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There is a striking long essay on Japan in the current (Fall 2017) issue of American Affairs by Asia scholar Michael Auslin. It opens with some lines from an eighth-century Japanese poem: Auslin then proceeds via a historical account of Japan’s sense of nationhood to some remarks comparing present-day Japan’s “exclusionary nationalism” with the rising... Read More
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Despite a bloody history, Japan and China are now cooperating in ways that shut out the United States
China is now widely seen as the coming superpower. But few even among the west’s China-watchers understand quite how fast this geopolitical freight train is approaching. Moreover, most western observers assume that China’s ambitions are being opposed by its East Asian rival, Japan. In the words of the Economist, Japan is “standing in the way”... Read More
Understandably, a lot of the coverage analyzing the impact of Trump on Japan has emphasized the negative: Trump is a trade-war guy, he wants Japan to pay more for bases, he’d be happy to stand aside as Japan slugged it out in some military encounter with North Korea, he’s pulled the plug on TPP… Quite... Read More
Another day, another piece of US think-tankery poo-pooing the prospects for a nuclear confrontation with the PRC. RAND came up with a new report on the economic costs of war with China,Thinking the Unthinkable. In RAND's view the war won’t escalate beyond a limited conventional war fought in the West Pacific and over Chinese territory,... Read More
Motoyuki Shibata in New York City, 2016
In Japan, even a serious writer may be seen on mass advertising, and a translator can become a star. One of Japan’s most famous intellectuals, Motoyuki Shibata is a specialist on American literature. He has translated books by Thomas Pynchon, Paul Auster, Steven Millhauser and Stuart Dybek, among others. Shibata is also the editor of... Read More
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I came to Japan for the preview of Obama’s visit, when the G7 foreign ministers assembled at Hiroshima, led by the US State Secretary John Kerry. He should apologise, people said. You do not think Kerry apologised for nuking the city, did you? Neither did Obama. The Americans never apologise, banish the thought. Love means... Read More
Should Japan and South Korea be permitted to develop nuclear weapons? That was the very good question posed last week by candidate Donald Trump. Washington’s elite and neocon war party threw up their hands in horror at Trump’s heretical question. The media, heavily influenced by neocons who hate Trump’s call for even-handed US policy in... Read More
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Why the Media's Silence on Japanese Protectionism Gives Trump Another Priceless Opening
In few places has Donald Trump’s rise caused more unease than in Tokyo. Indeed it is probably safe to say that, underneath an ostensibly imperturbable exterior, top Japanese officials are running far more scared than even Trump realizes. They have a lot to be scared about. Much of what the Washington establishment thinks it knows... Read More
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One byproduct of tensions with the People’s Republic of China over the South China Sea (to be followed, shortly, I believe by tensions over the friction between the PRC and Taiwan ruled by the DPP) is the opportunity for the United States to abandon the useful but by now threadbare fiction that the massive U.S.... Read More
On October 6, 2015, the Wall Street Journal carried this headline: Japan Ready to Lead in Asia-Pacific, Abe Says I expect that a few Japan-loving pivot-poobahs inside the Washington beltway had to spit out their breakfast sushi at that one. “But…that wasn’t supposed to happen for decades! Ash Carter promised!” After all, Secretary of Defense... Read More
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Japan, the United States, and the Security Laws
The passage of the collective self defense bills-- enabling Japanese participation in military activities beyond its home territory under restrictions that appear to be rather elastic-- --had a feeling of inevitability to me. They give more freedom of movement to the Japanese government in its security policy, more leverage in its foreign relations, and more... Read More
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On Refugees as on Trade, It Excels in Managing Anglophone Opinion
As Third World migration increasingly dominates the headlines in the European Union and the United States, the rich nations of East Asia have been keeping heads their down. With good reason. True to their ultra-strict immigration policies, they have been admitting virtually no refugees. South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and mainland China are at one... Read More
