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Students Speak Out on G7 Hiroshima Summit: Like Ukraine, Taiwan Is Important Too 

The first of this three-part series explores how students from overseas who are studying in Japan view the G7 summit and its treatment of Taiwan and Ukraine.



The library at AIU is one of the school's popular features. (© Akita International University)

Japan, as chair of the G7 for the year 2023, hosted its annual leaders' summit from May 19- 21. It was held in Hiroshima, one of only two cities ever to suffer through the atomic bombing. Meanwhile, invited leaders made statements about world peace against the backdrop of the Genbaku Dome (Atomic Bomb Dome). 

JAPAN Forward wanted to know the younger generation's thoughts on the summit. For this article, six students from different countries were interviewed. All six are studying at Akita International University in Akita Prefecture where classes are conducted in English. The answers they shared were astonishing. 

In this three-part series, their pessimistic views on nuclear disarmament, their skepticism of G7's initiatives, and their exceptional interest in Taiwan over Ukraine were revealed. Their answers hold importance as this young generation includes possible leaders in the coming era. Indeed, three out of the six interviewees want to be diplomats in the future. 

Introduction of the Interviewees 

They are from six different parts of the world. Anno is "hafu," Japanese and Taiwanese. Mathias is from Denmark. Matthew is from the United States, and Kiwamu is from Japan. Alessandro is from Italy, and Cam is from Vietnam

Each of the six is currently a student at Akita International University. Excerpts from their interviews follow. 

Students studying in Japan are interested in Taiwan and Ukraine, although their interest in Taiwan is greater

For the first question, we asked students about their interest in Taiwan and Ukraine. Four out of the six students responded that they are more concerned about Taiwan affairs than the situation in Ukraine. They explain this by adding that they have personal ties with Taiwan. 

Those who said they are more interested in Ukraine affairs were a minority in this interview. Despite their varied concerns, all six mentioned "economy" as a keyword. 

It also became clear that they have pessimistic views about the G7 countries' ability to manage problems like the war in Ukraine. 

Students are concerned about Taiwan

Anno is half-Taiwanese. "I am more concerned about Taiwan's Affairs," she says. "Since China has a very large political and economic influence, and Taiwan, unlike Ukraine, is not internationally recognized as a sovereign state, I wonder how other countries will respond."


She also has a pessimistic view of democracy as an ideal to defend. 

She says, "I do not think the ideal of protecting democracy can overcome economic problems. Taiwan is world-renowned for its semiconductors. But if semiconductor manufacturers were to be absorbed by China and the economic incentives to protect Taiwan were to disappear, would countries still want to protect Taiwan in order to preserve democracy?

Anno is hafu Japanese and half Taiwanese. She is a student at Akita International University. (© JAPAN Forward by Ikumi Mashiko)

Economic dependence on China is a factor

Another interviewee pointed out the problem of economic dependence on China, too. 

Mathias is from Denmark. He says, "Despite the Hong Kong issue, other countries condemned China but they still kept the economic relationship. There was not much other countries could do because of the economic dependence on China. Too much economic dependence on China will be used as a weapon to pressure countries that have different political opinions." 

Alessandro from Italy sings the same refrain. However, he cites the example of Apple as a hint to be less dependent on China. 

"Apple has already moved out the production of the iPhone. They are doing that slowly from China to Vietnam. It is hard to move out instantly because the production of so many products of Western countries is in China. But maybe in 20 or 30 years, we could be more independent from Chinese economic influence if the G7 countries and other powerful countries adopt good policies and they work properly together."  

A Perception that China uses economic aid to influence smaller countries

Matthew, who is American, explained China is trying to control small countries through economic influence. 

"Some underdeveloped countries can definitely get away with saying, 'I support Taiwan.' The main issue around that is that China is already influencing these small countries." 

Matthew elaborated by sharing his internship experience in Africa.  

"You can see this in Africa, where China invests in infrastructure, energy, and mobile phones. When I went to Africa for an internship, everyone had Huawei phones. I had never heard of Huawei before. Then they went, 'YOU NEVER HEARD OF THIS? This is like China-manufactured phones. They have been helping develop our infrastructure here.'" 

