Gateway to Asia
“We are looking for new and effective ways of cooperating with most countries in the Asia-Pacific region. This yields tangible benefits, especially economic,” writes MFA chief Witold Waszczykowski.
For many years, the Asia and Pacific region has attracted Polish travellers, merchants and scholars. Many of them have made lasting contributions to the history of countries to which they had dedicated their services. Paweł Edmund Strzelecki is Australia’s hero, Bronisław Piłsudski is Japan’s, and Kazimierz Kwiatkowski is Vietnam’s. Today this part of the world has become a key area of political and economic expansion due to its huge and growing demographic and economic potential. The majority of European countries, and the US, have pivoted their foreign policies towards the Asia-Pacific region. Poland has done the same. The Asia-pacific region is now an important direction of Polish foreign policy in its global dimension.
Relations with the countries in the region are dynamically developing in many different fields, stimulated by intensive political dialogue at all levels: Vice-President of India paid a visit to Poland in April, I visited Australia in the first days of May, Prime Minister Szydło attended the Belt and Road Forum in China a few days later. I have just returned from a visit to Japan and the President of Singapore is coming to Poland on 23 May.
Such intensive political dialogue effectively invigorates bilateral ties. We have established strategic partnership mechanisms with our major partners: the People’s Republic of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea. We are looking for new and effective ways of cooperating with the majority of Asia-Pacific countries, regardless of their size and geographical location. This yields tangible benefits, especially for the economy. Last year saw an upsurge in Poland’s trade with the majority of the Asia-Pacific countries, with higher Polish exports to one half of the countries in the region, to eight of which the increase was more than twofold. Polish investments in the countries of Asia-Pacific are also growing. The majority of Polish plants are located in China and India and new ones are springing up in smaller countries: a Polish production plant manufacturing vinyl sheet piling was opened in the Philippines in October 2016.
Japan, a country of enormous economic, scientific and technological potential, is a very important partner for Poland in East Asia. This year we are marking the 60th anniversary of resuming diplomatic relations with this country and in two years we will be celebrating one hundredth anniversary of their establishment. It will be a big event and we want to commemorate it accordingly.
In 2015 we established a strategic partnership with Japan, while during my visit there I signed an action plan to put it into practice. Partnership is not a dead document, but a practical expression of the development of comprehensive cooperation between our two countries.
Our shared history is full of interesting events and inspiring figures: Józef Piłsudski’s older brother – Bronisław Piłsudski, an ethnographer and anthropologist studied the culture of the Ainu people; the Franciscan friar Zenon Żebrowski, or Brother Zeno, who came to Japan with Saint Maximilian Kolbe, took care of Japanese orphans in Nagasaki and the victims of the atom bombing of Hiroshima.
Poles in turn will always be grateful to the Japanese Red Cross for saving close to one thousand Polish children who had been exiled to Siberia in the early 20th century in what was the first historic aid campaign carried out by the Japanese Red Cross. Noteworthy is also the sacrifice made by the Japanese consul in Kaunas Chiune Sugihara and that of the first Ambassador of Poland to Japan Tadeusz Romer who helped to save thousands of Polish Jews.
Japan is the closest political partner, especially in the security areas, of the EU and the US of all the major Asian countries. For this reason we attach great importance to dialogue and cooperation with Japan in this area. A tangible effect of this dialogue was Japan’s engagement in helping Ukraine following the Russian aggression. Assistance provided in different forms by Japan to Ukraine, for instance to solve problems resulting from the Chernobyl disaster, amounts to around USD 3 billion.
For many decades, Japan has been a global pioneer in science and new technologies, which is why Poland attaches great importance to science and research cooperation with this country. Since 2013, the Warsaw University of Technology has been exchanging scholars with Japan’s National Institute of Materials Science in Tsukuba, while Krakow’s University of Science and Technology has been doing joint research projects with the Institute of Industrial Science of the University of Tokyo. One of the most popular colleges in Warsaw is the Polish-Japanese Academy of Information Technology. We want to develop together state-of-the-art technologies, especially the electric vehicle network.
On my visit to Japan, I was accompanied by a group of company representatives from this branch and CEOs of energy companies who are interested in investing in such technologies. We have been cooperating with Japan for many years in energy projects. Tokyo has opted for the development of clean coal technologies and we can learn a lot from them in this field. Japanese companies are captains of industry in the development of nuclear energy. The second interesting sector where Poland has something to offer to Japan is the computer games branch. For this reason the creators and distributors of computer games accompanied me on my visit to Japan.
Despite the geographical distance, Japanese people feel close to Polish culture. For many years, Polish films have enjoyed wide renown in Japan, while Japanese artists are some of the best performers of Polish music in the world and they always reach the finals of the Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition and the Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition. This cultural closeness helps us to understand each other at a more profound level when it comes to key contemporary issues of global importance. A shrinking world in which relations between geographically distant countries are becoming more and more meaningful with each year. I try to convince Polish politicians, businessmen, scholars and social activists that it is worthwhile to present ideas and take actions beyond Europe and its immediate neighbourhood. Today, the Asia-Pacific region is the key to success in many fields. And we are trying to use it wisely!