Thursday, March 11, 2010

The "losing Japan" narrative

In different ways, two articles published in Western media outlets this week suggest the emergence of a new narrative concerning Japan in elite circles in the United States. One might call that narrative the "losing Japan" narrative, reminiscent of the idea — propagated by newsman Henry Luce — that the United States, or rather, the Democratic Party "lost" China when the Communists won the Chinese Civil War. This narrative suggests that the United States is "losing" Japan to China, raising a call to arms that unless the US government acts expeditiously it could let the DPJ-led government lead Japan into China's embrace.

The first is the now infamous editorial in the Washington Post on Fujita Yukihisa, the DPJ upper house member best known for his doubts about the 9/11 terrorist attacks. (Michael Cucek and Paul Jackson have the controversy well-covered.) However egregious Fujita's views, Washington Post's editorial is revealing of the "losing Japan" narrative in a number of ways. Start with the editorial's treatment of the subject. Despite his impressive-sounding titles, Fujita has little or no role in Japanese foreign policymaking under the Hatoyama government. The international department is not a policy shop, and Diet committees are meaningless. Either the Post was ignorant of these facts — in which case the editorial writer, Lee Hockstader according to Fujita, did a poor job — or the Post was aware but wrote a misleading editorial anyway in which Fujita is ludicrously described as a "Brahmin in the foreign policy establishment." It is possible that the Washington Post made an honest mistake, but then one gets to the inferences Hockstader draws from Fujita's thoughts about 9/11:
The only thing novel about Mr. Fujita is that a man so susceptible to the imaginings of the lunatic fringe happens to occupy a notable position in the governing apparatus of a nation that boasts the world's second-largest economy.

We have no reason to believe that Mr. Fujita's views are widely shared in Japan; we suspect that they are not and that many Japanese would be embarrassed by them. His proposal two years ago that Tokyo undertake an independent investigation into the Sept. 11 attacks, in which 24 Japanese citizens died, went nowhere. Nonetheless, his views, rooted as they are in profound distrust of the United States, seem to reflect a strain of anti-American thought that runs through the DPJ and the government of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

Mr. Hatoyama, elected last summer, has called for a more "mature" relationship with Washington and closer ties between Japan and China. Although he has reaffirmed longstanding doctrine that Japan's alliance with the United States remains the cornerstone of its security, his actions and those of the DPJ-led government, raise questions about that commitment. It's a cliche but nonetheless true that the U.S.-Japan alliance has been a critical force for stability in East Asia for decades. That relationship, and its benefits for the region, will be severely tested if Mr. Hatoyama tolerates elements of his own party as reckless and fact-averse as Mr. Fujita.
Again, one can debate whether Fujita can be properly described as having a "notable position in the governing apparatus," but the leaps Hockstader takes from Fujita's position are unjustifiable, leaps that can be detected in the slippery language Hockstader uses. "Fujita's views seem to reflect a strain of anti-American thought that runs through the DPJ and the government of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama." Hockstader makes this outrageous charge without providing a shred of evidence beyond Fujita's views. Meanwhile, in the subsequent paragraph he casually dismisses the Hatoyama government's rhetorical commitment to the alliance (and, for that matter, its sizable financial commitment to the reconstruction of Afghanistan) to speak of "actions" that "raise questions." I assume here he means Futenma, although who knows. This phrasing is precisely the kind of attitude that has produced the DPJ's approach to the alliance in the first place, the idea that there is only one way to be in favor of the alliance. Finally, Hockstader basically threatens the Hatoyama government, suggesting that if Fujita is not dispensed with, his government will suffer accordingly in the eyes of official Washington.

Note, finally, that while Hockstader questions the sincerity of the Hatoyama government's commitment to the alliance, he says nothing more about the Hatoyama government's approach to China. The silence is deafening. Note also the scare quotes around mature, as if the DPJ's position that the alliance as it was conducted under the LDP is in need of changes is an absurd idea. The DPJ, he seems to be saying, has a critical approach to the alliance and an uncritical approach to the Sino-Japanese relationship. (This comparison is hardly valid: the US-Japan relationship is complex and has the thorny question of US forces in Japan at the heart of it, while the Sino-Japanese relationship is not nearly as complex and is still progressing by baby steps from the deep freeze it experienced under Koizumi.)

