A Legacy to the 21st Century

Speech made at Takeo Fukuda (1905-1995) Centennial Memorial Lecture
September 9, 2005
Tokyo Japan

By Helmut Schmidt

Dear Madam Fukuda, friends, ladies and gentlemen.

Let me thank you for having invited me to participate in the 100th anniversary of Fukuda Takeo and to contribute to his eulogy and to our memory. I am deeply moved in responding to your invitation, because I have loved Fukuda-sensei. I speak on Fukuda’s legacy to the 21st Century , which still is and will for decades remain to be relevant to the problems we are to face in the 21st century.


About a decade ago I published a book on the persons whom I had met during my lifetime and from whom I had benefited by their wisdom. The book contains a chapter under the title: “Three outstanding Asian leaders” and it deals with Deng Xiaoping of China, with Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, and it starts with Fukuda Takeo.

For me Fukuda was a friend as well as a precious advisor, despite or rather because of our belonging to different cultures. We first met in 1972, long time ago. Both of us at the same time served as finance ministers of our countries. It was an unruly time, because of the demise of the Bretton Woods System of fixed parities of currencies and because of a global recession due to a global oil price explosion, triggered by OPEC. Along with the other three members of the so-called library group – Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, George Shultz and Tony Barber – we privately got together and managed to maintain normal relations between our currencies.

Our mutual respect and understanding did grow later on when we were heads of our governments. In the G-7 Summits of industrialized countries, we had to deal with solutions for the difficult economic trilemma – inflation, unemployment and financial imbalances – of the world, which was still suffering from the oil price shock.

Quite apart from our economies Japan and Germany do share severe historical defects and shortcomings – having started cruel wars, bearing the burden of guilt vis-à-vis neighbouring nations and coming late as democracies. But the two countries do also differ by different ways in history and culture, in religion and behaviour. Nevertheless, the two of us did share the concern about the future of the one world we live in.

The wisdom of the experienced Takeo Fukuda, who was 14 years my senior, helped me understand the Asian ways of thinking. Always “convinced that his mission was to continue making small contributions to the threatening global problems,” Fukuda in 1983 started the InterAction Council, the so-called the “OB Summit,” in fact a club of “have beens.” It was such a pleasure to see him annually within this group, which gave us former statesmen a forum to exchange our views and to speak our mind much more freely than active politicians.

It is not my task today to add to Shiokawa-san’s evaluation of the great role, which Fukuda-sensei played in reconstruction of Japan after 1945. My task is to assess the relevance of his philosophical legacy in this century, which so far has betrayed the hopes and expectations of very many people.


Fukuda was a living witness of the bloodiest century in human history. He lived through World War I as a school boy; he lived through the global Great Depression of the 1930’s as a young official in the Japanese Ministry of Finance; he worked there through all of World War II with all its catastrophes; it was during the long decades of the cold war, when Fukuda turned out as a political leader in your country and in the end as a world statesman.

Like most of the leaders of his generation, he was thrown into the harsh currents of the 20th century whether he liked it or not, and therefore he had to experience all the rapid and dramatic changes over the eight decades between 1914, when World War I broke out, until the 1990’s, when the Soviet Union collapsed. This rather short but extremely bloody 20th century as well saw an unprecedented degree of progress in many fields.
In Fukuda’s final speech, delivered here in Tokyo a few weeks before his demise, he termed that century as “the century of glory and remorse.” In his view, it was on the one hand glorious, because of the tremendous progress in science and technology, because of the unprecedented economic growth worldwide, because of improved justice and more humane approaches in many parts of the world. But on the other hand, he called it a century of remorse, because of the largest number of human lives lost in the two bloody world wars and because of all the war crimes. He did not mention any names but he clearly implied his own country, too.

His call for remorse was also addressing the damages done to our globe due to the population explosion, due to the unsolved economic divide between the North and the South and due to the wasteful consumption of our finite natural resources.

