In 2010, Japan’s nominal gross domestic product increased 1.8 percent from 2009 to ¥479.223 trillion. This is about $5.470 trillion, or some $404 billion (some ¥35 trillion) less than China’s corresponding figure already announced. Thus it was confirmed this week that China has overtaken Japan as the world’s No. 2 economic power — a position Japan had enjoyed since 1968 when it passed West Germany.

Given Japan’s low birthrate, it is unlikely that it can achieve high economic growth as registered by emerging economies even if it overcomes its current deflation. In terms of per capita GDP, Japan climbed to second place in 1993 but fell to 16th in 2009 after falling to 19th in 2007 and 2008.

China is expected to achieve growth of 9 percent to 11 percent in 2011. The gap between Japan and China is likely to expand because China is expected to maintain high growth for the time being.

If the spirit of the Japanese people remains low, the situation will worsen. Japan should look to its strong points such as relative social stability, advanced energy conservation and environmental protection technologies, and creativity as seen in anime, manga and fashion, and look for ways to strengthen them.

Japan’s technological power is still strong. The government and the private sector should cooperate to nurture new fields of economic growth. Medical and nursing services, agriculture, tourism, renewable energy and energy conservation can be such fields. It will also be important to view China as a place that offers business opportunity for Japan.

Education will grow in importance for Japan. The government and educators must make serious efforts to produce a workforce that can compete in the global market. They should encourage young people to stop being self-complacent, to look beyond Japan and to have ambition to become active internationally.

Japan also should have the courage to remind China that it can no longer act like a developing nation and that it has an international responsibility to behave as the world’s No. 2 economy.

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