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Japan’s Peace Constitution:
A Valuable Common Asset for the Whole Human Beings

February 008

By Hsi-chieh Chien * and Szu-chien Hsu **
Peacetime Foundation, Taipei, Taiwan


The significance of Japan’s peace Constitution

Year 2000 is the “UN International Year for a Culture of Peace.” In celebrating the event, the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan praised the Japanese Constitution as the most advanced written constitution in the world in terms of realizing the value of world peace. The Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution is the only case in human being’s history to institutionally crystallize the right of peace with constitution. For the collectivity of the human beings, we urge all people and governments in the world to commit themselves to pursue the spirit of Article 9.

Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution is a milestone in the following senses. First, legally speaking, it is significant for people in the world to understand the importance of banning wars through incorporating peace rights into the constitution. Second, practically speaking, Article 9 has set a leading example for other countries to follow to enact a peace article into the constitution, so that all countries can pursue “just and orderly international peace” together. Once peace rights are constitutionally guaranteed in more countries, it would be easier to constrain the politicians all over the world from provoking hatred and antagonism.

However, the right wing parties and elements in Japan now are trying to mobilize the nationalistic sentiment to amend the peace article, Article 9, of Japan’s Constitution. They intend to abolish Article 9 and resume the right of war within 5 to 6 years. Amending Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution should not be simply seen as a domestic affair. It has vast impact and deep implications for international community, and the international community therefore should be seriously concerned about this matter.

Once Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution is abolished, such a move would inevitably raise suspicion of neighboring nations toward Japan’s intention. Such suspicion would then in turn induce the right wing or conservative political forces in other neighboring countries to strengthen their military force, and to oppose including peace article into their constitution. In facing the increasing military build-up, Japan would be forced to strengthen its own military power too. Then not only the self-fulfilling “security dilemma” in the region shall be deepened, but also the advocacy for peace made by civilian organizations and citizens in the whole region would be left powerless and isolated. If we can foresee such a self-defeating consequence, how can the civil societies in all countries in the region and the international community sit idly and not act immediately together to prevent the abolishing of Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution? Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution therefore is thus not only an example for the rest of the country, but a cornerstone for the regional peace and stability in Asia Pacific.

How Taiwan responds to the Global Article 9 Campaign

As a peace movement NGO in Taiwan, Peacetime Foundation is working toward incorporating the peace article into Taiwan’s Constitution in the future. We shall concentrate our efforts in the following two aspects:

1. To respond to the “Global Article 9 Campaign” with concrete local actions, such as holding educational workshop and public events;

2. To push for enacting a peace article into our own constitution.

We shall promote a culture of peace in Taiwan through civil society movements and activities, so that Taiwanese people can understand why incorporating a peace article into our own constitution shall have positive implications for Taiwan’s participation in the international community, and how efforts made by Taiwanese people shall in turn help Japanese people’s effort in preserving Article 9 in Japan’s Constitution.

We have to admit to promote peace movement in Taiwan is extremely difficult. Taiwan is facing immediate military threat from China. Chinese jet fighters can attack Taiwan within few minutes. China has deployed more than 1,000 missiles aiming at Taiwan, with the number of missiles still increasing every year. China has also made tremendous advance in developing and purchasing high-tech military power to deter the interference of US and other countries in the scenario of military conflict across the Taiwan Strait. In such an insecure environment, people in Taiwan tend to think the idea of peace is either pointless or too luxurious.

However, it is exactly such fear of insecurity that forms a trap of military confrontation across the strait that not only force us to keep increasing our national defense budget, but also to make Taiwan Strait one of the most dangerous hot spot in the region. In short, the more fearful we are and the more we rely on military force to protect ourselves, the farther away we push ourselves from peace. This is exactly why we think it is urgent for us to promote peace movement in Taiwan, and to introduce the spirit of Article 9 into our society.

A concrete way to promote peace movement is to follow the Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution by also enacting a peace article into Taiwan’s constitution. The article should address statements such as “Any political contention with Mainland China or any controversy with other country should and can only be settled by peaceful means,” and “Our country shall not be committed to build any armed forces. Instead, we shall commit ourselves in developing nonmilitary civilian defense. Therefore, our country shall neither be engaged in any military alliance, nor in attacking any other county, based on the reason of security.”

