GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Seeking for Diversity: Japan-Saudi Shifting Relationship
Paper Proposal Text :
This study discusses the Japan-GCC relationship with main focus on the changing relationship of Japanese policies towards Saudi Arabia.
Japan and GCC have maintained strong relationship since it established diplomatic relations. Japan has imported and imports a good share of its oil and gas. According to the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy in Japan, 28.2 percent of Japan’s oil comes from Saudi Arabia alone, and its share goes up to 72.5 percent if other GCC states (United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman) are included. Regarding export, Japan mainly exports to the GCC cars and electric machines. But it also exports infrastructure including Dubai Metro which is filled with Japanese technology and experience.
In this way, the bilateral relationship between Japan and GCC states has long been configured within economic relations. But their ties began to expand its scope into cultural and human exchange for the past few years.
Vis-à-vis the hard-oriented economic relationship, this soft-type relationship ranges from governmental technology transfer to more individual-based pop-culture.
This shift was brought about from different levels of both sides. Having highly potential competitor such as China and Korea in its mind, Japan seeks more business opportunities with natural-resources-affluent GCC countries. This is well expressed through the fact that the Japan Federation of Economic Organizations appointed President of Sumitomo Chemical as chairman of the Japan Federation of Economic Organizations. Sumitomo Chemical is known to have established a grand-scale joint venture with Saudi Aramco, which is called Petro-Rabigh.
For Japan, the importance of Saudi Arabia increased as Saudi Arabia “graduated” from the ODA (Official Development Assistance) recipient list of OECD/DAC in 2008 as a result of economic development. Although Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the Japanese governmental aid provision agency, retreated its ODA projects from Saudi Arabia at the end of 2010, it has implemented human resource development projects by sharing their cost with Saudi Arabia. These include Saudi-Japan Automobile High Institute (SJAHI), which aims at training car maintenance technical specialists, and Saudi Electronics and Home Appliances Institute.
Saudi Arabia also began to be interested in Eastern countries after 9.11. It introduced “Look East” strategy and started to send students Eastern countries including Japan with the King Abdullah Scholarship. More than three hundred students are supposedly studying in Japanese universities with this scholarship.
Saudi individuals are also increasingly interested in Japan, particularly in its cultural aspects. Japanese Manga and Drama become popular among young people with the development of media. Khawater, a popular TV program aired in the Ramadhan month of 2009 by MBC channel, accelerates this phenomenon. Khawater 2009 sheds light on positive aspects of Japanese culture, technology and people’s way of life. These things may have influenced the Saudi’s annual national event of Janadriya. Japan was invited as the guest country at the National Festival of Janadriya 2011.
In addition, young people in the Gulf become more interested in Japanese language. King Saud University (male campus) has Japanese language program in its Asian Languages Department for more than two decades, and two women’s universities will start to provide Japanese courses to the students soon. Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates also invites Japanese instructor to teach Japanese and Japanese culture to their female students.
Japan has lost to South Korea in a nuclear power plant construction project race in Abu Dhabi. China is in charge of a large project of railway construction in Saudi Arabia. Japanese government succumbed to these competitors in construction races in the Gulf, but is expanding its scope into cultural and human exchange in its relationship with the Gulf.