A little bit later in that same year 1995, I had to give a speech in Hiroshima and, being a pupil of Fukuda-sensei, I gave it under the headline “Remembrance, Remorse and Responsibility.” Let me please be permitted to quote one sentence from that speech which was addressing Japan and Germany alike: “Nobody is obliged to repent sins and crimes that were committed by others; but anybody in our two nations is burdened with the responsibility that such crimes can never be repeated.” And quite naturally did I quote the Fukuda Doctrine.
In my personal view the Fukuda Doctrine is one of the two outstanding international elements of my late friend’s legacy. The other one is his pursuit for universal ethical standards through the InterAction Council.


Among the many contributions which Takeo Fukuda made, two of them are still remembered in the world outside Japan; namely, the treaty of peace and friendship with China and his Southeast Asian diplomatic policy, the so-called “Fukuda Doctrine” delivered in 1977. It is remembered in the world, because of the validity of its principles until the present day, principles which have been convincing to your neighbouring Southeast Asian countries.

Having known his global concern, I am convinced that he did have a vision of reaching out to the world at large. In fact, Fukuda emphasized the so-called omni-directional diplomacy during his office. Omni-directional diplomacy implied to attach importance to relations with China and with the then Soviet Union while maintaining solid relations with the United States.

In my understanding, the essence of the Fukuda Doctrine of 1977 can be summarized in three sentences:

1. Japan will contribute to peace and prosperity of Southeast Asia and the world with the resolute determination of never becoming a military power.

2. Japan will cooperate, as an equal partner, with the initiative of ASEAN towards strengthening solidarity and resilience.

3. Japan will aim to build mutually trusting relations of “heart to heart” with the Southeast Asian region, not only politically and economically but also socially and culturally.

If one reads these words today, they might seem quite ordinary. But three decades ago the speech was a new signal and it was highly applauded in ASEAN. It has served as the Japanese diplomatic pillar to ASEAN. The message, that Japan would attach great importance to the Southeast Asian region and that the nation would proactively be involved with the region, did precisely meet the expectations of the ASEAN nations in that period. Japan for the first time in post war years did explicitly undertake to proactively contribute to peace and prosperity in the region.

Secondly, the words such as “heart to heart” in connection with the words “equal partners,” these words were an expression of convincing sincerity.

Thirdly, the idea of cooperating with the ASEAN initiative to “strengthen solidarity and resilience” was exactly what the ASEAN had been seeking for. Fukuda had accurately understood both the geopolitical desire and direction of the ASEAN countries and had formulated a policy to support their struggle.

When he spoke about “equal” partnership, “equality” did not imply symmetry in his concept . Instead he announced a huge economic aid package to Southeast Asian countries, which was quickly implemented. Japan’s relations with ASEAN improved dramatically. ASEAN countries also saw an exponential rise in Japanese private investment – which boosted their exports. Some of the sticking issues of the past, which were related to war atrocities, related to the question of an apology and to the unacceptable behaviour of expatriate Japanese businessmen – faded in many places inside the region. This has allowed Japan to later on play a positive diplomatic role in the region.

But then the first sentence of the Fukuda Doctrine, speaking of Japan’s determination to never becoming a military power again, did have and still does have an importance also for nations and for states beyond the Southeast Asian region.


In this context I must touch upon a problem, which some of you, ladies and gentlemen, might not like to hear about. It is Japan’s relations with your immediate neighbours and what relevance the spirit of the Fukuda Doctrine may have upon your relations with your immediate neighbours.

After more than forty visits to your country and after many visits to China and other countries in the Far East, I have become a friend of both these great nations, as well a friend of Japan and as well a friend of China. Today I do regret that the bilateral relationship between the two nations is not as friendly as would be desirable and as would be possible. This is due partially to the media and the political literature, including the books to be used in schools; but partially it is as well due to politicians on either side. If the spirit and the principles of the Fukuda Doctrine had been applied to your immediate neighbours, to the Chinese, the Koreans and to the Russians, today’s political stalemate would not have emerged.

I recall a comment made by Lee Kuan Yew at the Shanghai Meeting of the InterAction Council twelve years ago. He was analysing the effects of the collapse of the Soviet Union on the Asian region, and he predicted that in the ensuing two decades, the Sino-Japanese relationship would be the most important factor for stability and growth in East and Southeast Asia. To my view, his prediction has turned out to be valid.