What has Peacetime Foundation done to promote peace in Taiwan

Along this spirit of peace advocacy, the Peacetime Foundation has made the following endeavors in the recent years to promote peace in Taiwan’s society:

The presidential election in 2004 was not quite a peaceful process. President Chen Shui-bian, then also a candidate, was shot by two bullets the day before the election. Although the incident did not cause lethal wound to President Chen, it still brought about tension among ethnic groups and between political camps. In such an antagonistic political environment, the Peacetime Foundation organized a workshop, to allow citizens from different social and political backgrounds to understand each other’s political positions through a process of peaceful dialogue. We use a balanced sampling method to choose participants from self-enrolled citizens from all over Taiwan, and allow people from different positions on the political spectrum to live together for 2 days, and to have dialogue in a well-designed program. We have also recorded this workshop into a documentary, and played it in Public Television in Taiwan. We have also made it available for educational purposes in schools, as well as played it in the Peace Movie Festival that our foundation organized. We have tried to pass our message in the documentary to the society through many channels, hoping such message could help alleviate the tension and antagonism among ethnic groups and political camps created by the electoral politics.

In 2005, we continued the momentum we gained from the 2004 workshop to hold another one. This time we allow citizens from different political positions to conduct dialogue on a more difficult and complicated issue: the cross-strait relations. In this workshop, 60 citizens participated in a 3-day camp and live together. They reached a consensus through many rounds of dialogue and opinion exchange. The most important significance of such a workshop is not to produce or to invent some ground-breaking proposals, but to learn the experience of how to listen to each other and understand the logic of the other side, and then to build a collective trust toward each other. We believe it has to be based upon such mutual understanding and trust that a consensus beyond the positions of unification and independence can be reached in Taiwan’s society.

As a result of this workshop, the Peacetime Foundation has developed our own argument regarding the most heatedly debated issue in Taiwan, that is, the issue on “unification versus independence.” Our argument contends that “democracy and peace compose a set of value that is higher than the set of value of independence and unification.” We contend that for those in Taiwan who advocate unification, they must accept the principle that if their goal of unification was to be realized, it must be done through a democratic process in Taiwan’s society. On the same token, we also contend that for those in Taiwan who advocate independence, they must also accept the principle that if their goal of independence was to be realized, it must be done without bringing about any non-peaceful consequence.

Taiwan is going to go through another presidential election this year. The issue of independence and unification is again manipulated by politicians for their electoral purposes. Such manipulation has not only again caused tension among different ethnic groups and antagonism between political camps, but it has also led to more tense relations between Beijing and Taipei, as well as between Washington and Taipei. It is again the time for Peacetime Foundation to make effort to work hard to spread the idea of peace to prevent the escalation of ethnic tension and political confrontation.

Developing nonmilitary defense

Under such a political atmosphere, the Peacetime Foundation would like to reemphasize our idea on promoting peace within Taiwan as well as in the region. We shall keep advocating that Taiwan should develop a “nonmilitary defense” so that we can gradually reduce our reliance on conventional military defense. We believe that people’s strong will to pursue just and peace shall be more powerful than any other weapon to frustrate strong powers’ will to invade. We shall convince Taiwanese people that if we set a good example for other societies in the region on pursuing people’s right of peace, then we can also join, help, and encourage people in other nations to pursue our common rights of peace together. When people from different countries in the region act together, we shall be able to build the strongest guarantee for collective peace. By playing such a role model, Taiwanese people shall make a tremendously progressive contribution to the world.

If Taiwan can successfully develop a peace article in our constitution, it will definitely contribute to a more peaceful relation across the strait. It will let the international community to understand our insistence on pursuing the highest values of all the human beings, that is, democracy, peace, and human rights. Furthermore, when we renounce our appeal to use of force to settle any dispute across the strait, we shall also render China’s appeal to use of force illegitimate. At the same time, if Taiwan can also successfully develop our “nonmilitary defense” with feasible measures of non-cooperation and resistance, then we shall exert even more powerful moral pressure toward any invasive intention by China. If Taiwan renounce our appeal to use of force to settle our political disagreement with China, then China would have no excuse to continue develop and deploy military threat against Taiwan. China would also have no excuse to increase its military power to deter US. In that case, China will be forced to stop and cut down its military build-up, and then the whole region will be able to engage in a movement of de-militarization and de-escalation. In other words, if Taiwan could develop a nonmilitary defense together with enacting a peace article in our constitution, we would not only be able to alleviate the confrontation across the strait, but also to contribute to the peace building in the region.

