Japan, An Asian Miracle: Myth or Reality?

japan-1On 28th July, 2016, the students of IInd Year BA HEP, engaged in a debate on whether Japan’s growth and development as a country, particularly after the Second World War, is a myth or not. Dr. Joshy M. Paul chaired the debate which began with a general overview on the situation in Japan. Shivangi Shrivastava started with quoting Alvin Toffler; i.e. the importance of muscle, mind and money and how the Japanese used these powers efficiently to become the country that they are today. She stressed on the role of MITI, the Ministry of Trade and International Industry which was set up in 1949 to efficiently tackle problems facing post – war Japan and the role of American aid which the Japanese used efficiently too. Bhavya AG, countered Shivangi’s argument by questioning the basis of Japan’s growth, particularly in relation to the economic slowdown in the 1970s and the 1990s, the latter also known as The Lost Decade. The dependence of the Japanese economy on the status American Dollar and oil exports were critically examined too. Her main argument was that Japan is too dependent on external factors and this is why its rapid growth and development is a myth.

Next, we had Ram Prasad speak about the process of development in Japan and the industrious attitude of the Japanese and their nationalism which led them to such rapid growth and expansion, that today they are the one of the largest economies in the world. He stressed on the efficiency with which Japan has able to channelize American aid and protection in a way that has allowed the country to remain a superpower despite no nuclear weaponry. Adding on to what Shivangi said, while countering Bhavya too, he talked about the policies introduced by successive Japanese governments which have made it the country that it is today. Countries around the world willingly accept Japanese investment and this stands testimony to their rise which indeed is a miracle. We then had Tryphine Dzimbanete express her views on the Economic and Political situation in Japan over the years which challenge the view that Japan is an Asian Miracle. She began by talking about the oil shock and the devaluation of the US dollar in the 1970s which adversely affected the Japanese economy. With this she questioned the very foundations of Japan’s rise. Next she spoke about the transition of the economy after its bubble burst through the 1980s and 1990s. Her argument was based on the fact that Japan’s monetary policy saw no change despite such huge shocks, loans were still cheaply available and a false sense of security was provided. Politically too, Japan had over the course of the 20th century lost all its colonies in South East Asia and it were to take the country many years before diplomatic relations were established with all its former colonies. Lastly, the Japanese government was constantly plagued with allegations of corruption and saw leadership changes a number of times throughout its period of living in a so called miracle.

Jayanth Medikurthi began his argument by analysing Japan’s growth over time and its ability to maintain its status as a superpower despite various setbacks. He said that setbacks exist for economies around the world and their response is what matters. Further, he supplemented his stand by talking about Japan’s military expenditure, which is less than 1% of their GDP. In spite of spending a negligible amount on their border’s protection, that too in such a volatile part of the Pacific Ocean is remarkable. Peace is something that the Japanese are committed to and no one knows better than them, the devastating effects of nuclear warfare. Lastly, Jayanth said that despite a number of setbacks, Japan has remained committed to its cause of growth and development and anti nuclear warfare stance. His was the last argument from the side which believed that Japan is an Asian miracle. Its rise wasn’t/isn’t a myth. Rusha Gupta countered his analysis by stating that Japan’s rise isn’t a miracle, it’s a mirage that provides a false sense of security to not just the Japanese, but to investors from outside as well. She stressed on its overdependence on oil exports and protection from the USA. Further, the country has one of the oldest populations in the world with its population growth in the negative. This just adds to the labour shortages that the Japanese economy will/is facing right now. The growing debt in the Japanese economy is because of the way it has functioned over the last 70 odd years. It has been purely capitalistic in its approach with no consideration for small industries. Big industries with larger returns were given so much attention that there was no scope for small industries to flourish. Only the elite of the Japanese society benefitted from such policies, the life of a common man didn’t change much. He was always affected by any adversity/shock in the economy more than the elite ever did.  Rusha’s argument was therefore based on the fact that the Japanese always focused on the “bigger picture”, without realising that many small perfect pictures make one perfect big picture. Their growth was a mirage because it created a false sense of security for people who never really did/could enjoy the benefits of Japan’s so called growth and development.

The last speaker of the debate was Smera Jayadeva who critically examined American involvement in Japanese recovery after World War II. She added to Rusha’s argument that the Japanese have always created a false sense of security/safety net for their economy and their border’s protection because of American aid and pressure. The US’s decision to assist Japan in its recovery wasn’t humanitarian; it was politically motivated to put up a buffer against the growing influence of Communism stemming from both the USSR and China. Lastly, she questioned how Japan’s rise could be considered a miracle, when its initial boost was because of the wars in Korea and Vietnam. Japan was and will always be an American agent in Asia as even today the country seeks some form American acceptance in everything that it does. That was the conclusion of the debate which was followed by an extensive rebuttal session, where many valid points were raised not only by the panellists and the chair but by members of the audience too. Dr. Anurag Tripathi and Dr. (Fr) Jose CC joined in the discussion and gave their insights. Overall, it was a fruitful session which gave us new and wider perspectives on Japan and it was a step further than what our syllabus has to offer.


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