The American-led global economic and financial system is broken — you have only to look at the shenanigans in Washington these last few weeks to see that — so where are the clear thinkers who can dream of a plan to fix things, and where are the practical politicians who dare to try to shape a new world?

It is time for Japan to take a lead. This is easier said than done, not least because it requires imagination and statesmanship as well as a high level of diplomacy in cultivating relationships with new friends and old enemies, all of which have been in short supply in Japan's relations with the rest of the world.

At the very least, Tokyo needs a strong alliance with India and careful and calm negotiations with China, as well as the help of internationally minded countries and organizations to devise a plan to reshape the financial and economic structures of a battered world. The task is immense and perhaps it is only a pipe dream to imagine that there are creative thinkers and hardheaded politicians who are up to the task, especially in Japan.