As I read it, the editorial can be summarized as "Hatoyama's party harbors a 9/11 denier, clearly does not take the relationship with the US seriously, and is moving Japan closer to China."

A more serious version of this argument can be found in the Financial Times, where columnist Gideon Rachman argues that the DPJ gives the impression of drifting in China's direction.

He writes:
When Mr Hatoyama’s Democratic Party of Japan took power last August, it broke more than 50 years of almost continuous administration by the Liberal Democratic Party. The DPJ is keen to differentiate itself from the LDP in almost every respect, and foreign policy is no exception. In an interview last week, Katsuya Okada, Japan’s foreign minister, said that the LDP followed US foreign policy “too closely”. “From now onwards,” says Mr Okada, “this will be the age of Asia.” The foreign minister adds that talk of Japan choosing between China and the US is meaningless, and that Japan’s friendship with America will remain “qualitatively different” from its relations with China. But some DPJ party members have called for a policy of “equidistance” between China and the US.
Several things are notable about this paragraph. First, is the DPJ really acting out of a desire to differentiate itself from the LDP? Given that foreign policy plays so little a role in the calculus of voters, I have a hard time believing that the DPJ-led government's foreign policy initiatives are driven by electoral considerations. Second, why do unnamed DPJ party members get equal billing in this paragraph with Okada, who seems to be firmly in control of foreign policy making? Okada provides a decent summary of the government's foreign policy approach, suggesting that the DPJ is not drifting from America, but instead shifting the emphasis of Japan's foreign policy, from a foreign policy in which Asia policy was tailored around the alliance to a foreign policy in which the alliance is tailored to fit Japan's Asia policy. And yet the paragraph ends with unnamed backbenchers and their unspecified equidistant "policy."

Rachman continues by citing Hatoyama's controversial essay in the International Herald Tribune, and Ozawa's grand tour in Beijing and intervention to arrange an audience with the Emperor for Xi Jinping. Rachman is at least careful to admit that "it is probably overdoing it to suggest that Japan is definitively shifting away from its postwar special relationship with the US." But the article conveys the impression that Japan is a prize in the struggle for influence between the US and China — and that the battle for Japan has begun.

There are several problems with this narrative, in both its belligerent Washington Post form and its more circumspect Rachmanite form. The fallacy both articles share is the idea that Asia is sure to be zero-sum, that a country like Japan can only be in the US camp or the China camp. Joining the former camp, Rachman concludes, would entail "[cultivating] warmer relations with other democratic nations in the region, such as India and Australia, in what would be an undeclared policy of 'soft containment' of Chinese power." And yet that is precisely what the Hatoyama government wants to do. Rachman might respond that the time for choosing has not yet arrived, which is true, but it also raises the possibility that another future is possible in which countries like Japan, Australia, and India maintain security ties with the US in order to keep the US engaged even while maintaining constructive political and economic relationships with China, navigating between the two superpowers in order to avoid unmitigated dependence on either one.

The Washington Post is even more unabashed in its embrace of an approach to Asia that does not allow for nuance, which it aired in another editorial on Japan published earlier this year.

The problem with this approach to the region and Japan on the op-ed pages of newspapers well read by policymakers in Washington is that this way of thinking could easily become self-fulfilling prophecy. Rachman may be warning of a possible future, but many in positions of power — with the help of the Washington Post — could come to take what he describes as a given.

A major flaw with the "losing Japan" narrative is that there is remarkably little data upon which to reach firm conclusions, a point acknowledged by Rachman. Think of how little we know about the Hatoyama government's approach to China. Interestingly, both the examples he cites as cases confirming the tilt towards China involve the activities of Ozawa Ichiro, i.e. a figure outside of the government who may not be long for politics. What data points do we have concerning Hatoyama and members of his cabinet? Not many. Hatoyama has made clear that he will not provoke China on historical issues. Beyond that? Unmentioned in both articles is that the Hatoyama government is building upon the "strategic, constructive partnership" concept developed by the Abe government, right down to the continued use of the term. That doesn't sound like a government doing whatever it can do differentiate itself from the LDP.

I'm willing to cut Rachman some slack, because his piece contains numerous caveats and notes of caution. But the Washington Post editorial is another story entirely. By picking a DPJ member whose views would obviously draw opprobrium in the US and then implying that his views represent a "strain" in the DPJ, this editorial is little more than a hatchet job against Japan's ruling party. How this editorial will help reverse what the Post believes is Japan's drift towards China is beyond me.