Continuing, Matthew added, 


It seems that China knows if these smaller countries support Taiwan they will have a harder fight. So they're dealing with it by investing in those underdeveloped countries to make them dependent on China. And to have them say, "Hey we the real China have helped you develop, you can't say that Island isn't ours, right?" Then those countries can't say no.

Matthew is an American exchange student at Akita International University. (© JAPAN Forward by Ikumi Mashiko)

Vietnam's experience with China was similar

Cam, who is from Vietnam, shared a similar experience regarding Vietnam's economic dependence on China.  

"We, as a small country, receive a lot of help from China, and its protection. But at the same time, it's so confusing. We do not know whether it's actually protection or just a tactic to make my country dependent on China. And for right now, because Vietnam is focusing mostly on expanding our economy, I feel like it's really vulnerable against all of the military disputes if it ever happens."

What will happen in case of bigger countries supporting the sovereignty of Taiwan? 

Matthew, the American, said most of the larger countries who want to support Taiwan openly are getting rid of every trade deal with China.  

"China is very interconnected with the international trade market. It's too hard to support Taiwan openly as there are so many bad outcomes that can come from China."

After all, they can't really do anything in regard to declaring Taiwan a state. They would lose business partners in China, they would lose opportunities.

In this context, Matthew thinks it is impossible to stop China. He says, "So yeah, there's really nothing outside countries or organizations can really do about it." 

Mathias from Denmark has the same perspective as well. He says, "China will not stop whatever other countries say." 

"It even feels like there is nothing we can do about it," Matthias points out. "The most important thing is to keep being united and share a collective stance." 

Alessandro also commented on this point, emphasizing the importance of protecting Taiwan for its geopolitical importance.

A few are more concerned about Ukraine

In contrast to those who mentioned Taiwan affairs, Kiwamu said he is more concerned with Ukraine. He is from Japan, but his major (subject of academic study) is Russian foreign policy. 


Kiwamu says, "As a Japanese, I am worried about the deterioration of Japan-Russia relations caused by the war in Ukraine. No matter how much the relationship between Japan and Russia deteriorates, we have to keep in touch with each other as we are neighboring countries."

He continues, "Of course, we should not take a conciliatory policy toward Russia now because it would disturb the unity of the G7. We have to show our critical position against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But I hope we can leave the foundation on which to improve relations in the future." 

Skeptical of the effectiveness of economic sanctions on Russia.

Along with his concern about Russia-Japan relations, Kiwamu is highly skeptical about the effect of economic sanctions on Russia. 

"Because Russia is an economically independent country, with its abundant resources and not a very big amount of trade with Western countries, economic sanctions imposed by Western countries cannot be Russia's incentive to stop the war." 

Furthermore, he points out the loopholes in the sanctions. 

"Due to the sanctions, relationships between India and Russia, and China and Russia, have gotten stronger. The amount of trade between those countries is getting bigger too. If this situation continues, Russia may find itself in a position as a junior partner of China."

Kiwamu, a student at Akita International University, is from Japan. (© JAPAN Forward by Ikumi Mashiko)

A Russia-China partnership is the bigger threat

Kiwamu explained how this situation could threaten the security of Japan. 

"In that situation, when Taiwan contingency ever happens, Japan will be forced to have a two-front operation against China and Russia, which will be a great menace to Japanese security." 

In this situation, he suggests that "The best G7 countries can do against Russia is to try to separate Russia from China and India. Also, If G7 countries want to put sanctions on it (Russia), they need to ponder its effect and possible outcomes before taking action". 

Expectations for a new approach toward Russia by the G7?

Mathias says, "I expect them to have a new united stand on Russia."

Anno adds that, in the case of Ukraine, some countries hesitated to send support to Ukraine because they feared the possible economic damage by Russia. I hope that each country will see the situation in Ukraine and Taiwan as their own, and have united stands on providing humanitarian and essential support aimed at world peace, not just superficial support for economic considerations."


Other students expect the G7 leaders to address a different range of pressing global issues. 

Alessandro, who is from Italy, expects the G7 to address other concerns. "I expect them to talk about China, climate change, gender equality, and security. Especially the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the Taiwan situation. 

The series continues as students speak out on other issues in part 2.


Author: Ikumi Mashiko

Ikumi Mashiko is a student reporter and intern at JAPAN Forward and a student at Akita International University in Akita Prefecture. 

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