I just came back from a visit to China the other day. China since Deng Xiaoping enjoys an almost unbelievable outburst of economic vitality. Already years ago, China’s new economic vitality led some Americans to perceive China as a future strategic, even a military rival. But in my view concerns about the future military might and possible abuse of power by China do not appear justified. For decades to come, every Chinese government will have to face such huge problems and tasks within that vast country that it will steer clear of any avoidable strategic risk. China has no rational alternative but to prioritise domestic policy.

At present in many of the big Chinese cities the standard of living is indeed up to ten times higher than in rural areas in the hinterland. An adequate provision for the elderly and the unemployed is still missing. And an annual economic growth rate of eight per cent is not sustainable for many decades to come. And besides its regional disparities, China will also, face economic difficulties, like any of our countries do, for instance, in terms of energy and of water supply.

These considerable economic problems in China are compounded by a serious ideological problem. The young people in the big cities are enamoured of western consumer standards and of their new economic freedoms. But the old communist concepts are unsuited to deal with the new phenomena. When today’s 25-years olds are ten years older, they will have to decide according to what set of principles will they raise their children. It appears as possible that they might return to the ethical principles of Confucius, which might be expanded and adapted to today’s circumstances. I feel that an educated modern form of Confucianism ethics may be suited to fill in the ideological vacuum that is opening up inside China.


It seems to me that the worries, which play a significant role in Japan, are of a quite different nature. Sadly, the Japanese nation doesn’t have too many genuine friends in the world outside. This is in part due to the centuries of isolation during the Edo period, but more so it seems to be due to the subsequent Japanese imperialism earlier in the 20th century until 1945. It brought great suffering not only to the Japanese nation, but also to many of your neighbouring nations. And they have not forgotten in Korea, and they have not forgotten in China.

But the key element seems to be the ambiguity of the Japanese public when it comes to acknowledging the conquests, the start of the Pacific War and the crimes of the past history. Prime ministers Hosokawa-san, Murayama-san and others have followed Fukuda’s instincts and have undertaken important steps; but the public opinion and the nation as a whole appear to your neighbours as still hesitating. And that is part of the problem.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am aware of course that such remarks, which I have repeated more than once, are irritating many Japanese people. But I say this as a true friend of Japan, and for the sake of Japan, as a man from Germany that committed even worse crimes inside Europe. I would like to point out that all the while I have on the other hand told my Chinese and Korean audiences one important German experience. That is, in post-war Europe, it was the French – our enemy in both world wars – who extended their hands and forgave us. They made it easier for the Germans to make apologies and come up with compensations. Although the Chinese have been victims of the Japanese invasion, they nevertheless ended up as victors. It would be noble if the Chinese were to extend their hands to the Japanese. Because reconciliation does need a hand from both sides.

In this context, I want to applaud the statement made by Prime Minister Koizumi on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the end of the Pacific War. It was a good approach to a turn around in the relations with China and Korea. Frankly, I have felt rather uneasy about the Yasukuni Shrine. But having read his statement ofAugust 15th, I am delighted that he at last is following the suit of my good friend Takeo Fukuda.

Let me digress for a moment. In the German capital Berlin, we do have two well-kept great memorials for Soviet soldiers who died in the war; a great memorial for the several million Jews who were killed by the Nazis; and another much smaller memorial for all the Germans, civilian citizens and soldiers that had to die as a consequence of the Nazi dictatorship. All these memorials are in prominent places in the city of Berlin.

But there is one memorial for the dead of World War II which has moved me much more than any other in the world. And this one is on the southern tip of Okinawa. It is dedicated to all the people who died there, enemies and friends alike, soldiers and civilian citizens alike. And there you find all the names engraved, only the names - American names, Japanese names, names of Russian and European and Chinese origin, with no distinction. All of them were victims of that war.