NSA spying often occurs because the resources are in place, and have to be used for something
The drama of Edward Snowden’s exposure of wide-ranging National Security Agency (NSA) domestic spying has somewhat overshadowed the steady flow of somewhat lesser revelations derived from the massive cache of documents known as Wikileaks. The most recent news reports based on five Wikileaks documents, plus a list of targeted telephone numbers, detail how Washington spied... Read More
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A $10,000 Invitation to FT Editor-in-chief Lionel Barber
Dear Lionel: I refer to your public assurances that the Financial Times’s independence will not be compromised by the Nikkei takeover. You are misinformed. Frankly, I concur with the BBC’s economics editor Robert Peston who has tweeted that this is a “desperately sad” moment. As you know, I have spent 27 years covering finance and... Read More
For years, anglophone media ignored the Japanese economy’s strengths. Now it’s time for a rethink
For decades the Financial Times has hardly had a good word to say about the Japanese economy. It is a special irony therefore that the paper’s longtime British owner, the Pearson group, has now agreed to sell it to the Tokyo-based Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Nikkei) group. How come it is Nikkei that is buying the... Read More
The other day the New York Times highlighted anti-black discrimination in Japan. Focusing on the experiences of Ariana Miyamoto, a half-black/half-Japanese beauty queen who was born in Japan and enjoys full Japanese citizenship, the Timespresented a troubling and convincing account of a degree of explicit racial discrimination long unthinkable in respectable circles in the United... Read More
Cyborg She, a love story about a female android and a shy young man. Credit: Gaga Communications, for use in critical commentary
Can humans and robots get along together? Actually, they already do in a wide range of applications from surgery to assembly lines. The question is more vexing when the robots are androids—human-like creatures that can recognize faces, understand questions, and behave as social, emotional, and affective beings. It is this aspect that troubles us the... Read More
In this space last Sunday, I highlighted House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to address a joint session of Congress. As I pointed out, never before has a Japanese Prime Minister been accorded such an honor. Yet of all Japan’s post-1945 Prime Ministers, Abe would appear to be the least... Read More
Perhaps the highest honor the United States can confer on a foreign dignitary is to invite him or her to address both houses of Congress. Invitees join an exclusive club that has included such esteemed figures as Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, Yitzhak Rabin, Nelson Mandela, Lech Walesa, and Corazon Aquino. Now the currency is... Read More
In the spring of 1995 – twenty years ago almost to the day – I published a book about Japan entitledBlindside. Endorsed by such long-time Japan watchers as James Fallows, Sir James Goldsmith, and John Kenneth Galbraith (Galbraith had clocked considerable on-the-spot experience as a senior official of the American occupation in the late 1940s),... Read More
How much silicon is there in Silicon Valley? Not much, if we are talking super-pure monocrystalline silicon, which is the high-end material driving the digital revolution. As with countless other advanced materials these days, most of the world’s semiconductor-grade silicon comes from Japan (yes, Japan Inc has kept on trucking even if this is rarely... Read More
Even judged by the usual indiscriminate scorn heaped on the Japanese economy these days, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge seem exceptionally dismissive. In their latest book The Fourth Revolution, they contend that illegitimate entities have acquired a “frightening” chokehold on the Japanese government, and add that for decades Japan has “failed to fix its sclerotic... Read More
This story appears in the December 2014 issue of Forbes Asia. Honda and Toyota stand out as the Japanese automobile industry’s strongest players. So when in 2008 Honda launched the FCX Clarity, the world’s first plausibly commercial fuel-cell car, people wondered why Toyota was nowhere in this exciting new technology. Now the shoe is on... Read More
The Double Whammy
Japanese stocks suffered their biggest one-day plunge in more than four months following an announcement that the world’s third biggest economy had slipped back into recession. The two consecutive quarters of negative growth were triggered by an increase in the sales tax that was implemented by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in April. The VAT tax... Read More
