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xueli:Japan’sHeiseieraisnotthelost30years

(2019-05-09 01:08:10)
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xueli

heiseiera

notthelost30years

分类: 东北亚(日本、韩国、朝鲜)研
this piece was published by Global Times on May 8, 2019. To visit the published version, please click:

Japan’s Heisei era is not the lost 30 years - Global Times, http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1149037.shtml 

The new era of Reiwa has replaced that of Heisei in Japan. Evaluating the age of Heisei has been a hot topic for observers. Some believe the Heisei period was the "lost 30 years" of Japan's economy. Others believe Japan implemented a strategy of hiding its capabilities and biding its time while the whole country quietly completed industrial upgrade.


I think these are two extreme views and the truth may lie somewhere in between. Generally speaking, it was a period of 30 peaceful years and Japan did what a mature economy was supposed to. 


Led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan has taken a big step toward becoming a "normal state" amid challenges both at home and abroad. However, how to balance Japan's diplomacy with both China and the US so as to define its new regional and global position will be the country's main diplomatic challenge in the Reiwa age.


In the Heisei era, Japan's economy grew slowly. According to World Bank statistics, in most years from 1989 to 2017, its GDP growth was less than 2 percent and during this period, there were six years of negative growth. There is no obvious change in its international status. 


Nevertheless, in terms of social security, Japan has been one of the safest countries in the world and has established a good international image. 


"The Japanese passport is the strongest in the world… with holders able to enjoy visa-free access to 190 countries and regions," said The Asahi Shimbun.


Achieving industrial progress is proof of Japan becoming a mature economy. For instance, its auto manufacturing is leading the trend of energy conservation and environment protection and the country is cutting the production of ordinary steel while focusing on producing special steel. Moreover, Japan is also boosting its outward foreign investment. 


Domestically, there were catastrophic events like the 1995 sarin gas attack and 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, both of which shocked the world. The problem of an aging population with a slowing birth rate is also influencing Japanese society.


The US-Japan alliance is still the foundation of Japan's foreign policy. However, its relations with neighboring countries, especially its political ties with China and South Korea, have always been rocky.


Things like the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan regaining power and frequent change of Japanese prime ministers occurred during this period. Faced with China's rapid rise, Japan accelerated its pace by taking measures such as upgrading its defense agency into a ministry, passing legislation permitting its military to take part in foreign affairs, lifting the ban on collective self-defense by altering its interpretation of the constitution and building helicopter carriers. All of them were completed during Abe's tenure.


It is noticeable that many Japanese believe it necessary for Japan to maintain its imperial system after the World War II to ensure the stability of the country's politics and society. 


Japan is a country that combines tradition and modernity. It achieved its modernization within a short period of time, while remaining a country with strong cultural traditions. Japan has never changed dynasties, which explains why Japanese value tradition. Emperor Akihito has a clear anti-war bent and has never visited the Yasukuni Shrine. He visited China in 1992 despite pressure from the right-wing forces in Japan, showing he is more mature politically than Abe and former prime ministers Yasuhiro Nakasone and Junichiro Koizumi.


In short, in the Heisei era, Japan achieved peace and prosperity for its people, upgraded its industries and expanded its economic might abroad. However, it has not been successful in avoiding natural and man-made disasters or maintaining necessary population growth.



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