LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Sustainable globalization needs Japan to be actively involved, if only because of the size of its economy. For its part, Japan stands to contribute a great deal to globalization. The Japanese establishment, however, has hobbled the country with gerontocratic governance, obsolescent institutions and sclerotic thinking. What is most alarming is that while there is a proliferation of strident reactionary and chauvinistic voices and forces, those of globalism and liberalism are muted.
The fact that there are antiglobalization chauvinistic constituencies in Japan is hardly surprising; they exist everywhere. What is very disconcerting is that there are no vocal Japanese constituencies supporting a liberal, open global order. This is true not only in Japan, but also in Japanese representation abroad.
In the Geneva Japanese mission to the World Trade Organization it is the Ministry of Agriculture that calls the shots, partly because of its strong presence and numerous delegations. Nippon Keidanren (the Japan Business Federation), on the other hand, sends a low-level delegation once a year, consisting of a very perfunctory one-day visit with no press conference or communique.
Contrast that with the far more pro-free-trade declarations of the U.S. Business Roundtable and the European Round Table of Industrialists. Contrast also the frequency, depth and positions of articles on globalization between Britain’s Financial Times and Japan’s Nikkei newspapers. Nor are there any Japanese nongovernmental organizations comparable to, say, Oxfam, which has been actively propagating the benefits that globalization can deliver in areas such as poverty reduction, education and health.
There is a sense of deja vu. Liberal, internationally inclined Japanese do not, presumably, have the courage of their convictions. That, according to Harvard-educated historian and retired Japanese diplomat Tatsuo Arima in “The Failure of Freedom,” was a major force that led Japan down the catastrophic road of the 1930s and ’40s.
Although the risk of Japan invading its Asian neighbors or bombing Hawaii is nonexistent, the risk that Japan will turn reactionary in other ways is real and grows increasingly as time passes and Japan wallows. That is why it is the responsibility of all, irrespective of nationality, to be actively involved in seeking to influence Japanese public policy and to counter the reactionary forces.
A constant theme throughout this series has been that the more Japan continues to be inward-looking, the more it wallows, the more it is marginalized from globalization and much higher are the chances of not only continued — probably accelerated — social and economic decline but also extremist political reaction. Liberal forces in Japan appear so disparate, demotivated and timid that change from within — as occurred in the late Edo Period — seems unlikely to occur.
In 2003, Japan is, in virtually every respect, a closed, highly unglobalized society and economy. Imports account for only 10 percent of gross national product, the lowest proportion of any member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Foreign direct investment has grown in relative terms, but is still puny in absolute terms, thus depriving Japan of all the externalities that foreign direct investments provide and that played such a crucial role in, for example, the economic revitalization of Britain. Dramatically increasing immigrants, imports and inward investments is one important goal of globalization.
To globalize, it is not sufficient for Japan to open its markets, but also for Japanese to open their minds. A critical criterion of globalization is fluency in English, an area where Japan so pathetically lags. It is noteworthy that, for example, in announcing its goal of becoming an “international society,” Shanghai intends to host an international conference twice a week and that 40 percent of its population should speak English.
France’s linguistic chauvinism and socialist ambivalence to globalization notwithstanding, five years ago French Socialist Minister of Education Claude Allegre declared that English should no longer be considered a “foreign” language. It is unlikely that any Japanese foreign minister would say any such thing, partly because it is unlikely that he speaks English himself.
There is a lot that liberal forces in Japanese society could do toward globalization. Leading Japanese (supposedly multinational) companies such as Canon, Toyota, Sony or Mitsubishi Corp should, for example: (1) definitely insist that English only be spoken in their overseas subsidiaries; (2) make one day of the week, say, Wednesdays, English-only day in corporate headquarters; (3) forcefully recruit foreigners for career management positions at the core of the company and set targets so that incrementally the company becomes linguistically and in other respects global.
Media and opinion leaders should do much more. Nikkei, for example, has sought to run an international forum, which so far has failed, undoubtedly for the simple reason that it is held in Japanese (albeit with interpreters).
In an earlier column, I quoted a French academic who said, “Publish in English or perish in French.” The same applies to international conferences. A non-English speaking international conference is an oxymoron. With a higher and more extensive level of English, Japan will be in a position to attract far more foreigners, whether as tourists, temporary visitors or immigrants. This, too, will fortify Japan in every respect, as it will also contribute to globalization.
That fewer foreign tourists should visit Japan than any country in East Asia apart from North Korea, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar is absurd. Though a great deal of destruction of Japan’s natural and cultural environment has tragically taken place, there remain many riches. Foreign visitors may also, as they have elsewhere, be important vocal forces in cultural and natural preservation.
Where globalization is most important, however, is in the country’s educational and research institutions. Departments in the humanities and social sciences of any self-respecting university should aim to have foreigners make up a minimum of 30 percent of their faculty.
If the vaunted Tokyo University Faculty of Law, for example, were to have a strong foreign contingent teaching in English in areas such as political science, Japan’s future leaders would have more open minds and be ready to make Japan a great nation in the global era.
Foreign professors are more likely to encourage students to rebel intellectually, rather than be the passive, spiritless intellectual bovines that too many Tokyo University graduates have become. Japan has become, frankly, intellectually boring. A massive infusion of foreign ideas and perspectives blending with far more energized Japanese thinking will make the country the intellectual and cultural international powerhouse it was in the 1960s.
That is the message I seek to convey in this series. Even if the tone of the series has been very anti-Japanese establishment, sensible persons will recognize that it has been eminently pro-Japanese. A global Japan, I am absolutely convinced, is not only imperative for Japan, but will also greatly benefit the world!
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