When I saw this “Park of Peace” in Okinawa, I felt to be at home. Because I was a soldier myself during that war. And because I do dislike all kinds of posthumous glorification and all kinds of hero-worship – whether on my own side or on the side of former enemies. I was too many men dying, I saw too many corpses. I do know how awful it is to be killed in the mud, or inside a vehicle, or to be drowned in the sea, or to be killed in the basement of one’s apartment house. I am convinced that we altogether were victims of our political leaders in that 20th century. And a dead soldier in Stalingrad is no more a hero than is a dead mother in Hiroshima or in Dresden.


Coming back to my evaluation of the Fukuda Doctrine, I need to point out its relevance for decades more to come. Conflicts and wars have not ceased. And the new century will present us with new challenges and new dangers. And new conflicts may again lead even to wars.

There is the global explosion of population, which was one of the greatest concern of Fukuda and the most significant lesson I learned from him. During the last century, mankind quadrupled to over 6 billion people, and the population increase will continue up to six times the 1900 number to around 9 billion people by 2050. Of course, I am aware that Japan and all the European nations will experience the opposite phenomenon; we will shrink.

Secondly, there is global warming, triggering climatic shifts and causing the sea-level to rise, and it will have to be dealt with. As a consequence of overpopulation plus climatic shifts, the pressure of migration towards America and towards Europe and towards Japan is certainly to increase significantly in oncoming decades.
The third challenge is the transnational epidemics and pandemics, AIDS and SARS, for instance. We thought foot and mouth disease was long beaten, but it came back due to enormous mass traffic around the globe.

Fourthly, a worldwide challenge is the fact that greed and speculationism of private financial institutions, hedge funds and the like, operating in the irreversibly globalised financial markets are subject to as yet inadequate regulation and supervision. Many of them are undermining the economic and fiscal policies of their governments. And parallel to the globalization of financial markets, we are faced with an extraordinary financial dominance of the United States. The US do at the same time consume and invest netwise more than $ 500 billion every year imported capital from the rest of the world, stemming from the savings of the rest of the world, in the first place from Japan and China.

Fifth, because the globalization of almost all technologies is unstoppable, a proliferation of all kinds of weapons, including means of mass destruction, is only one of the various consequences. Above all, however, jobs and the relatively high standard of living inside the industrially advanced countries will come under pressure due to competitors from the outside, particularly due to competition from Asia.

Sixth, television, satellites and the internet are increasingly dominated by private corporations that operate worldwide. In the future these could attain a position to manipulate all information, they could spread misinformation, they could infiltrate public opinion in our countries with untrue news, misleading interpretations plus undesirable ideologies.

The seventh example of new challenges is that indeed a “clash of civilizations” could occur between the West in general and Islam in general. Today, we have to take this danger very seriously.

All such long-term global challenges are issues that no state – not Japan, not Germany, not China, not even the United States – will be able to single-handedly hold its own against. All of us will be exposed to these hazards. The world will be able to successfully confront these risks and dangers only if we pool our efforts, only if our governments do cooperate. But as yet the will to cooperate is lagging – particularly it is lagging in the present-day only super power.

I do know that Fukuda-sensei was thinking beyond his country and beyond the Southeast Asian region. He understood that the absence of will for cooperation were at the root of so many wars. His doctrine, determined to “construct mutually trusting relations of heart to heart”, was fundamentally an internationalist doctrine, an internationalist concept. With all the enormous global challenges looming large, the leaders of all our states do dearly need internationalist concepts. Or in one sentence: The Fukuda Doctrine in its core is a set of ethical principles, applicable as well then, today and tomorrow.


During the mid-1980s, when the cold war was still on, the greatest concern of the world’s conscientious political class was how to attain disarmament and to maintain peace. In retrospect, I believe Fukuda had already gone further, contemplating on the prospect of the 21st century. With the seemingly unsustainable and mutually reinforcing destructive forces of population increase, environmental degradation and natural resources depletion, the central question to Fukuda was “What kind of future is to be left for mankind?”

He kept repeating this question in our meetings. At the same time did he understand that many problems are arising because of the absence or because of the lack of spiritual and ethical values. He came to the conclusion that these values had to be addressed. Although not particularly a religious person, he intuitively understood that a very important starting point might be sought in the religious world – after all, the world’s great religions had sustained the human spirit for millennia.