After all, the last time Japan was a political battleground for a cold war in Asia, the US had  considerably more invasive means at its disposal than sharply worded editorials.  Accordingly, this narrative may in fact be a product of insecurity about declining US influence, much as insecure Japanese elites fretted that the transition from Bush to Obama would mean the return of Japan passing. The reality, however, is that in the unlikely event that Japan were to reorient itself from the US to China, there would be little the US could do to stop it.


S. Urista said...

Certainly anyone reading that article without a decent understanding of Japanese politics would be excused for thinking Fujita was a lot higher up on the food chain than he is in Japan.

However, the fact remains, he is still probably most widely known as being a '9/11 truther', mainly thanks to his stunt on the floor of the Diet almost two years ago. Diet committees may be ineffective in practice, but he is *still* the director of the research committee on *international affairs* and global warming, and is director-general of his party's 'international department'. Whether these posts are purely as figureheads or not is not the point: when his party sends him out to do interviews with major international media outlets like the Post, they know that he will be viewed as having a voice in the part's stance on international affairs. The DPJ has left him in his current position, and thus deserves all the flack it gets for doing so. Imagine if a senior Republican/Democrat party member saying the same things Fujita says about 9/11.

I agree 100%, however, with you in being perplexed as to why US policy makers only looks at things in stark black/white terms when it comes to Asia. Certainly in Europe they are able to deal with a much more subtle, nuanced touch.

Still, it's not like Ozawa is the only 'evidence' of a possible anti-West leaning by the DPJ. Hatoyama's 'New Path for Japan' editorial in the NY Times last August, for example: I quote:

"Another national goal that emerges from the concept of fraternity is the creation of an East Asian community. Of course, the Japan-U.S. security pact will continue to be the cornerstone of Japanese diplomatic policy.

But at the same time, we must not forget our identity as a nation located in Asia. I believe that the East Asian region, which is showing increasing vitality, must be recognized as Japan’s basic sphere of being. So we must continue to build frameworks for stable economic cooperation and security across the region".

buvery said...

Re: Urista "anti-American tendency" of Hatoyama cabinet

There is nothing wrong with Hatoyama's stance that Japan has to cooperate with China in many ways. That simply means that he is a realist. I wonder if you (or other mainstream Americans) have to label as anti-American those who do not say that America is No. 1. Sometimes I feel very strange that it is politically correct in US to state that America is the greatest country in the world.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, the kind of jingoistic sentiment is not shared by the Japanese. The Japanese prefer to be more rational and pragmatic. They prefer evolution to creationism. Or, if you really believe creationism in Japan, people will think you should be treated "specially."

According to Bill Maher, "The greatest country in the world" only shows the ignorance of those believers who do not know nothing to compare to. No foreign language, or no experience in foreign countries. He was bashed when he said on CNN that America is a stupid country because of Sarah Palin, and no further explanation is necessary. You can also enjoy his "I am Swiss," by the way.

At this point, DPJ or the Japanese general public is not anti-America. But there's a little secret: the Japanese do not know the "lunatic" side of America. Since the lies of LDP are coming out right now, they would definitely change the perception of America by the Japanese.

buvery said...

Re: 911 truther and global warming

Among various conspiracy theories, I think those regarding 911 and global warming have some merits. I do not believe that the man on the moon was made in Hollywood. But we all know that "babies being killed in Kuwait" during the first Gulf war was a hoax made in Hollywood, and Gulf of Tongking was a hoax which eventually killed millions of people and left other millions in agony. History teaches us that we have to be careful before rushing to judgment.

As to 911, my confidence percentages are: Alex Jones (10%), Kevin Ryan (80%), Steven Jones (more than 90%), Loose change (50%, especially the second edition), Barrie Zwicker (40%), BBC (5%), David Ray Griffin (50%), Press for Truth (50%), David Sheyler (10%). You can google the videos or the speeches of these people to decide for yourself.

