No.51 - Discuss Japan

Archives : No.51

Jan-Mar 2019

No.51, Diplomacy  Mar. 31, 2019

Can Japanese Diplomacy Talk about Universality?—Rebuilding public diplomacy strategy

Amidst the flux of the liberal international order, Japan’s public diplomacy, which relies solely on its cultural uniqueness, is inadequate. The author proposes new principles for an age where the diplomatic sphere is expanding from negotiation tactics to agenda setting and norm setting. In the fall of 2017 when there was a succession of major events—the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China and US President Donald Trump’s visit to China—I visited Peking University and had an opportunity to exchange opinions with many experts and specialists. What impressed me in particular was that the Chinese side emphasized the negative aspect of democracy and used it in justification of the Communist Party’s monopoly on power. The Chinese experts and specialists said the following: Democracy could just consider short-term profits like companies operating under a capitalist system. The only interest of politicians and political ... ... [Read more]

Discussions, No.51, Politics
Mar. 31, 2019

Thirty years of clambering up and slipping back down— A comprehensive look back at the Heisei period

  What kind of period was Heisei (1989–2019) Kitaoka Shinichi: My image of the Heisei period is of a crab at the bottom of a washbowl trying to climb up but then slipping and falling right back down. Heisei began with the bubble bursting in 1991 (Heisei 3) and Japan tried to respond to it in various ways. Although there was political reform and administrative reform, the Asian currency crisis came in ’97, before these trials showed any effect, and it looked like it was all over for Japan. But in 2001, Koizumi Junichiro appeared as Prime Minister, promised to “destroy the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP),” and became hugely popular. Yet the LDP wasn’t particularly destroyed, and it’s hard to say that anything has moved forward. Then in 2008 there was the global financial crisis, and in 2011 the Great East Japan Earthquake and ... ... [Read more]

No.51, Society
Mar. 31, 2019

The True Home of Japan Studies Is Not Japan: Academic rivals are skilled at reading cursive script and transliterating classical Chinese into Japanese

  Who really “owns” Japan studies? In the list of academic fields eligible for Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, no such field as “Japan Studies” exists. If one searches the list for the keyword “regional studies,” there is “East Asia,” “South East Asia,” “South Asia,” “West and Central Asia,” etc., but there is no “Japan.” Although there are research and education organizations with Japan studies in their title (I also conduct joint research with them), I think that they take an extra effort when applying for research funds. It is not my intention in this article to criticize how, within Japan, Japan studies are treated as if they do not exist in that grant scheme. Yet, if it is true that the readers of this article (including specialist researchers) assume that Japan studies are mostly undertaken ... ... [Read more]

No.51, Economy
Mar. 2, 2019

The End of the Heisei Period: Striving to Become a Country that Takes Pride in Female Empowerment

Key points Rate of women leaving the workforce after birth of first child continuing at a high level Importance of male participation and social support in the raising of children Despite progress in female empowerment, Japan lags behind other countries The Act on Securing of Equal Opportunity and Treatment between Men and Women in Employment (the Gender Equality Act) was enacted in 1985, near the end of the Showa period. Today, more than thirty years later, female empowerment has again become the government’s most pressing issue, together with “work-style reforms.” In this article, I would like to talk not only about how this is in itself an issue of crucial importance to society, but also how it plays a vital role in the context of dealing with Japan’s most serious social issue, that of the declining birthrate and aging population, as well as creating ... ... [Read more]

No.51, Economy
Feb. 25, 2019

China’s Forty years of Reform and Opening: Industrial Advancement will be Inevitable for Growth

Key points China is standing at the crossroads of the middle-income trap The reform of state-owned companies will proceed with difficulty because there are multiple vested interests New startups are rising and will drive industrial advancement Forty years ago, in 1978, China embarked on reform and opening up. It achieved rapid economic growth, surpassed Japan in terms of GDP in 2010 and grew to be the world’s second largest economy. After its transition to reform and opening up, China carried out painful domestic reforms of negative heritage, such as state-owned companies saddled with chronic deficits and financial institutions engulfed by nonperforming loans to reconstruct the devastated economy under a centrally planned economy. Externally, by opening up China not only introduced technologies, capital and business management from overseas, expanded exports and increased foreign reserves, but also increased employment and tax revenue. There is no doubt ... ... [Read more]

No.51, Economy
Feb. 7, 2019

Focal points of the discussion on the expansion of the acceptance of foreign workers: The need to improve productivity should be highlighted instead of making numerical adjustments

Key points There is concern that efforts to improve productivity will be put on the back burner due to increased acceptance An increase in the number of foreign residents has little negative impact on the workers of the country in which they work Efforts should be made to enhance welfare support and review employment practices The Government has submitted a proposal to the Diet to revise the law on immigration control with a view to expanding the acceptance of foreign workers. It is not unusual for us to see foreigners working at convenience stores and izakaya pubs in town. Given the aging population, what needs to be urgently addressed is the acceptance of foreigners who engage in nursery services. In addition, with concern about the workforce shortage continuing into the future as a result of the declining population, an increase in the number of ... ... [Read more]

No.51, Diplomacy
Feb. 6, 2019

China’s Forty Years of Reform and Opening: Governance Model Lacking Consistency

  Key Points The search for specific reform methods after Deng Xiaoping A top-down approach cannot sustain one-party rule Issues in the East China Sea reflect China’s views of the public order Roughly forty years have passed since the Communist Party of China (CPC) adopted the policy of reform and opening up. During this period, the international community has wavered between two different perspectives towards China. The first is based on expectations, while the second is grounded in concern. The international community has consistently placed hope in the Chinese economy, which has assumed the responsibility of leading global economic growth. With its national strength supported by economic growth, China has reached a position where it affects the distribution of power in the community of nations. It has gradually taken an active role in the reform of global governance and displayed a desire to lead ... ... [Read more]

No.51, Politics
Feb. 6, 2019

Prime Minister Abe Shinzo Heads into Third Consecutive Term as President of the Liberal Democratic Party (Part 2) – Placing Importance on a Strong Base of Support, and Obstacles to Creating a Legacy

Key Points Koizumi’s priority was to escape from factionalism, while Abe’s is intraparty appeasement Even in implementing reforms, there is awareness of avoiding impact to the existing LDP organization Constitutional amendment is a barrier to national referendum for creating a lasting legacy President of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Prime Minister of Japan Abe Shinzo has successfully won his third leadership election. Although LDP Secretary General Ishiba Shigeru received attention for putting up a good fight, looking at things in perspective it was a major victory for Prime Minister Abe, who gained almost 70% of the votes. The important point is that this victory has increased the possibility of Prime Minister Abe achieving the longest period in office as Prime Minister in the history of Japanese constitutional politics. The background to Prime Minister Abe’s strength—as demonstrated by the determination of policies led by ... ... [Read more]

No.51, Diplomacy
Feb. 5, 2019

China’s Forty years of Reform and Opening: Japan should discuss China’s originality beyond the argument that it is a country of a completely different nature

  Key Points The argument that China is a country of a completely different nature is rising in the United States, and the US has changed its policy toward China Coexisting with dispersive private economy and authoritarian systems Japan should place priority on pursuing mutual economic benefits Amid the growing mood of celebrating the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening within the country, there is pessimism that the rivalry between the United States and China could become increasingly serious and prolonged beyond being solely a trade issue. This pessimism is based on a speech delivered by US Vice President Mike Pence at a conservative think tank on October 4. The reason why the speech shocked many people was not only that it comprehensively included the Trump administration’s tough stance against China on political, military and human rights issues as well as trade issues, ... ... [Read more]

No.51, Politics
Feb. 4, 2019

Prime Minister Abe Shinzo Heads into Third Consecutive Term as President of the Liberal Democratic Party (Part 1) – The Two Faces of the Abe Administration: Can the Divergence Be Stopped?

  Key Points There are noticeable differences in the administration’s “two faces” in handling domestic and foreign affairs The administration has lost its unity/cohesion since the second half of his second term They must show us a way to a sustainable economic structure and social security system Prime Minister Abe Shinzo defeated LDP Secretary General Ishiba Shigeru in a recent leadership election to achieve his third victory and secure his position as Party President for a third term. The only others to have won three or more leadership elections in the past (even including uncontested reelections and extensions of term) are Ikeda Hayato, Sato Eisaku, Nakasone Yasuhiro and Koizumi Junichiro; all prime ministers who built and defined their generations. If things continue smoothly as they are, Prime Minister Abe’s current tenure as Prime Minister will continue until September 2021, having lasted a total of ... ... [Read more]

No.51, Diplomacy
Jan. 14, 2019

Changes to the international system due to the rise of China. From trade wars to a “new Cold War.”

  Four characteristics of the Trump administration compared to the 1980s Is this the beginning of a new Cold War? It has now become usual to characterize US-China relations using the term “trade war.” But is the conflict affecting that relationship really limited to trade alone? During the 1980s and 1990s, the United States turned Japan’s trade surplus with the United States into a problem, and trade friction between the two nations intensified. But can we really describe the ongoing US-China trade war as a contemporary version of Japan-US trade friction? Rather, if the current clash between the United States and China is not simply a trade war, and if we were to seek a similar phenomenon, could we not compare it to the Cold War between the Soviet Union and United States? In other words, shouldn’t it be considered the ongoing evolution of ... ... [Read more]

Discussions, No.51, Society
Jan. 9, 2019

Future Design

  Discussion between Professor Sakura Osamu and Professor Saijo Tatsuyoshi   There are various matters, such as climate change, energy issues, social security, and government debt, which need to be dealt with using a long-term perspective. At the core of these issues is conflict between the interests of different generations. There is potential for the short-sighted response and decision-making of the present generation to significantly disadvantage future generations. These future generations are not yet born so cannot make their voices heard nor negotiate with the present generation. Yet, it’s not strange at all for the present generation to make decisions according to their own interests. The “market” and other social systems are not necessarily equipped with any function for distributing resources to future generations. In order to create a sustainable society for future generations, humans need to get past their natural short-sightedness, while mechanisms ... ... [Read more]

No.51, Economy
Jan. 9, 2019

In preparation for the worst-case scenario of a national default: Can the current generations resign themselves to the costs for the future generations?

Governments don’t default? The Logic of Infallibility undermines Japan While the realities of the Japanese economy are progressing smoothly, with stocks surging and competition on the employment front becoming overheated, it is widely known that government finances are continuing to worsen. Some may be concerned that if the present situation holds, a national default will occur. Unless confidence in the Japanese economy is lost, chances are slim that a default will occur within ten years. But because government debt will continue to increase if government finances are not reconstructed, a financial collapse is certain to occur someday. That time may be in the next twenty to forty years, a point of time in the long-term future. But the possibility of a national financial failure is a matter that each of us has to consider in our life in the sense that it will occur ... ... [Read more]