Treading in Japanese footsteps: Insight into the Japanese miracle
By Srimal Fernando, Global Editor, The Diplomatic Society & Prateek Joshi
The Japanese call their country Nippon, which means “origin of the sun.” As Japan has surged to the scene as a world leader, the country has received a great deal of attention. Japan, having the most technologically advanced society in the world, enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the world. The people of Japan are known worldwide for their sophisticated approach towards life, combined with great concern for style, fashion and appearances. The country is also modern in every sense of the word, from its super-efficient Shinkansen bullet trains, cloud-tickling skyscrapers, world-class hotels with unparalleled service and astonishing scenery.
Mount Fuji, Japan, is one of the most famous mountains in the world
The year 1945 is unforgettable in Japan's history. The Second World War and the devastation caused by the two atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki cities in recent history was proved to be an extremely sobering experience which caused so much suffering for the people of Japan. The magnitude of destruction seemed to have sealed the fate of Japan for several generations to come. Since the end of Second World War Japan embarked on a series of reforms towards economic prosperity. Japan became one of the world’s most impoverished countries but witnessed unprecedented economic growth during this period, competing with the world's other leading economies. However, post war Japan presented a totally different scenario. In no time Japan revived and set itself on a trajectory of high economic growth. Besides the techno-economic transformation, what won Japan international recognition was the generosity with which the Japanese have shared the fruits of their economic growth in terms of technical assistance and aid projects. The success story of Japan, currently the world’s third largest economy with USD $ 4.6 trillion gross domestic product (GDP) (World Bank 2014), needs detailed insight.
The story of the Japanese economic success began several decades ago, when the economy of the country grew to astounding double digit figures. Though the material forces were of immense importance to build Japan, Japanese cultural values formed the basis of the development process. Without the sincerity, ethics and discipline of Japanese society, such transformation wouldn't have been possible. The Japanese growth story is a result of a fine balance of American assistance and government intervention. But, over and above all this is the most important fact to understand that Japan has successfully managed to transform the barriers in its favour. To quote it differently, Japan’s challenges have been clouds with their silver lining. Numerous examples can be given in this regard.
Constitutionally, Japan has renounced war, which means a focus away from military expenditure. Hence, the Japanese had more resources at their disposal for more productive purposes. Moreover, the Japanese territory is characterised by lack of natural resources. Despite these odds, they have emerged as the leading producer of automobiles and electronics. Given the majority of Japanese terrain being that of volcanic islands, Japanese agriculture is one with the world’s highest yields per hectare. The Japanese economy took off with its informal cartel of industries known as ‘keiretsu’. ‘Keiretsu’ was a loose grouping of industries which were an interlocked relationship through purchases of each other’s shares which helped to insulate themselves from stock market turbulence. A number of banks were established which used to over lend to the nascent industry, which served as the backbone of the Japanese economy.
The Japanese automotive industry is one of the world’s largest automotive industries which were carefully nurtured under the protective environment till it was ready to match the global competitive standards. The takeoff stage for Japanese automobiles came at the time of the 1973 oil embargo by the OPEC States. It was at this time when fuel efficient Japanese cars flooded the global market, chiefly the American market. Alongside the automobiles, the Japanese electronics industry is also a world leader with brands like Sony, Hitachi, Toshiba, Panasonic etc being the renowned ones. It has been possible due to strong import protection measures and generous funding support by the banks. This shows an export oriented tilt.
Japan also generously contributed to the developing economies through aid, technical and economic assistance. In 1966, Japan oversaw the founding of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), for lending to the developing economies of Asia Pacific. It is the largest shareholder of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), with 15.67 percent ownership. Another institution started by the Japanese is Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA ), which is Japan's official development assistance agency to provide technical assistance, aid and loans. Globally, the Japanese have been leading contributors in assisting developing countries in fields like road construction, healthcare programmes, metro rail projects etc. Recently, Japan has increased its support for clean energy in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster.
Japan is indeed a silent superpower which has captured not only the global industrial markets, but also the hearts of people worldwide through its unconditional support for underprivileged nations to come on par to reap the fruits of an increasingly globalised world.