Issues like how 911 happened is very complex, and usually common people (including myself) do not have the means to verify whether each narrative is true or false. The same is true for the assassination of JFK. The situations are too unusual and complex to make judgments and interpretation based on the daily experiences people have. This is true in both US and Japan. However, the seriousness of consequences, in this case, Afghanistan war, Iraq war, war on terror etc alone requires every one to step back and listen to reasonable alternative theories. It is also important for Japan too, because even at this point, Japan is prepared to spend billions of tax dollars to assist American effort in Afghanistan. Prime minister Koizumi told to the Japanese public that he was secretly given the clear evidence that 911 was caused by Bin Laden, but the evidence allegedly given to him remains still secret to this day.

Among many 911 truthers, I do not think the activists are important and I also think some people might be "lunatic," as they say. They are politicians (not that politicians are bad, but that their role is to influence people, not to find the evidence). But I recommend very high Steven Jones, because his approach is impeccable, fair and sincere. If you know high school level of science and listen to what he says, I think it is evident that the current official explanation is not possible.

Especially, the collapse of WTC7. On the fatal day, TWO planes hit TWO skyscrapers and THREE skyscrapers collapsed. Strangely, not many people know this. Actually, the collapse of the 47 story building was too mysterious to be explained in the 911 commission report, and no explanation was given. The only official explanation of WTC7 collapse was provided by NIST. Fortunately, we are in YouTube era and not in JFK era, which makes it possible for everyone to obtain the videos of WTC7 collapse (three independent videos are known) and computer assisted analysis by NIST. If you compare both, they do not match.

There are many questions in 911 and this summary by Steven Jones justifies attention to what he has to say.

I personally like the section 9 "Rapid Collapses and Conservation of Momentum and
Energy." This is very observant. And I have to agree with him.

Anonymous said...

Has Fujita-san been made aware of the charges against him? I'm sure he would. The next logical step is that the Washington Post gives him equal time to say what he thinks, not only about 9/11 but about events in general. Or at least tell American readers how he has responded to this preposterous editorial.

What a strange state of affairs.

By the way has there been any recent editorial discussing the massive protests against the Futenma deal, or discussing the call for all US military bases to leave Okinawa? That is what people in Japan are talking about this spring, not 9/11.

S. Urista said...

Re Buvery said: "I wonder if you (or other mainstream Americans) have to label as anti-American those who do not say that America is No. 1".

Hmm. First, I suspect you read too much into what is being said. Don't know where anyone has said anything about America being No. 1, or about anything not supporting said (unsaid) claim as being 'anti-American'. Note that I specifically said *anti-West* stance, and I said 'West' (as opposed to US) for a reason. More on that below.

Hatoyama is free to try and build a closer relationship with China; there are a *lot* of reasons why such a move would be good, both for Japan and for the region (Japan needs China to get richer so its citizens can buy Japan's goods, Japan has an aging population and dwindling labor market, and China has a lots and lots of people. You do the math).

Personally? I'm not convinced such a relationship will do anything actually positive for Japan. I suspect that it will likely only continue to grease palms of local bureaucrats in China (see the delays to recent mergers, such as Sanyo/Panasonic). Particularly since Japan has shown zero interest in supporting increased immigration as one possible solution to its labor shortage crisis.

More to the point, what *is* a major concern for me is the the anti-West/anti-capital market bent coming from Japan: My concern is that Japan's government and big business will use the recent financial crisis as an excuse to roll back 10 years of hard-fought progress made in deregulation and improved corporate governance. We had already seen some disturbing signs: an increase in cross shareholdings as Japanese companies resort to unethical, if not downright illegal, methods of thwarting possible takeover bids. There has been almost zero real wage growth in Japan since 1995. Consumer protectionism in Japan is almost unheard of. Deflation remains a real danger.

It isn't the 'anti-US' stance, or 'pro-China' stance that is the issue here: Hatoyama's willingness to stick with Fujita is, in my view, simply a symptom of an underlying issue: a willingness to abandon the structural reforms that are needed to boost domestic demand.

Finally - Buvery, it sounds like you're also a proud member of the lunatic fringe. I highly recommend you take a closer look at Mr Steven Jones' body of work before relying on his 'evidence'. Jones has zero experience in civil engineering physics; his field is solar energy and nuclear fusion. He has zero research that has been peer-reviewed by a civil engineering journal. This is the same person that authored another paper, 'Evidence for Christ's Visit in Ancient America'.

