The Japan That Can Say "No” (1989)
"Japan Playing a Different Game“No””
In recent year I get the impression that American feeling against Japan has steadily worsened. In Washington, in particular, the atmosphere in government is terrible, closely followed by New York where people dealing with Japan in the financial world have reached the point of thinking that something should be done about Japan. However, if you go to regional areas, where they welcome Japanese business investment, the atmosphere is completely different.
Recently, even America has started to question why the trade imbalance with Japan won’t correct itself and to accept that perhaps there is some problem with American business, and to some degree this kind of self-reflection has starter to appear.
Take Senate representative Benson, for example. As Democratic Party Vice –Presidential candidate, he loudly criticized Japan during the election, and yet during a speech he made in San Francisco in July he quoted me in saying ‘American businesses think short term, and need to think more long term’.
Speaking in July, Bureau of the Budget Head Darman also used the expression “Now-now-ism”, criticizing America’s trend of ‘living only for the moment’. Warnings about the need to change the value of ‘now now-ism’ stretched beyond the American financial trend of covering spending by borrowing, and prioritizing consumer consumption over saving, but included the proliferation of drugs and the dilapidation of the education system that threatened America’s very position in history.
In this way, some self-refection and need for corrections could also be seen among America’s leaders.
However the imbalance largely continues. Failing to make an impact on Japan, things have become very emotional. In particular, America is a country with a loud popular voice and as public opinion tends to swing, once it starts to swing in a certain direction it doesn’t easily swing back.
Among the American Congress there were those saying that although at first we were playing the same game with Japan, but with different rules, now they are saying we are in the same stadium, but playing different games. Even though we are supposed to be playing baseball, Japan is playing basketball.
In a ‘Business Week’ (7 August 1989) survey of public opinion (telephone interview of 1250 chosen by random sample) that asked whether Americans thought the military threat from the former Soviet Union, or the economic threat from Japan was of greater significance, 22 percent chose the Soviet Union, and 68 percent chose Japan.
Recently, similar statistics to this can be seen often. The Soviet Union had long been a repellent, feared country, and a visit from the Soviet Premier would have alarmed the American people. Having said that, no-one has the appeal of President Gorbachev.
Toshiki Kaibu got a good press when he recently visited America. I heard that Mrs. Kaibu acted wonderfully, in particular, the fact that the couple held hands on their arrival in San Francisco. No Prime Minister has ever done that. Until now the man would walk ahead and his wife would follow behind, but Mr. kaibu took his wife’s hand.
Even this should help Americans to see that Japan has changed. Mr. Kaibu is also young, some people think him still in his 30s and his wife also spoke out magnificently, and was well received on the American side. I think Mr. Kaibu was the first Prime Minister to visit America and leave such a good impression.
However, the interest of the America people and the mass media when Mr. Gorbachev visited with his wife Raisa was on a different level, and he even earned himself the nickname “Gorby”. Looking at “Gorby”, people felt an affinity with the Russian people, who were seen as “just like us”.
Raisa also appealed to the American public. In doing so, even though the Soviet Union may be playing a completely different game, they didn’t appear to be. They were probably playing the same game by the same rules, it was thought. It was the Japanese that appeared alien, playing a different game and having as threatening presence.
(Continued in Volume 13)
( Extract from"Nijuisseki e" (Towards the 21st Century), published by WAC)