invasion of China during the WWII, a humiliating history that is so deeply ingrained in many Chinese’s minds.

Japanese NGO that has been unusually active in afforestation activities is the Chinese branch of OISCA (Organization for Industrial, Spiritual and Cultural Advancement) International, a Japanese organization devoted to agricultural assistance in developing countries. OISCA’s projects in China began in 2000 and include afforestation work in both the Yangtze River basin and in Alashan, Inner Mongolia. In addition to these planting projects, OISCA established a center for agricultural technical cooperation at Shanghai’s Jiaotong University in China in 2002 and in 2006 opened the Alashan Desert Ecological Research and Training Center at their Inner Mongolian project site. As a major international NGO with a well-established reputation, OISCA has been very successful in applying for grant aid and receives substantial Japanese corporate donations. Examples of grant aid projects include the Sino-Japan Friendship Center for Environmental Protection (established in 1996) and the Sino-Japan Forestry Ecology Training Center Project (established in 2003) in Beijing, while over 30 billion yen in loan aid has gone to combat air pollution in three designated Environmental Model Cities: Guiyang, Chongqing and Dalian.

At the moment when the “Trees of Sino-Japanese Friendship” (As the Chinese and Japanese people call it) are planted by thousands of both Chinese and Japanese people and increasing foundations were laid for various Sino-Japanese Exchange Fund, Environmental Research Center or Education Trust organizations which are springing up in China, people-to-people communication or trans-societal relationship is also enhanced, and the historical animosities are also reduced gradually although in a relatively slow pace. As Onogi, director of the Japan-China Environment Service Center and one of the co-founders of the environmental NGO BEV-NET (Beijing Environmental Network said despite the often cited Sino-Japanese historical conflicts which can be an obstacle to the Japanese NGO work in China, China and Japan share a common enemy in environmental pollution. Cooperation in this area has the potential to not only benefit Japan and China’s shared environment, but also to nurture a sense of shared purpose and values. Here, a robust, well-established set of transnational civil-societal linkages between China and Japan definitely contribute a lot to the improvement of bilateral relations, which is very critical for the further regional integration in Northeast Asia.

Source from Robert Efird. “Japanese Environmental NGOs in China” Thu, 2007-01-25.

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