JAPAN Asia's Economic Superpower Faces Uncertain Future
Gene H Hogberg
Will the dynamo of Asia be content to remain only an economic giant? What can we expect from its new prime minister? Can militarily vulnerable Japan continue to rely for its defense upon the United States? These are vital questions as Japan moves into the mid 1980s.
THE ECONOMIC picture throughout Asia, comparatively speaking, is still extremely "bullish." The worldwide economic recession grim in many countries of the West has only slowed economic growth in the Far East by a pace or two. During the 1970s Japan the economic "locomotive" of noncommunist Asia posted a yearly growth rate of about 6 percent. During the current world downturn, the growth rate has been pared back to a still highly respectable 4 percent. Moreover the growth rates, past and present, in other Far East Asian economies that have patterned their economies after that of Japan South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore have been similar. Throughout the past decade, these countries, dubbed by one British journalist "the Gang of Four" and by others as "the four little Japans," averaged an astounding 9 percent average annual growth rate. The figures for the 1980s so far show only a slight drop-off. The Japanese standard of living now roughly approximates that of the United States. Both its gross national product (GNP) and population are roughly half that of the United States. In 1960, Japan's GNP was only 8 percent of America's.
Poised for Great Advances
"Over the next couple of decades you will probably see more economic growth in this region than in the whole rest of the world," Clayton Yeutter, president of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, said during a recent visit to Tokyo. "East Asia is the place for American business to make real efforts." This predicted growth, if the world rebounds from recession and if there is no trade war-mighty big "ifs," especially the latter one will almost surely be led by Japan. Certainly no country in the world is better prepared to face the economic future. Japan's universities are training 10 times as many engineers as Britain's. Japanese industry, moreover, employs more people in the critical area of research and development than Britain, France and West Germany put together. What alarms Japan's competition in the Free World mainly the United States and Western Europe has been Japan's rapid advance in electronics and high technology. They are acutely aware that what has happened to the American and British automotive industries, to Swiss watches, to radio and television manufacturers, is on the verge of happening to their computer industries.
From Imitators to Innovators
The Japanese and their Asian neighbors have long since advanced from the lowly position of being mere imitators of Western technology. The Japanese and others, according to The Economist of Britain (June 19, 1982), "improve on the technology they borrow, keeping an ear cocked keenly for what the market is demanding." From now on and into the future, some experts predict that Japan will be a leader in creativity as well. This aspect of Japanese national character has not been heretofore dominant. Japanese society lays great stress upon group effort. The individual that stands out in the crowd as most inventive geniuses do has not been looked upon favorably by his fellows. There is an old Japanese proverb that states: "The nail that sticks out the farthest gets hammered down." Nevertheless, experts expect innovation and creativity to mushroom in the years ahead, adding more strength to the "Japanese challenge." The principal key to Japan's success, however, is not adaptation, innovation or creativity. Neither is it devotion to individual effort and hard work. The real key to success is cooperation.
Cooperation and Hard Work
While Japan as a whole epitomizes the "spirit of competition" with regard to its nervous trade partners, within each company the opposite principles of teamwork and cooperation hold forth. Because of these factors the Japanese have the edge over competitor countries where labor and management and often government are all too often pitted against one another. Westerners may laugh at stories about Japanese workers singing company songs before the morning work shift or doing group calisthenics to "work up the blood" before charging the work area but these teamwork and loyalty molding techniques work. Ask any American worker in Japanese owned plants in the United States where similar but modified practices have been adopted. They'll tell you their benefits. Journalist Brian James, writing in the British newspaper, The Daily Mail wrote a three-part series in his newspaper (November 29, 30 and December 1, 1982) warning his readers of an "Asian run world by the year 2001." The world, Mr. James said, "is tilting out of our control. Within 20 years, the Asian nations could substantially control what happens to the economies of the rest... in effect, who works, who eats." He saw a display of robots at an industrial exposition. Japan has nearly 80,000 robots performing routine work today. By far the leading nation in "robotics," Japan is expected to have 10,000,000 of the human replacing machines by the end of the century; roughly one robot per 10 Japanese. At the exposition one Western observer said, "I have seen the future and it works." His more perceptive companion said: "I have seen the future... and it's me NOT working."