People may worry that to renounce the right to the use of force may imply to demobilize army and to do away with weapons. To incorporate the peace article into the constitution would then imply to sacrifice our national security. The Peacetime Foundation maintains that we should replace the conventional concept of national defense with “nonmilitary defense.” It is a concept of “civilian-based defense,” based on the idea of Gandhi’s non-cooperation and non-obedience movement to resist British colonial power with overwhelming armed forces. The people of Baltic nations also expressed their will to frustrate the invasion from Soviet with their way of non-violent resistance. We believe military equipment is neither the only means, nor the most powerful means, to defend our own security. Armed force cannot bring about absolute security; quite on the contrary, it always brings about escalated armed threat toward each other. Moreover, by not relying on military force we can save vast amount of national budget, which we can then use to improve education, social welfare, and social safety net, so that we would have even better chance to nurture a real socially-embedded culture of peace.

Taiwan’s alternative participation in international community

Therefore, only when people are confident to rely on their own power instead of on armed forces to protect themselves, and thus to renounce the right to the use of force in their constitution, can they then really not constrained by worries about national security. Japan is the only country in the world that has such a peace article in its constitution. Japan therefore is also the country that has the advantage and is most qualified not only to develop a “nonmilitary defense” for itself, but also to set an example for the rest of the world. If such a concept can be duplicated and extended around the world, then any intention to initiate a war shall lose its legitimacy and be condemned by international community. This is exactly the final goal of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC).

It is indeed a pity that Taiwan cannot join the United Nation. However, Taiwan can pursue and promote the idea of peace with the spirit of Article 9 by enacting a similar constitutional article and by developing nonmilitary defense. We also believe if Taiwan can have more NGO’s like Tzu-chi Foundation, Taiwan Medical Peace Corps, and World Vision Taiwan, not only to provide global humanitarian assistance, but also to defend human rights and prevent armed conflicts in the world, Taiwan shall not only be respected in the world, but shall also be able to protect ourselves with the moral power that we earn. We suggest, in order to practice the spirit of the United Nations in promoting peace, Taiwan should allocate 0.7% of its annual national budget for engaging in international peace affairs.

Of course, Taiwan should also work hard to enhance mutual understanding between Taiwan and the Chinese people as well as with the Chinese government. Both sides across the strait should not only work jointly to solve our own problems, but also to contribute to global peace together. The two sides across Taiwan Strait should stop engaging themselves and involving other countries in a military competition and to make Taiwan Strait dangerous water in the region. It is the duty of the civil society of the region to work together to create a positive cycle to bring ourselves out of the militarized trap. Let us start from joining the Global Article 9 Campaign!

Building regional peace by expanding Article 9

If people from different nations in Asia Pacific region can act collectively to start a movement of peace constitution by enacting a peace article into each nation’s constitution, and make such a common pursuit the central value of the Asia Pacific region, then we shall be able to set a firm foundation for future regional integration. Such a regional integration shall be different from the European experience which started from free trade and self-interest. Our regional integration shall start from a common value, that is, the pursuit of collective peace. A regional order based on peace constitution in each member nation shall set a mutually-benefiting foundation for all nations. Such a peaceful institution embedded in each nation’s domestic politics shall enable all the nations to transcend their historic memories and prejudices and to tear down political barriers. People from different nations shall have an institutionally guaranteed environment to enhance mutual understanding and to build mutual trust. They shall then be able to learn how to settle their difference in a peaceful way, and how to gradually integrate by accepting each other.

Article 9 of Japan’s peace Constitution, allow us to emphasize again, is not merely an idiosyncratic constitutional framework for Japan; it is also such an extremely valuable common asset for all human beings that the whole world should work together to preserve and expand it. It is a milestone and an indicator, not only for a better future of the region, but also for a more promising future for all the human beings.

About the Authors:

Hsi-chieh Chien is the Executive Director, Peacetime Foundation of Taiwan

Szu-chien Hsu is a Board Member of the Peacetime Foundation of Taiwan, also an Assistant Research Fellow of the Institute of Political Science, Academia Sinica

©2008 GPPAC JAPAN All Rights Reserved.