According to press reports this morning, the Japanese economy is now yet again in recession. Poor, poor Japan, you might think! How unlucky it has been, plagued by a bizarre series of economic accidents and miscues for nearly 25 years! Is it time we reached for our checkbooks and made a Christmas donation to the... Read More
As most Americans, if not the financial media, are aware, Quantitative Easing (a euphemism for printing money) has failed to bring back the US economy. So why has Japan adopted the policy? Since the heavy duty money printing began in 2013, the Japanese yen has fallen 35% against the US dollar, a big cost for... Read More
At a welcoming banquet in Japan in the 1980s, Ford Motor chairman Philip Caldwell received a memorably double-edged compliment. “There is no secret about how we learned to do what we do, Mr. Caldwell,” said the head of Toyota Motor , Eiji Toyoda. “We learned it at the Rouge.” Toyoda was referring to Ford’s fabled... Read More
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The American-triggered regime change in Ukraine at the Western end of the Eurasian continent has been widely discussed. Less noticed, if at all, has been the American-triggered change of government in Japan four years ago as part of the so-called ‘pivot’ aimed at holding back China on the Eastern end. The two ought to be... Read More
Class Warfare Saps the Economy
By every objective standard, Abenomics has been a complete flop. Household spending has plunged, wages have dropped for 23 months in a row, inflation is on the rise, the number of workers who can only find part-time jobs has ballooned to 38 percent, and most economists now expect 2nd quarter GDP to shrink to minus... Read More
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As we near the grim anniversary of World War I, let us remember the first great war of the blood-soaked 20th Century. Shortly before midnight on 8 February, 1904, Japanese destroyers and torpedo boats launched a surprise attack on the great Russian Pacific naval base at Port Arthur. Located at the tip of Manchuria’s strategic... Read More
I'll let the tweets speak for
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Retail Sales Apocalypse leaves Abenomics in Tatters
Plunging retail sales and rising inflation have rocked Japan’s anemic economy and cast doubt on the future of Abenomics. While the US Commerce Department announced that first-quarter growth in the United States had slipped into negative territory for the first time since 2011 (-0.1 percent), the news from Tokyo was even grimmer. Following a tax... Read More
And...Island Games: Okinotorishima vs. Johnson South Reef
My Twitter feed contained the following ringing statement: To paraphrase Napoleon on the Pope, how many battalions does the frickin’ passive voice have? “Must be prevented”. That’s the problem with the pivot. The "pivot to Asia" is an idea. It's not a doctrine, like the Monroe Doctrine, the Truman Doctrine, the Eisenhower Doctrine, or the... Read More
Last month I recounted how a top U.S. law firm had agreed to help shadowy Japanese interests try to portray the so-called Comfort Women – the sex slaves grotesquely abused by the Japanese Imperial Army in World War II – as no more than common prostitutes. As I pointed out, the case is totally toxic... Read More
For anyone who follows East Asia, here’s a question: what is Japan’s guiltiest secret? The “comfort women” scandal? The Nanking massacre? Official homage to war criminals at the Yasukuni shrine? No, no, and no. If by a guilty secret we mean something that Japan really, really wants to sweep under the rug, none of the... Read More
Enough Already
It looks like QE is going to end with a whimper instead of a bang. The bigwigs in the G-20 have put the kibosh on Japan’s money printing extravaganza. While most analysts expect the Bank of Japan (BoJ) to announce more “easing” in the days ahead to counter weakening economic data and droopy stock prices;... Read More
Post updated, 9/14/14 6/5/14. See below! In my earlier post on Gregory Clark's work, The Son Becomes The Father, I laid bare the case for the known high heritability of human behavioral traits (including values and attitudes) and life outcomes. As well, equally important, I illustrated the complete absence of shared environment influences on these... Read More
Would any self-respecting U.S. law firm represent a client who suggested the Jews deserved the Holocaust? Probably not. As a matter of honor, most law firms would run a mile, and even the least honorable would conclude that the damage to their reputation wasn’t worth it. Where imperial Japan’s atrocities are concerned, however, at least... Read More