Decadent West Losing the Race
Author James then compared the Japanese dynamo with the declining, decaying cultures of the English-speaking world: "Look at Britain. We were like them once; full of religion, belief in the value of work, fair day's pay and all that. Times change. "Look at America. Thirty years ago you'd have said the same about them; dynamic, go getting. Then a new generation comes along. They run into problems; drugs, slum cities, disrespect for elders and authority, abandon old ideas on thrift or possessions." Significantly, author James asked of his British countrymen" Will we be the coolies of the 21st century?" As if to answer the question, he relayed an incident that occurred at a late evening business dinner in Tokyo. With his normal inhibitions a bit relaxed, a Japanese businessman told Mr. James: "We know how we want the future. We will use the U.S. as our grain bowl, and Australia as our mine." And Europe? "Europe," he said, "Yes, that will be our boutique."
Growing Disrespect for America
Astute Japanese observers can see what's happening inside the United States and other skidding powers of the West. One such observer is Eiji Kobayashi, professor of economics at the University of Nara in Japan. He has visited America five times and is greatly disturbed at the changes he has seen taking place. He told reporters for an American political journal: "In the past several decades, Americans have grown less disciplined and less hard-working. They are more decadent and concerned only with their own self-interest." Japanese, said Professor Kobayashi, "see the United States growing weaker and weaker not just economically, but also militarily. America is no longer a model for us, technologically.... As Japan has grown as a great economic power, we have more frictions and conflicts with your country, and economic friction often leads to greater conflicts." When he first visited the United States about 20 years ago, Professor Kobayashi continued, "I felt a certain inferiority, because America was so much more prosperous than Japan. Like most Japanese, I admired America. But today, the situation is reversed. Japan is much more prosperous and efficient than the United States. Our sense of inferiority has turned into a feeling of superiority. My admiration for America has been shattered. But I very much hope that your country will recover its former strength and prosperity." It certainly doesn't help relations between Japan and America to have Japanese businessmen and tourists robbed, mugged and even murdered on the streets of major U.S. cities such as Los Angeles!
It is extremely significant that at this stage in Japan's post World War II history, a "new style" leader for the Asian power has emerged on the scene. Yasuhiro Nakasone, who assumed the office of prime minister on November 26, 1982, promises to break the mold of recent "decision by consensus" politicians (see commentary below). In an interview in the December 14, 1982, Wall Street Journal, Mr. Nakasone said: "Often the tendency of Orientals has been to be rather vague, opaque and foggy, but my style is different. I want to get rid of opaqueness and fogginess and clarify my position as much as possible." Mr. Nakasone stresses that the bedrock relationship of all that must be preserved is the tie to America. Washington, with its "nuclear umbrella," preserves Japanese freedom and independence. At the same time, the new prime minister is expected to call for his own countrymen to pick up more of their own national defense. An extension of this would be a policy he favors that of Japanese forces having the capability to protect vital ocean sea lanes as far as 1,000 miles from Japan. Mr. Nakasone is certainly no militarist, but he would favor the rewriting of Japan's postwar constitution ordered by the Americans and its controversial Article Nine. Under the terms of this provision, the Japanese were forced to renounce war as a "sovereign right." Article Nine also states that "Japan will never maintain land, sea and air forces, as well as other potential forces for war." Mr. Nakasone has long maintained that the current constitution compromises Japan's sovereignty. In any sense, the so-called air, land and sea "self-defense" forces that Japan already possesses make somewhat of a mockery of Article Nine. Mr. Nakasone is also on record as calling for the restoration of the Emperor as head-of-state.