Being as well not a particularly religious person myself, I had the privilege of being deeply influenced by the late Egyptian President Anwar el Sadat, who taught me the common origins of Judaism, Christianity and Islam in Abraham, the “Father of Faith”. I had learned from Sadat that the common Abrahamic origin could possibly be used as a way towards peace in the Middle East. You will of course remember, ladies and gentlemen, that Sadat was killed by terrorists for his courageous initiative.

But when Fukuda a couple of years thereafter consulted me about his idea of convening an international meeting of political leaders with religious leaders, we met instantaneously on the same wavelength. Both of us believed that conflicts can be defused and transformed towards compromises with the help of religious and spiritual leaders who are conscious of the commonality of the basic ethical rules, which one can find in almost all the religions in the world.

Our meeting of high-ranking religious and political leaders took place in Rome in 1987. It was the first of such kind in history. Fukuda played an extraordinary role in our deliberations. The wise old man was seeking for common denominators among the different world religions. One of his central preoccupations at that time was the importance of family planning to contain the global population explosion.

By the end of that meeting, the participants from all the five continents – Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Confucianists, Hindus, agnostics, atheists, conservatives, liberal democrats, social democrats and even communists did subscribe to a common statement. We said “Mankind was confronted with a great set of crises. Unless there were effective and correct responses, there would be no enduring future. There were many areas for cooperation between spiritual and political leaders in their shared devotion to moral values, peace and human well being.”

Three principal points are contained in the Rome Declaration. (1) A true peace can be achieved only by an ongoing process of dialogue and mutual understanding that permeates all spheres of society and all spheres of international relations. (2) For moral, political and economic reasons, humankind must strive for a balanced economic structure, which could remove world-wide poverty. (3) The significance of the mutual responsibility for women and men for family planning should be emphasized.

I would just like you to pause here for a second and reflect these three points against the background of today’s several armed conflicts, including the terrorist threats.

In that Rome Meeting, the representatives of Catholicism and Islam in their individual capacity endorsed family planning. Fukuda and the other members of the Council admired their courage. It had not been easy for them, but they had understood what was necessary.


When Fukuda approached the end of his life, he begged us to continue our effort in searching for a universal articulation of the moral principles and guidelines, which are common to all the civilized human beings, an articulation that could be understood and was to be accepted by people who otherwise do adhere to quite different religions and to quite different political affections and inclinations.

Takeo Fukuda died with the oppressing question in his thinking: “Is there a way to establish a universal ethical standard?” Now his colleagues in the InterAction Council, which he had created, they were determined to carry on with his legacy.

And like Fukuda we did understand the new global challenges that had become visible only after the threat of East and West clashing had disappeared. We knew mankind would be able to cope with these challenges if the Golden Rule was obeyed; the Golden Rule, namely “Do onto others as you want others to do unto yourself.” We did learn that this so-called Golden Rule is part of the moral code of all the major religions in the world, which gave us reassurance. And also did we agree on the principle: “Every human being must be treated humanely.”

These insights, under the advice of our Swiss academic advisor, Professor Hans Küng, led to the drafting of a “Declaration of Human Responsibilities”, which is meant to complement the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; namely in order to complete the hitherto fragmentary universal ethical standards. It’s not only rights, it ought to be as well responsibilities. We knew this was what Fukuda would have done, if he had lived on.

I understand a copy of the “Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities” is available at the reception desk and I would recommend that you read and study the document. The concept behind the Declaration is this: If we have a right to life, liberty, security, to freedom of thought, if we have a right to be educated, then we have the responsibility to respect all the others’ rights to the same. The emphasis is on internal discipline. The first defense of civilization is the internal morality of each and every one of us. It seems to me that these are in fact not any new notions, particularly not in Asia.

The “Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities” has faced a large number of endorsers as well of opponents, the latter mostly being human rights advocates. From the number of endorsements, I would just like to quote here one statement of Yehudi Menuhin, one of the greatest violinists of our time, out of my respect to the musician here, Kayoko Yokote, who will come after me.

