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Asia Unbound

CFR experts give their take on the cutting-edge issues emerging in Asia today.

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Showing posts for "Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith"

David Boling: What Is Japan’s Clout?

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith
Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 (Gary Hershorn/Courtesy Reuters).

This blog post is part of a series entitled Is Japan in Decline?, in which leading experts analyze Japan’s economy, politics, and society and give their assessment of Japan’s future.

Lady Gaga’s Klout score is 93 out of 100. Many readers of Asia Unbound are probably familiar with Klout. For those who aren’t, Klout is a webpage that measures a person’s social media “clout” and assigns a numerical value to it. One can check one’s Klout score to see whether it has decreased or increased within the last seven days, thirty days, or ninety days.

My Klout score, on the other hand, is merely 49. I was told by a social media expert that a minimum score of 50 is required to be considered an “influencer”. I tried not to take it personally. Read more »

Alexandra Harney: Rural Japan

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith
Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 (Gary Hershorn/Courtesy Reuters).

This blog post is part of a series entitled Is Japan in Decline?, in which leading experts analyze Japan’s economy, politics, and society and give their assessment of Japan’s future.

If there is anywhere in Japan that appears to be in decline today, it is the countryside. Rural areas have been depopulating since the 1950s, when young men, sometimes with their families in tow, migrated to the cities to find work in the urban factories that propelled Japan’s postwar industrialization.

The blows to rural communities kept coming. The relaxation of timber imports in the 1960s hurt towns dependent on forestry. The decision to shift to oil-fired power plants in the early 1970s pummeled coal mining regions. Globalization, the centralization of universities and economic activity in urban centers, particularly Tokyo, and the rise of overseas tourism drew more jobs (and people) out of the countryside. Read more »

Hiroshi Mikitani: The Answer Is in English

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith
Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 (Gary Hershorn/Courtesy Reuters).

This blog post is part of a series entitled Is Japan in Decline?, in which leading experts analyze Japan’s economy, politics, and society and give their assessment of Japan’s future.

“Soon, our company meetings will be conducted in English.” I first started telling my staff this in early 2010, when my idea to make English the official language of Rakuten began to take shape. The initial reaction to my idea was not warm. “There goes Mikitani with some nonsense again.” Many were skeptical. A few even commented that I would forget about the idea in time.

But I didn’t. I remain fully committed to the process I’ve come to call Englishnization—making English the language in which we do business. I do this because I am convinced it is the best thing I can do both for Rakuten and for Japan. Read more »

Akio Takahara: Undervaluing Ourselves

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith
Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 (Gary Hershorn/Courtesy Reuters).

This blog post is part of a series entitled Is Japan in Decline?, in which leading experts analyze Japan’s economy, politics, and society and give their assessment of Japan’s future.

When I was president of the Japan Association for Asian Studies last year, I was approached by the German Association for Asian Studies to hold a joint workshop on contemporary China. This initiative bore fruit as the International Symposium on China’s Role in Asia: Research Approaches in Germany and Japan, which was held at the International House of Japan in Tokyo in July this year. Several German scholars came over and seemed generally impressed by the quality of China studies in Japan, and the German side has recently invited us to their biennial convention to be held next year in Berlin. Read more »

David P. Janes: Japan, Beyond Tomorrow

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith
Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 (Gary Hershorn/Courtesy Reuters).

This blog post is part of a series entitled Is Japan in Decline?, in which leading experts analyze Japan’s economy, politics, and society and give their assessment of Japan’s future.

During a recent visit to Todaiji Temple in Nara with a group of 9/11 survivors from New York City, the Chief Abbot explained to us a Buddhist tenet that perceptions of reality are limited and shaped by position. Perhaps utilizing demographic or economic data, Japan appears to be a country in inevitable decline, withering away to irrelevance. However, for so many Americans, Japan continues to be viewed as a society from which there is much to learn. Within Japan, moreover, there are powerful signs of optimism and growth. Read more »

Yasuchika Hasegawa: Japan’s Untold Potential

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith
Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 (Gary Hershorn/Courtesy Reuters).