U.S. Pressure, Asian Fears
Many influential voices in the United States, including that of Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger, have also been pressuring the Japanese in the direction of limited rearmament. The general consensus in Washington is that Japan should do more in its own self-defense, if nothing else, to help redress the enormous balance-of-payments problem between Washington and Tokyo. Japan has an unwritten rule of not spending more than 1 percent of its GNP on defense (as opposed to about 6.6 percent for the United States). Not a few observers in Japan as well as all over Asia are highly dubious over the prospects of a greater militarized Japan. For example, a top South Korean government official recently told an American visitor in Seoul that the United States ought to be very cautious about pushing Japan to boost its defense spending. The result, a few years down the road, he said, could be Japan attempting a policy of military superiority in Asia, resurrecting fears of what happened more than 40 years ago when Japanese expansion in Asia brought nation after another under the heel of Tokyo's "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere." Perhaps the most vivid reservation to such a development was expressed by President Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines. President Marcos was a hero in his country during its occupation by Japanese forces in World War II. Interviewed on an American telecast program early in 1982, President Marcos was in a generally jovial mood. But when the question came up about whether he approved of a greater military role for Japan in Asia, his countenance suddenly and dramatically changed. "Oh, no!" he shot back, grimly looking at his questioners.
Textbooks and New Revelations
Adding fuel to the fire of Asian suspicions of Japan's future course was the great textbook controversy during the summer of 1982. Officials in nations throughout the region exploded in anger when it was learned that Japan's education ministry had approved of changes in school textbooks dealing with Japan's military activities during the war. (Example: the Japanese military "advanced" into north China rather than "invaded," as in older books.) The changes had been pressured by circles in Japan that had wanted to restore, in their own way, some honor to the recent past. They claimed that earlier books had been written by "pacifist leftists," who stripped Japan's youth of patriotism and respect for Japanese history and culture. Because of the storm of protests, the Japanese government announced that it would take another look at the controversial changes in the interest of regional harmony. On top of the textbook controversy there came to light new evidence of brutal disease and human endurance tests carried out on prisoners of the Japanese in occupied Manchuria during the war. Then Americans were treated on television, in late 1982, to a gripping account of the suffering of American and Philippine soldiers in the Philippines from 1942 to the end of the war. The documentary was entitled Bataan the Forgotten Hell.
Key Is Confidence in U.S.
Because of recent past history, Japan's leadership will certainly be cautious before translating its enormous economic power into greater political and military influence. For now, at least, the Japanese are content to crouch safely behind America's nuclear shield. But, no doubt, leading Japanese are beginning to have grave doubts about how reliable the U.S. shield really is. The growing pressure for a nuclear freeze in the United States it would be unilateral since the Soviets would have little incentive to respond is bound to be highly disturbing in Tokyo. Nuclear freeze advocates claim their proposals, if adopted, would ensure a safer world. The truth is, nothing could be more destabilizing forcing both Western Europe as well as Japan to eventually become nuclear powers in order to defend themselves. The "nuclear genie" would be out of the bottle for good. Japan, like Germany, was on the way to developing the atomic bomb during the last war. Japanese television recently revealed that Toranosuke Kawashima, a retired colonel in the Imperial Army, had been ordered by Prime Minister Hideki Tojo to develop the atomic bomb for Japan. The prime minister had heard about the U.S. atomic bomb project from reports funneled via a secret Spanish spy network operating in America. (The existence of this spy network was revealed for the first time in the 15-minute documentary.) Nuclear scientists were assembled for the project but the lack of uranium slowed its progress. A call went out to Axis ally Nazi Germany. "Hitler agreed to help," said Mr. Kawashima, "but the German U-boat carrying two tons of uranium was sunk by Allied naval vessels during its voyage to Japan." America was "lucky." Atomic bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki rather than on Los Angeles and San Francisco. Bible prophecy thunders that a decadent America and Britain won't be so fortunate the next time as the world races ahead into the final end-time period of great international destabilization and upheaval. If you have not done so, write for our free book, The United States and Britain in Prophecy. It lays bare future calamities and how you can escape them!