Fujita co-authored a book on the 9/11 'hoax' with one David Ray Griffin (Fujita's blog advertises the book as well). Guess who Steven Jones uses as his 'expert authority'? Yep, David Ray Griffin. Which would be fine, if Griffn was actually a scientist. He is not; he is a professor of religion and theology - at a School of Theology in California. Not the authority I'm looking for when it comes to answering questions about physics mechancis of falling buildings.

PaxAmericana said...


I think a large percentage of the world doubts the Western capital markets, and the way they have driven the world over the last 15 years or so. The DPJ doesn't seem particularly anti-American to me for stating the obvious feelings of such a large percentage of the population. Similarly, saying that the Iraq war was a lousy/immoral war is not a threat to the US-Japan alliance. In fact, many would argue that it's a good step in creating an alliance for the future that a solid majority of the Japanese public can support.

buvery said...

Re: Urista's distinction between West and America

To me lumping West and America into one is very misleading. For example, which Western countries compare Obama to Hitler because he is trying to give national health security to all Americans? Except America, I can't think of any. In Japan, those people would be treated as downright lunatics. Even the capital of capitalists, UK has nationalized medicine. The attitudes and solutions to social issues are very different between America and the rest of West. Even in Canada, if you pray for God before invading Iraq, you will not be elected as a politician.

Japanese people decided last summer to give priority to social stability and security instead of run amok "market-driven" capitalism. Considering the mess after the Lehman Brothers' collapse, alternative approaches look more attractive than before.

diveit said...

S.Urista said.."Particularly since Japan has shown zero interest in supporting increased immigration as one possible solution to its labor shortage crisis.."

It seems a lot of people think that Japan should open its society for immigration. I dont understand this concept. Japan is a little larger than the state of California but has a population about 3 to 4 times greater. I never hear anyone say that one of California's financial problem is due to lack of immigration/migration. (California cannot stem the flow of immigrants yet it still has serious financial troubles.)

The labor force is here in Japan, it is that Japan is caught in the 21st century where average wages are below the cost of living like the United States had/has and the United States is supplementing it with cheap alien labor. Thereby, the rich get richer and the middle/poor income slowly die off or revolt in one way or another(change from LDP to DPJ).

China will eventually catchup with the 21st century and it too will need cheap labor. But until China does, Japan is using China's cheap labor much to the detriment of the Japanese average citizen. Japanese companies are only trying to level the U.S.'s playing field. So, for right now, Japan needs China and the other Asian countries similiar to the U.S. needing Mexico and the South American countries.

diveit said...

buvery said..."Japanese people decided last summer to give priority to social stability and security instead of run amok "market-driven" capitalism." Nicely said.

Outsourcing to China and Temp Hires are just a few of the capitalistic ways that were allowed under Koizumi but these practices are killing Japan slowly. If I were a business owner, I would do the same but government needs to protect its citizens for the greater good and not allow individuals/business to profit at the expense of the nation.

S. Urista said...

Wow, ok – ‘protect its citizens for the greater good'? You guys are so completely missing the point(s) that I’m not sure where to begin.

Such financial crises notwithstanding, the main components of capitalism (property rights and the rule of law) have had a tremendous and clearly positive impact on global economic growth. I can not believe that anyone would seriously advocate socialism as a preferred alternative to the free markets. As such, I can only conclude that you are criticizing the various excesses that tend to go hand-in-hand with capitalism.

Because, financial crises are hardly a 'US' phenomenon. And they are most certainly not anything new. The first recorded (not necessarily the first actual) 'bubble' was the Dutch Tulip mania – in the early 1600s!

Capitalism does have its downsides: for example, it can result in unequal wealth distribution. I don't think anyone denies that. And it's why countries have social safety nets and progressive tax systems, for example. But you don't ban all pharmaceuticals when a patient dies because of taking the wrong (or too many) drugs. If Japan's actions were simply aimed at helping curb the hard-to-avoid excesses of capitalism, it would be fine. Welcome, even.

But that's not what is happening in Japan. In Japan's case, 'outsourcing to China and over-emphasis on temp workers' is less a function of capitalism on Japan's part than it is a syndrome of Japan's *lack* of sufficient free-market capitalism.

