Japan: Sick Man of Asia?
Recorded on March 30, 2009
Location: The Heritage Foundation's Lehrman Auditorium
Near-term uncertainties abound in Japanese politics, affirming
the Japanese proverb, "one inch ahead is darkness." A
revolving door of prime ministers suffering from low public support
has raised questions over the fate of the ruling Liberal Democratic
Party while a seemingly inevitable opposition party election
victory has been derailed by political scandal. The upcoming
legislative balloting is again a horse race but both parties are
weakened and neither is generating strong voter enthusiasm.
Would a victory by the opposition Democratic Party of Japan lead
Japan to assume a bolder leadership role in Asia? Or will the
next prime minister, whoever it is, preside over a Japan that
continues to founder economically, with a political system
seemingly designed for inefficiency, and acquiescent to China
filling the Asian leadership vacuum? During a time of crisis,
can Japan overcome its doldrums and exert strong political and
economic leadership or will it continue to punch below its weight
on the international stage? Should Washington continue to
press Tokyo to assume a larger security role in Asia and globally
or lower its expectations for the bilateral alliance?
Despite its problems, Japan has greater economic and financial
capabilities than its neighbors, which could enable it to play a
strong role. Tokyo can rightly argue that it hasn't received
enough credit for its economic contributions, instead being
overshadowed by international enthusiasm over China's growing but
still smaller role.
Panelists will discuss the potential and challenges to Japan
assuming a larger, more dynamic leadership role on the
international stage, as well as the long-term implications for the
United States and Asia of a "sleeping Japan, rising China?"