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100-year plan makes Japan the world's leader.

100-Year Plan Makes Japan The World's Leader

What is Japan? Surely, it isn't what we used to think of it. According to the CIA, Japan is "non-democratic and racist, heading toward world dominance."

To France's Prime Minister Edith Cresson, "Japan doesn't respect the rules of the game and has a strategy of world conquest." Britain's Noel (Lord) Annan (of the U.K. broadcast policy fame) wrote that, "Japan is a country that has "ruthlessly undercut her competitors by deceit and broken promises, a country psychologically as aggressive and arrogant as in 1941." And in Holland, Philips' chairman Weisse Dekker has been quoted as saying that the "Japanese desire is to dominate."

A few months ago, Kuwait took ad pages thanking 30 countries, for their help in the Gulf war -- but not Japan.

So, what's going on here? Why only now are Americans, Europeans and Arabs giving a bad name to Japan as the economical "beast"? It's not that the country has changed! Indeed, American and European industrialists and policy makers encouraged Japan to develop its system. So what's wrong?

Before attempting to answer that question, let's focus on how Japan operates. As explained in Foreign Affairs by Hanns W. Mall of the Japan Center for International Exchange, "Japan has not yet experienced a peaceful change in government, and the democratic character of the Japanese political system is still to be proven."

According to a CIA report, Japan is a "nation run by a bureaucratic oligarchy." Four important traits in the character of the Japanese people made their system possible: Devoid of ego, personal endurance and ethnic homogeneity. Plus, the way England celebrates its eccentrics, Japan prizes its dual personality: the Omote (public) and the Ura (private).

Thus, what is called "government" in Japan is in charge of the day-to-day administration, while the country's long-term plans are set up by an interconnected system of ministerial sub-offices.

As Robert Mosbacher, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, said, "It's difficult to know where the [Japanese] government ends and the private sector begins."

Japan rules its financial institutions through "administrative guidance." Senior executives of the large banks (eight of the world's ten largest banks are Japanese) make daily visits to the Finance Ministry to seek guidance.

Similarly, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) ensures that domestic and foreign competition is well regulated. MITI considers competition unhealthy for Japan, thus the web of companies' cross-ownership (also useful to fend off foreign corporate intrusion).

Once the need for a product has been established, MITI guarantees the market for it and the success of the companies making it.

For example, MITI would not allow U.S. supercomputers into Japan for over seven years, until Japanese companies mastered the product themselves and had already taken over 90 per cent of the large public sector market. Recently, American investor T. Boone Pickens was not allowed to become a board member in a Japanese car parts manufacturer, affiliated with Toyota, in which he owned 26.4 per cent. Indeed, MITI ensures the homogeneity of Japan's corporate structure (only 10 per cent of the stock is usually floating at the stock market).

The Foreign Ministry, too, strictly coordinates its policy with other ministries. Even though Japan relies on the Middle East for 70 per cent of its oil, it didn't get involved in the Gulf War because the Finance Ministry could cope with virtually any oil price scenario. This coordinated foreign policy has worked well for Japan.

For years, Japan has happily let the U.S. "bear the burden" of military foreign policy making. This has allowed Japan to concentrate on consumer output and present a pacifist face to the scarred Asian countries. This year, Japan will export more to Asia than to the U.S. Also, Japan is now responsible for 41 per cent of the Pac-Rim imports from the U.S.

Domestic policy is where the government's day-to-day democratic process takes place. The government can control the delicate domestic environment by leveraging on the homogeneity of the Japanese ethnic character, which tends to divert its ego to the family, to the company and to the country, but never on themselves, as individuals.

Japan's endurance and sacrifice for higher achievements are imbued into the social structure which has a dual purpose: First, to maintain ethnic homogeneity via an unalluring lifestyle to foreigners and, second, to control the capital generated.

The real test is the Japanese lifestyle, which is the butt of such jokes as "Japan lends money to America so that its people can maintain living standards three times higher than ours."

In 1989, household consumption in Japan averaged an equivalent of about $2,300 per month but, at the same time, a joint U.S.-Japan study revealed that, for example, Japanese car parts prices in Japan averaged 340 per cent higher than in the U.S.

Nevertheless, the "checkbook" world approach, combined with its overseas "screwdriver" plants, have also served Japan well -- in the Gulf War, foreign aid, overseas investments, and the world market. In 1989, Japan overtook the U.S. to become the world's leading donor and the number one creditor nation. When pressed with its "dumpings," Japan moved to develop assembly factories in various markets, which also have the dual purpose of exporting under different quota structures, and to unbalance U.S.-European relations (This function, until recently, was performed by Japan's nationalistic outbursts, to take advantage of the U.S.-Soviet antagonism).

The president of Mitsubishi, Sinroku Morohashi, has been quoted as saying that, "In Japan, there still remains a deep-rooted anxiety that the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement along with the integrated EC in 1992, represents the trend of bloc economy."

Rather than opening up its market, Japan preferred to reevaluate the yen, ostensibly to make foreign goods cheaper in Japan. But the strong yen allowed Japanese companies to buy foreign real estate and companies at half price--this, without affecting their domestic market.

The conservative ruling Liberal Democratic Party, (in control since after World War II) uses several valves to let off sociological steam.

Recently, the government has permitted nationalistic feeling to re-emerge by reinstating Kimigayo, Japan's imperial national anthem, and the hi no maru (round sun) flag which was banned by the U.S. occupation forces.

These well-orchestrated performances, like the fact that Japan has been unwilling to fully accept the postwar territorial status quo, also serve Japan to implement its foreign policy. Nowadays, the U.S. is being carefully targeted as an object of scorn. The Japanese are fond of saying that there is a two-party system in Japan: The LDP and the U.S. Department of Commerce. This, however, masks the fact that the LDP doesn't have a real opposition party.

Japan's long term world plans are not yet clear to outsiders. The Europeans speculate that Japan is now working on the second part of a 100-year master plan. But, considering that banzai (ten thousand years) is Japan's form of salutation, one has to wonder whether this is another short-term Western outlook. However, very few doubt that Japan's old nationalism is being replaced by economic imperialism.
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Author:Serafini, Dom
Publication:Video Age International
Date:Aug 1, 1991
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