Japan suffers from extremely low labor liquidity, an extremely weak social safety net, an over-riding priority placed on preventing losers instead of developing winners, extremely weak unions, no consumer protection industry, support for working mothers is almost non-existent…I could go on and on. Japan's unemployment is still relatively low compared to some European countries, for example, but underemployment is considerably higher than any country I've ever worked in. Japan's productivity per worker is easily the worst of the G7 nations, and the gap is even larger in the services sector. I recall a report a few years ago—from a Japanese think-tank, no less—that estimated that Japan’s laborers were over 30% less efficient than the US, more than 20% than the French, and were less production than even Germany, Spain, Italy and the UK. Japan’s problem right now is too many people doing too little work, for too much money.

The lack of labor liquidity means two things – and I speak from experience here: Managers are unwilling to hire people if they won't have the flexibility if needed later on. And at the same time, managers are unwilling to let people go even if the should or could, because there is no guarantee the headcount will be made available to them. Far more than is the case at western companies, managers at Japanese companies hoard headcount. Temp staff headcount, however, is far easier to use. So you have a double-whammy: lack of labor liquidity results in massive under-employment and grossly inefficient, unproductive companies, while the lower-paid (and predominantly female) temp staff population bear the brunt of whatever unemployment shocks Japan allows. And this is the group that is already underpaid and lacks the benefits given to full-time workers. This sucks generally all around.

Japan would be much better off in the long run by boosting and expanding its safety nets to allow for a higher unemployment rate in the short run. Japan needs to focus on improving the productivity of its workers. Worker training/re-education/skills improvement only happens of the system allows for a degree of labor migration/transition. That means unemployment. Japan is artificially keeping its unemployment rate low, and it is costing Japan, because countries like India are going to leap-frog it. Japan can still claim an edge in superior quality from its workers. What happens when India's workers are both cheaper and just as good?

S. Urista said...

Immigration: I noted above that Japan's problem right now is too many people, doing too little work. But that does not change the fact that Japan is ultimately facing a dire labor shortage. There was an in-depth article in Veritas not too long ago that talked about what Japan might look like for the typical household in 2020. It didn't paint a pretty picture – average annual GDP growth of less than 1%, average number of people paying into national pension/health insurance per senior citizen falling from 2.82 in 2009 to 2.05, a 4 million person decline in the total workforce, number of nursing care providers needed to take care of an aging population increasing from 1.2 million in 2008 to 2.14 million, etc etc.

The article suggests a number of possible proposals to address these problems: Pushing back the retirement age to 67 or even 70 (one assumes that this would be in tandem with a hike in the minimum age at which one can receive benefits), or raising the consumption tax to at least 10%. Another big initiative is to get senior citizens and women into the workforce. This, of course, has two drawbacks – first, having more women in the workforce probably won't do Japan's already-low birth rate any favors. Second, Japan already faces a shortage of nursing/health care providers – having more senior citizens and women leave the home and move into the workforce isn't going to help matters. We saw above that Japan will need another 1 million care providers by 2020, and that's without having any increase in women/senior citizens participating in the labor force.

Finally -irony of ironies – one major topic was expanding the tourism trade to attract 20 million people to visit Japan by 2020, more than double the current level.

I say ironic because NO WHERE did the article mention the best and most obvious choice for a country with a dwindling workforce and rapidly aging population: Immigration. Tourists, yes! Come spend your money here. Just don't stay too long. That immigration wasn't even mentioned suggests Japan would rather fade into an irreversible decay of sub-standard living standards and global irrelevance before it let more foreigners in.

The biggest danger I see is that the everyday man on the street seems to think that 'no economic growth' will mean things just stay as they are – which they might IF the country wasn't already facing a declining workforce and aging population.

I don't think Japan can bank on things 'staying the same'. As I noted above, Japan for the time being can still sell its products because it has a quality premium that can offset the generally higher costs of its products. But countries like Korea, India, and China are closing that gap – and they’re closing it really, really fast. Japan could be on the road to Spain (unemployment rate: 19%) or Italy (annual GDP growth has topped 2% only once in the past 15 years).

Even without going into the deep economics of it, immigration makes sense conceptually. For example: For the first 20 years or so of their lives, children are a massive fiscal drain for a country – children need health care and education, but selfishly don’t work to offset the costs. In return, however, they work for 40 years or so after getting out of school, and pay in to the pension/healthcare system. Once they retire, however, they have to depend on the country again for 20 years or so.
Immigrants, on the other hand, tend to be young adults – just at the starting points of their careers. And some (many?) end up going back to their native lands at some point. In other words – immigrants often make a big fiscal contribution to the country by being here in there working years, but are often not a drain on the country because they aren't here as children and/or retirees.