Abe's Kamikazenomics Slashes GDP to 0.7 Percent
Abenomics has been great for stock speculators and corporate bigwigs, but for everyone else, not so much. The fact is–despite all the media hype and monetary fireworks–Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s three-pronged strategy to end 20 years of deflation has been a total bust. But don’t take my word for it, check out this clip from... Read More
In this space last week, I mentioned the strange story of Takeo Tamiya, who, in becoming president of the Japan Medical Association, rose to the highest pinnacle of the Japanese medical profession in the immediate aftermath of World War II. To say the least this was an undeserved triumph. With the possible exception of Nazi... Read More
The New York Times the other day suggested that Japan may revoke its apology to the so-called comfort women, the sex slaves used by the Japanese imperial army during World War II. The Times was vague about the details – probably because it has next to nothing to go on. For anyone who knows Tokyo,... Read More
[This piece may be reposted if Asia Times Online is credited and a link provided.] In other words, it’s time for the United States to engage in a full-throated celebration of the pivot to Asia with what I think is going to be President Obama’s America F*ck Yeah tour of Asian democracies in April 2014.... Read More
I would recommend that readers who have not yet done so create a Twitter account and subscribe to my feed (@chinahand).  To my embarrassment and surprise, I’ve churned out over 800 tweets since I started up my feed last November. Some of it is meaningless ephemera, of course.  But sometimes the twitter stream carries in... Read More
With a hat tip to the Human Stupidity blog, I have just been watching the BBC documentary “No Sex Please, We’re Japanese.”It’s a one-hour program broadcast in Britain last fall in which a reporter visits Japan to do a quick run around the place touching all cultural bases. In what follows I tag quotes from... Read More
You want ominous? Then offer a deep bow to conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a maneager to turn the Japanese military into an ever less defensive force, fully breach his country’s “peace constitution,” and assumedly someday end Japan’s “nuclear allergy” when it comes to a future weapons program. In the process, rising tensions with and... Read More
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Why America’s Strategic Rebalance is Really Just Retreat
In a future update of The Devil's Dictionary, the famed Ambrose Bierce dissection of the linguistic hypocrisies of modern life, a single word will accompany the entry for "Pacific pivot": retreat. It might seem a strange way to characterize the Obama administration's energetic attempt to reorient its foreign and military policy toward Asia. After all,... Read More
After several rhetorical fits and starts, I've decided that the best description for the overall process of Japan's recovery of its full security sovereignty (exports of military equipment and technology, alliances, collective self defense, offshore military adventures, etc.) is "military restoration". "Remilitarization" doesn't fit for a country that was already a global top-ten military power.... Read More
Or, US Pivot Hoisted on Japanese Petard Again
Via M. Taylor Fravel’s twitter feed I was introduced to this report from Yomiuri Shimbun Dec. 30, 2013. I will quote at length: (Parenthetically, I should point out that the notoriously vulnerable sea lanes of the South China Sea, which Japan is offering to protect, are pretty much vital to nobody but China. Japan ha
Aerospace execs sell their industry to Japan­—one part at a time.
At a welcoming banquet in Japan in the 1980s, Ford Motor chairman Philip Caldwell received a memorably double-edged compliment. “There is no secret about how we learned to do what we do, Mr. Caldwell,” said the head of Toyota Motor, Eiji Toyoda. “We learned it at the Rouge.” Toyoda was referring to Ford’s fabled River... Read More
After some scarifying teething problems, the Boeing Dreamliner now seems to be becoming belatedly accepted as the wonder plane it was always cracked up to be. Though that is excellent news, it says far less about the health of the U.S. aerospace industry than Boeing executives would have you to believe. The fact is that... Read More
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PastClassics
The unspoken statistical reality of urban crime over the last quarter century.
The “war hero” candidate buried information about POWs left behind in Vietnam.
The major media overlooked Communist spies and Madoff’s fraud. What are they missing today?
What Was John McCain's True Wartime Record in Vietnam?