Yasuhiro Nakasone: Japan's New Prime Minister by Keith W. Stump
Western writers have traditionally portrayed Orientals as enigmatic and inscrutable. But such labels have never been applied to Japan's new prime minister, Yasuhiro Nakasone. Yasuhiro Nakasone's views have never been a secret to anyone. During the course of his 35 years in politics, he has gained a reputation for unusual frankness and candor. He is regarded as one of Japan's most outspoken and controversial politicians. Nakasone-san has made strong friends and fierce enemies. His supporters describe him as brilliant, perceptive and decisive. His political foes label him "dangerous," "opportunistic" and " rabidly nationalistic." Some even brand him "militaristic." The new prime minister projects an unmistakable image of strength. His trademarks have been decisive action and bold decisions. He strongly identifies with the deep-seated traditions and aspirations of his country. The economic and political troubles facing the Free World's second-largest economy may require just such a firm hand at the helm. As one analyst has observed, "Nakasone could be that rare leader who arrives at just the right historical moment." No one doubts that Yasuhiro Nakasone, 64, will leave his own distinctive mark on Japan during his tenure as that nation's 17th postwar prime minister. Prime Minister Nakasone Suzuki was born May 27, 1918, the son of a lumber dealer. He graduated from the prestigious Tokyo University in 1941. During World War II he served as a naval officer. In April, 1947, Mr. Nakasone won his first election to parliament, at the age of 28. It was not long before his outspoken views attracted public attention. In 1951, the young parliamentarian sent a 7,000 word petition to General Douglas MacArthur urging an early end to the U.S. occupation of Japan and a restoration of complete Japanese independence. Both objectives became reality the following year, but Mr. Nakasone's "insolence" in so aggressively asserting his views earned him an unfavorable reputation in the eyes of American occupation authorities. Mr. Nakasone was also a critic of the 1952 U.S.-Japanese security treaty and an early advocate of a stronger Japanese military posture In the course of his three-and-one-half decades in public service, Mr. Nakasone served in numerous government offices, including director of the Japan Defense Agency. Yasuhiro Nakasone gained his country's top office last November 26, following the surprise resignation of Zenko Suzuki. With strong backing from former prime minister Kakuei Tanaka, Mr. Nakasone successfully overcame fierce intraparty opposition to win the presidency of the Liberal Democratic Party, Japan's ruling party since 1955. Two days later he was elected prime minister by the LOP majority in parliament. The new prime minister faces enormous difficulties and challenges As a supporter of a stronger Japanese defense program, he will have to confront serious opposition by antimilitary elements. Defense spending has long been a contentious issue in Japan. On the day of his inauguration, the new prime minister reiterated his pledge to beef up his country's defense and said that Japan's no war constitution which bans the maintenance of armed forces needs to be rewritten. He believes his nation's defense efforts have been inadequate, and says Japan must gain the capability to defend its own air space and sea lanes. "I believe," he has declared, "that true independence is impossible as long as a nation chooses to depend in large measure on the military power of another country for its own security." This does not imply a desire for a go-it-alone military policy for Japan just a greater degree of Japanese involvement. Prime Minister Nakasone will undoubtedly bring a new style of leadership to the nation's top office higher profile, plus lessened reliance on the traditional policy of consensus making, whereby decisions are reached through overall agreement by a large circle of leaders. He has written that "the traditional tools of consensus politics cannot cope with the many challenges of our complicated age [Consensus-making] can slow down decision making until, on many occasions, the final decision comes too late." A government led by Mr. Nakasone will unquestionably display a new, more clear-cut type of personal leadership. No one doubts that he will actively pursue Japan's national interest as he sees it, bringing his strong personality to bear on the many issues confronting the nation.