If Japan is serious about tackling is problems of future growth, immigration is going to have to be on the ticket.

PaxAmericana said...

"Outsourcing to China and over-emphasis on temp workers is less a function of capitalism on Japan's part than it is a syndrome of Japan's *lack* of sufficient free-market capitalism."

Then the US is lacking free-market capitalism, too, as a huge amount of labor has been outsourced or converted into temp workers. Perhaps more than Japan. And it's possible that less has been outsourced from the socialist states of Europe, albeit with other high prices to be paid.

S. Urista said...

PaxAmericana said...
"Outsourcing to China and over-emphasis on temp workers"

Then the US is lacking free-market capitalism, too, as a huge amount of labor has been outsourced or converted into temp workers. Perhaps more than Japan.
*Sigh* I will continue to bang my head against the wall here for a bit longer, but methinks some of us here need to brush up on economic theory, capital markets 101, and spend a bit more time working in various countries around the world to get some perspective and understanding. What countries have you worked in? Do you have a basic understanding of human resource practices in those companies? Have you been a manager? Do you have a solid grasp of labor laws, labor relations, and hiring practices there? If not, you're basically parroting the talking heads on Fox News.

a) Two patients come to you complaining of chest pain. Do you immediately assume both patients are having heart attacks and thus need immediate open-heart surgery?

b) The temp staffing markets in Europe, the US, and Japan could hardly be more different. Germany and Japan may be the most similiar when it comes to corporate structure and extremely strong preference for 'regular' full-time employment. The result in Japan's case is, as we saw, artificially low unemployment, but much higher underemployment and very poor conditions for temp workers, who are relegated to second-class status. In other European countries and the US, where social transition and labor movement is far more readily accepted, this segregation is not near as deep nor as damaging.

c) regarding temp staffing: In the US, the percentage of people non-full time employment for economic reasons is estimated at around 6-8%. In Japan in 2007, some estimate that over 30% of Japanese workers were in 'non-regular' positions.

d) Regarding outsourcing, I would be very happy if the US was outsourcing more jobs than Japan. You see, outsourcing itself is *good*. The whole point of having a vibrant, growing economy with high labor liquidity is to outsource low-level (and low-paying) jobs to free up workers at home for the higher value-added work. This results in a) greater employment for economies slightly behind the development curve, which means more people in that country able to buy the goods we make. It improves labor movement, which encourages workers and companies to continually train and develop their local human resource talent pool. Competition encourages our schools and universities to focus on ensuring our students are able to compete with the world's best and brightest. And outsourcing encouarages greater productivity and lower costs to consumers.

The flip side to outsourcing is the short-term negatives: job displacement is never easy. And that's why, as I said earlier, countries need safety nets.

The US has a relatively better infrastructure for unemployment, and in general has a far easier time accepting labor movement from a cultural standpoint.

Japan is outsourcing and over-emphasizing temp workers without a proper safety net, without an infrastructure to facilitate labor movement, and without functioning labor laws/unions to protect such workers. The system is overly dependent on the regular employee structure, which ultimately impedes creativity and development, and results in widening income inequality without providing assurances to young workers that they have equality in opportunity.

That's all I'll say on this matter here; we should probably stop cluttering up Tobias' blog (although I'd be interested in hearing his views as well). I'd be more than happy to continue this on my blog, although it is more for personal matters than econ talk: you can email me directly at surista -AT- gmail DOT com.

apple407 said...

Those of you who, apparently, have become totally disentangled from the West/US, just take a quick read of the following West/US’ finest and the funniest:

Anonymous said...

I don't see myself as a conspiracy wingnut and I have soberly followed Japanese politics and Asian affairs for decades but I have to agree with buvery's comments above. In the controversy over Fujita's "wild" commentary over 911 conspiracy beliefs and its supposedly anti-American cast, there is need to acknowledge that the 911 Commission was hastily chosen and did a rather sloppy job of investigation. The WTC7 building (which was never struck by any airliner) collapse raises serious questions which has never been satisfactorily answered. Videos of the collapsing building on YouTube shows a symmetric unbelievably neat downfall that raises many more unanswered questions.