Menuhin said: “The Declaration of Human Responsibilities is the first assertion of human dignity. We need to agree on at least one self-evident truth that human rights can never exist without human responsibilities. They form one coin, two sides of one and the same coin”.

Now, if I look around the world today and into all areas of life – wars based on misleading information, fraud and bribery, corporate lies, mass media fabricating stories, and the list goes on and on – I do think that the preamble of the Declaration is perfectly right. It says “It is time to talk about responsibility.”

Maybe in this context, you would also agree with a quotation of Mahatma Ghandi. He talked about seven social sins in society. We have learned it from an Indian participant in the Council’s deliberations. The seven sins are politics without principles, commerce without morality, wealth without work, education without character, science without humanity, pleasure without conscience, worship without sacrifice.

When I heard these words of Asian wisdom, I thought I was listening to Takeo Fukuda, for it was these social sins he was battling against.


I need not remind this educated audience that the first years of the 21st century have been quite disappointing. We have the added threats of terrorisms and counter-terrorisms. Particularly, the attacks perpetrated by the Islamist al-Quaeda terrorist group which have suddenly awakened a great interest in Islam. But the concern about terrorism and the resolve to fight it have not as yet been accompanied by any sufficient effort to understand Islam and to understand its history.

There is a danger that people will fail to distinguish between the world religion of Islam and on the other hand the Islamist terrorism emanating from small groups that have split away from the teachings of Mohamed. Any general hostility towards Islam possibly created by superficial western identification of the Islamic religion with terrorism and general hostility towards Islam would provoke similarly simplistic reactions on the side of some Muslims.

A process of escalating hostility will cause severe damage to the world as a whole and to the peoples in Asia; most of the sixty Muslim countries - we have 200 countries, 60 of which are Muslim — are in Asia. Looking out from the Japanese archipelago, Indonesia or Malaysia or Bangladesh are close by, and all of your petrol comes from Muslim countries. Also from this very practical geopolitical point of view it is important to make careful distinctions.

Centuries ago, there were shining examples of religious tolerance under Muslim rule which gave rise to unique cultural and academic achievements; for instance, in Baghdad and Cordoba, Spain, a thousand years ago. It is part of our human responsibility to respect the religions and philosophies of other human beings. These Muslims one thousand years ago did know. These Muslim rulers, they did know. Nowadays, it is questionable to me, whether all of us do know.


I’ve said Fukuda’s philosophy does in a way respond to that. I could even add that in a way, Fukuda’s philosophy did mirror an ancient German philosopher, Immanuel Kant. “The morality deep in our heart is the star to steer by, to steer ourselves, and it is our duty to follow this star.” That’s the Kantian philosophy in a nutshell. It was Fukuda’s philosophy in a nutshell as well.

It will gain an added importance in the light of the challenges during the 21st century. Because we can respect only what we do know, it is necessary that we do learn a minimum about other people’s religions, about other peoples’ cultures, about their historical experiences, their interpretations of history, about their achievements, about their hopes, about their fears, about their social and economic interests. It is up to any of us, ladies and gentlemen, to learn and teach and to act tolerantly ourselves: Tolerance out of respect, tolerance not out of neglect, which is an enormous difference. Tolerance out of respect is what is needed.

I would like to quote my revered friend, Fukuda’s final words here. He said: “We cannot remain simply grateful and satisfied of our present circumstance, if we think of the suffering of more than one billion people in dire poverty. We must make utmost efforts so that they can have a tiny prospect for even a slightest improvement. And we must make maximum effort so that our posterity will have a secure future.” These are Fukuda’s words, shortly before his demise.

Let me end by addressing my deceased friend. I thank you, Takeo! You did provide an example and we have followed you. You did give guidance, and we have listened. You worked for peace and we praise your dedication. You were a great man, a wise leader, a trusted friend and a treasure for our lifetime.
Dear friends, I am sure Takeo Fukuda is delighted in heaven that his struggles and pains were not in vain, knowing that many of you will look at the world differently, due to his example, and act more responsibly than before. May my Japanese friends enjoy the fortune that you did have this great man within your nation and country.

I thank you very much.

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