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Anniversaries, Inc. Hosts Inaugural Symposium

Anniversaries, Inc. held its inaugural event on March 18, 2019, bringing together 100 established and emerging leaders in the United States and Japan to discuss “The World in 2020: Seeking a Clearer Vision of the Future.” The founders, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage, former Japanese Ambassador to the United States Ryozo Kato and tech entrepreneur and former diplomat Ren Ito, established Anniversaries, Inc. to stimulate new policy discussions. Rising stars and veterans from government, academia, media, law, and technology gathered to discuss the evolving role of the United States in Asia and how a new, younger generation of leaders and voters is shaping U.S. politics and tackling emerging global challenges.

In the keynote speech, Ambassador Armitage hailed Japan as America’s most important ally without which the United States would be unable to pursue its interests in Asia due to the tyranny of time and distance. He noted, “Today’s forum is the first of many that will allow new leaders to engage on the challenge of defining America’s role, especially in partnership with Japan.”

In the first discussion that followed, “The Evolving Relationship between Asia and the USA”, panelists observed that, as the U.S. is seen to be stepping down in Asia, Japan plays a unique nexus role - which it is ready to take on even more - as a mature democracy able to tackle global challenges that also understands Asian governments and developing economies. They identified rising protectionism, the politicization of industrial policy, climate change and the shift of economic gravity to China as the key challenges for Asia-Pacific over the next ten years. To address these issues, American and Japanese leadership in internet governance, restructuring global governance and supporting Asian countries through disruptive technological change were recognized to be vital, an enabling factor of which is rejuvenating U.S. government capacity.

Emerging leaders questioned the panelists for their views on: how to convince Asian countries to stick with the U.S., whether the Trump administration should receive more praise for its China policy and the optimism or pessimism felt about younger generations in the United States, Japan and China. In response to the latter, concerns about young Japanese people’s political apathy, systemic educational failure in China for hundreds of millions of youth and the potential fall-out from a clash between liberal and state capitalism economic models, as well as hope for young Americans’ impassioned sense of responsibility, were voiced.

The second panel discussion, “Looking to 2020 in the USA”, explored the underlying causes for major differences between the 2016 and 2020 U.S. presidential elections: demography and the rise of empowered millennials. In particular, they debated about the kind of presidential candidate and election campaign strategy that would give the Democrats the best chance in the 2020 election, stressing the importance of an overriding, aspirational message about America’s role in the world. Panelists expected technology to feature as a major campaign issue but encouraged for the unprecedented opportunities from innovation to be balanced against the risks through open dialogue between government, business, civil society and other countries including Japan.

The burning questions for future leaders in the second panel were the role of climate change in the 2020 presidential election campaign and American leadership on democratic norms for digital technology platforms, especially regarding the uses of artificial intelligence. They expected the environment to feature centrally and conjectured that support for the Green New Deal will be a critical criterion for Democrat presidential candidates, driven in part by student activism. Japanese leadership of the G20 in 2019 under Prime Minister Abe was picked out as a key forum to distinguish harms and opportunities on the internet and set high-standard rules on data flows, privacy and platform regulation.

The discussions were bookended by remarks from Anniversaries, Inc.’s founders. Ambassador Kato made an intellectual call to arms, saying, “With the new generation emerging in both countries, it is crucial to pass the baton to these younger leaders and strengthen U.S.-Japan relations in a rapidly changing world.” Speaking to Anniversaries, Inc.’s raison d’être and future offerings, Ren Ito announced, “We’ve launched this new forum to explore America’s changing political landscape and how that might shape U.S. policy in Asia. We expect many more exciting and eye-opening projects to emerge from the connections made here today and the ideas that have been discussed.”

Yurino Kiraevent