News / Asia

    Q&A: Is Japan Facing an Economic Sunset?

    Q&A: Is Japan Facing an Economic Sunset?
    Q&A: Is Japan Facing an Economic Sunset?

    Japan may be wishing for a more prosperous year in 2011, after suffering a series of setbacks in 2010. Not only did the economy temporarily slip from second to third place, but Japan’s largest automaker, Toyota, struggled through a series of humiliating quality-control and product recalls.  To make matters worse, successive Japanese governments have failed to reverse three decades of economic stagnation.

    Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asia Studies at Tokyo's Temple University, discusses Japan’s ongoing economic struggles.

    Is the “Land of the Rising Sun” seeing an economic “sunset”?

    “The news is pretty grim all around. I think most Japanese think Japan’s best days are behind it. So, I do think that many people here feel that it is the land of “the setting sun.”  One-quarter of the population is now over 65- years-old.  Young people increasingly can’t find fulltime jobs.  Even though the unemployment figure in Japan is only about five percent, that really masks the real extent of the problem. One-third of the entire workforce is working on a part time or temporary basis, which is double what it was 20 years ago.  So, yes, we are now in the third decade of the “lost decade.”  Stock prices remain down 70 percent from their high in 1989.  Land prices remain down two-thirds since their high in 1990. So all around people look at the economic landscape and it’s hard to see much glimmer of hope.”

    Do you think the Japanese have accepted this fate?

    “Japanese are very stoic, perhaps to a fault.  I think that in corporate Japan there is perhaps undue complacency and a lot of resting on laurels.  If you look at the corporate sector, profits are doing okay.  There are a lot of problems that are stretching social cohesion.  There is a growing disparity in society between the “haves” and the “have-nots,” between the older generation that is doing pretty well and the younger generation that really doesn’t have much hope.

    I think Japan does have fundamental strengths.  It does have some of the leading companies of the world, in the high-tech sector, in automobiles.  Another good thing for Japan is that it is well poised to tap into the growth of China and India.  Japan is the largest investor in China, so the growth story of China actually benefits Japan.

    But I think overall, people think because of political gridlock, and because of corporate complacency, Japan’s problems are a lot worse than they might be. And, they are taking half-measures that mitigate the problems, but don’t really address the fundamental issues.”

    Does Japan have to remake itself economically?

    “I think many people feel that they have to ‘fine tune.’  It’s not a massive overhaul, but it is changing certain policies and overhauling the tax structure and perhaps addressing medical care reform.  But I think the structural reforms that Japan needs [to do] are politically difficult.  Economically it is going to be painful for some people.”

    What are the foreign policy implications of Japan’s economic downturn?

    “Japan has just issued new defense guidelines in which it has identified China as a growing threat in the region.  North Korea is clearly identified as an existing threat.  So, I think Japan’s defense posture is shifting away from a Soviet Union-Russia--northern focus, to redeploying some of its strength to the south and trying to upgrade its navy and air force.  So, the problem for Japan is now that, given the shrinking economy, given the fact that the public debt-to-GDP ratio is 200 percent, there are question marks about just to what extent they can actually contribute to the Japan-U.S. alliance.”  



    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora