NZ2011 makes a very good point!
The problem is not only the decline of the population which will impact economic growth and power, but the extreme aging of the population as a whole. The negative effects will outweigh any positive effects (e.g. less violent crimes) The reasons for the low birthrate are so complex and difficult to solve that the government has no clue where to start. It goes to the very core of current Japanese society and culture, being back-ward in women emancipation, discrimination of women on the workplace, coupled with a serious relational gap between Japanese men and women.
The decline is going faster and faster, but moreover the demographic shift is strengthening the already excessive (voting) power the elderly population in Japan has. The few remaining young people in Japan, do not have steady jobs, lower income and are not interested in politics as they knowing it will not make a difference anyway. The reigning politicians of Japan average about 70 years, they are not interested in change , not in the future and certainly not in Japans young generation and children.
All of this means, that there will be no change in Japan, the growing group of elderly simply don't want anything to change (as long as the hefty pension paychecks are coming and health care stays cheap). Japan has already entered a “vicious circle” and without dramatic changes it will experience a slow death of the nation as a whole.
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I believe its both: It's only natural that a still developing country like South Korea catches up and surpasses Japan in many fields of industry.
However, at the same time, it is true that Japan lost its edge in many fields. As with its own dwindling population, the country is becoming an old, complacement man, who earned his money a long long time ago and now wants to live off from that old money. The younger generation of Japanese (whose number are also declining each year) have become complacent as well. Born in a rich developed country, with a comfortable social welfare system. There is no spirit, no will to succeed. There are no business entrepeneurs nor are their enough creative people who want to improve the situation. Instead, you got an army of bureaucratic Japanese workers, a lot of them also stuck in temp-contract jobs, who are just fine to live out their days with standard pay.
The only way for Japan to go is further down. Unless a dramatic changes occur (including in its corrupt and totally paralyzsed political system), Japan will experience a "slow death". Nothing spectular, just a year-on-year decline to nothingness, already surpassed by China, soon by South Korea and other countries who do have the will. Until one day the rest of world have pretty much forgotten about Japan's achievements in the past.
It's not a happy story and I wished it was otherwise, but I don't see any other scenario unfolding.
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China is no different know than Japan during the Meiji era and the following period until WWII. With no democracy, no human rights, an oppressive regime, rampant corruption and a nationalistic internal policy of indoctrination and propaganda.
The only difference is that China has at least 10 times the population of Japan, its economy will soon be the largest in the world. To assume then, that China will become a humble and peaceful nation, only aiming to preserve balance and focussing solely on immediate self-defence is very naive to say the least.
Indeed, looking at the way they China has already been bullying smaller nations such as Vietnam, Japan, and the Phillipines in recent years, its continuing campaign of obtaining intellectual property and Western military technology at any costs, the omens are not good.
Empires come and go, and it is now China's turn to prevail over all other nations. Let's hope China will use its new found power with great care and responsibility and create a better world for all of us.
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I totally agree!
Koizumi was a great exception on the sad bunch of policians in Japan. There are serious issues to be solved, and the current political clan doesn't have the will or competency to tacke even a sigle issue anytime soon.
What about Tōru Hashimoto, the young and energetic governor of Osaka? I hear good things about his performance. With a strong personality and disliked by many (old) politicians he seems like a great candidate for the Prime Minister's job. Unfortunately, lacking the old family connection and refusing to pay lip service to the likes of Ozawa, it is unlikely he will have a chance.
Let's keep hoping for actual change some day!
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