This blog post is part of a series entitled Is Japan in Decline?, in which leading experts analyze Japan’s economy, politics, and society and give their assessment of Japan’s future.

I am often asked whether Japan is in decline. The short answer is “yes”—and it has been since the beginning of the Lost Decades in the 1990s due to Japan’s inability to return to the growth after its economic bubble collapsed at the end of the 1980s. However, there are many who tend to respond in an overly negative fashion about the outlook for Japan, as if its days are numbered. The truth is that Japan faces similar issues to many other mature economies, such as an aging population, debt deflation, and the impact of globalization and the flattening of the world. If we assume Japan cannot recover, are we to assume that Europe also cannot recover from its current crisis? This “declinist” view assumes that humans have no capacity for responding to crisis and adapting in innovative ways. Read more »

Robert Madsen: Japan Leading the West?

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith
Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 (Gary Hershorn/Courtesy Reuters).

This blog post is part of a series entitled Is Japan in Decline?, in which leading experts analyze Japan’s economy, politics, and society and give their assessment of Japan’s future.

In absolute terms Japan’s national power has not declined over the last two decades. The economy is larger today than it was in the early 1990s, and its military capabilities have expanded due to copious investment and steady technological improvements. But power is only meaningful in a relative sense. What matters is whether a government has the means to persuade other peoples or states to do what it wants. By this standard Tokyo’s influence has diminished markedly and will continue to do so. But Japan is not an anomaly in this regard; it is, rather, the harbinger of changes that are now undermining the position of the entire Western world. Read more »

Matthew Marr: Two Improbable Locales for Japanese Optimism

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith
Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 (Gary Hershorn/Courtesy Reuters).

This blog post is part of a series entitled Is Japan in Decline?, in which leading experts analyze Japan’s economy, politics, and society and give their assessment of Japan’s future.

Two decades of economic stagnation, surging social problems, and political inefficacy have cast a shadow on Japan. So are there any reasons for optimism about its future? More sophisticated Japan optimists may point to economic indicators like GDP per capita, key cooperation with the United States in geopolitical affairs, or a prominent role in international assistance. Read more »

Kathryn Ibata-Arens: Solving the Japanese Paradox

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith
Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 (Gary Hershorn/Courtesy Reuters).

This blog post is part of a series entitled Is Japan in Decline?, in which leading experts analyze Japan’s economy, politics, and society and give their assessment of Japan’s future.

Is Japan in economic decline, eclipsed by rapid growth in China and India? To paraphrase Mark Twain: the news of Japan’s demise is greatly exaggerated. Japan does face a paradox, however, and if unresolved it will lead to (perhaps irreversible) decline. What follows is an outline of the Japanese Paradox—and a proposed solution.

Japan leads in numerous measures of innovative capacity including technology, high-skill human capital, and advanced communication and logistics infrastructure. Despite this capacity, Japan has on the whole—in what has become the “lost decades”—been unable to translate this capacity into new business and new market based growth. Herein lies the Japanese Paradox: awash with talent, yet so far from its economic potential. Read more »

Jennifer Lind: Japan, the Never Normal

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith
Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 (Gary Hershorn/Courtesy Reuters).

This blog post is part of a series entitled Is Japan in Decline?, in which leading experts analyze Japan’s economy, politics, and society and give their assessment of Japan’s future.

For some reason we scholars, policy analysts, and journalists seem unable to see Japan as normal. No matter what Japan does, people view it through the lens of extremes. In the 1970s and ‘80s, when Japan’s economy grew rapidly, we concluded that Japan had created a miraculous strain of capitalism that would propel it to overtake the United States and achieve global supremacy. Then Japan’s bubble burst, and the slide began. Analysts now suggest that Japan is in terminal decline. Reading the news, one might conclude that in 100 years, there will only be eleven Japanese people left, all octogenarians. Read more »