Report: 2022 1st FPCJ International Webinar
post date : 2022.07.08
On Friday, June 24, Foreign Press Center Japan held a webinar with the title “Harbinger State: Can Japan Be a Model for the World?” (Jointly held with the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) Tokyo Centre).
This webinar looked at whether other countries could learn from Japan as a “harbinger state,” with Japan having implemented initiatives to respond to issues it has faced ahead of the rest of the world such as an aging population and economic stagnation. After a keynote speech by an OECD Deputy Secretary-General, a panel of experienced international journalists discussed this topic.
The webinar had a total of approximately 120 participants, from diplomatic missions, embassies, universities, local governments, and businesses, as well as from Japanese and international media organizations.
*Follow the link below for the announcement of the webinar and panelist profiles.
*Playlist of the videos of the webinar is here
Summary (Uploaded on July 20↓↓↓)
Opening Statement by the Moderator: Mr. Kazuo Kodama (FPCJ President)
Mr. Kodama stated that the world’s perspective of Japan had changed as it entered the Reiwa era. The global media reported on Japan as a “unusual country” in the Showa era and as a “country in long-term stagnation” in the Heisei era, but in the Reiwa era a new viewpoint was being presented: “Many of the issues facing Japan are shared around the world, and other countries should learn from Japan’s successes and failures.” He explained the motivation behind holding this webinar, stating that he wanted to look at Japan as it really is with experienced journalists working in Tokyo, and create a “theory of Japan for the Reiwa era.”
Keynote Speech: Mr. Yoshiki Takeuchi (OECD Deputy Secretary-General)
From the perspective of an international organization which has carried out economic surveys (analysis and proposals) of Japan for years, Mr. Takeuchi evaluated Japan’s leadership in finance and infrastructure investment policies, as well as its response to the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery from disaster. However, he also noted how Japan was slow to move on energy policy and digital transformation of households, businesses, and public agencies. His speech included how Japan, which has dealt with a variety of issues, has contributed to the international community so far, and what challenges remain for the country.
Session 1: From a “Unusual Country” to a “Harbinger State”
Mr. Leo Lewis (Financial Times Asia Business Editor) commented that based on his experience working in China, China has been paying attention to Japan as a “harbinger state” for some time. He noted that although Japanese companies had many issues including facing a labor shortage and a shrinking market due to a declining birthrate and aging population, as well as being slow to globalize and insular, he was excited to see companies such as Honda which have been internationally successful.
Ms. Isabel Reynolds (Bloomberg Political Reporter) explained the three topics she was focusing on were the declining birthrate and aging population, immigration, and women’s participation in society, comparing Japan, the UK, and the US. She noted that unlike the West, the decision on whether or not to have children in Japan was generally not made for ethical or environmental reasons, but based on how much money it costs to have children. She also mentioned that Japan accepted a much lower number of immigrants than the UK, and that even if people immigrate to Japan they still face difficult obstacles in a number of areas. She also stated that Japanese women are under a lot of pressure from providing nursing care, raising children, and working, and suggested that there should be more mid-career hiring in order to help enable women to return to the workforce.
Mr. Noah Sneider (The Economist Tokyo Bureau Chief) commented that Japan has implemented initiatives on issues such as changing demographics and a low birthrate, and introduced initiatives on the declining birthrate introduced regionally in Japan as a lesson the world could learn. He suggested that there was no single solution that would work for the country as a whole, and initiatives and leadership decisions based on the circumstances of each region, along with the decentralized system that allows different regions to make their own decisions, were lessons that should be taught to Japan’s neighbors. He commented that although it was not well known, Japan’s birthrate was now the highest among developed countries in Asia, due to land readjustment in city planning in order to solve housing issues. He argued that the most critical issue the Japanese government should work on is reforming the labor market.
Mr. Tadakazu Kimura (International University of Health and Welfare Council and Specially Appointed Professor) also evaluated the Japanese initiatives mentioned in the keynote speech and by the other panelists, but noted that the issues of debt and energy self-sufficiency were ignored for a long time, and that it was a problem that policy was not made from a long-term perspective.
Session 2: Democratic Political Issues in a Harbinger State
Mr. Kimura explained that Japanese youths have less hope for the future than young people in other countries. While a growing number of youths approve of the status quo, there are also a growing number who have a vague sense of unease about the future. While noting the deleterious effects of a “silver democracy” as the population continues to age, he also commented that it was important not to place the responsibility for this hopelessness on politics alone, and to keep a positive attitude to go out into the world and meet new challenges.
Ms. Reynolds commented that Japanese youth did not have strong opinions on the way the world should be, and felt it was better to accept things as they are than to hold to ideals. She also noted that while politicians made various public pledges, many of them were empty promises. She suggested that Japanese people could become more assertive, but without confidence and a strong will to change things, they were hesitant.
Mr. Sneider spoke about how he felt a sense of déjà vu about “the youth in Japan believe that even if they vote, nothing will change” when he came to Japan as a correspondent after having been in Russia. He argued that Japan’s biggest problems were the lack of competition between political parties and the lack of choices for voters. He also stated that since Japanese youth don’t believe politics can change the world, even if they have their own worldview, they have no interest in entering politics in order to make it a reality.
Mr. Lewis noted that while Japan’s labor market was often said to be lacking in fluidity, neither businesses nor individuals were interested in changing that. He also commented that although CEOs were supposedly taking all stakeholder interests into account in a balanced fashion when operating businesses, if they actually placed importance on balance then things would likely be different. He suggested that if CEOs cared about their employees, it was strange to make them work such long hours. He pointed out the incongruity between the statements companies make and their actions. He argued that in order to improve corporate governance, visible results were necessary.
Questions were asked about Japan’s position and role post-SDGs and from the viewpoint of ASEAN members, and about democracy and the development and expansion of diversity.