Japan is at a diplomatic crossroad

Democracy is in the midst of a change across the globe. At the same time, the world order is crumbling. This contour will become even clearer and it may one day influence Japan. I would like to focus on its course this year.


Ever since the U.S. presidential election and the British national referendum three years ago, no day has passed without mention of populism’s growth with its exclusionary character. That is because both countries, proponents of freedom and democracy since the 19th century, have taken the first step onto a self-destructive path, making a historical mark.


photo credit to: https://unu.edu

Authoritarian nations such as China have steadily risen, spreading influence through growing productive and financial power. Authoritarian countries may present themselves as models if they wish but we cannot shut our eyes to the increasing possibility that some handsome portion of the world would accept it.


Lack of transparency, investments with little thought for the environment and safety or, more specifically, the combination of facial recognition technology and little respect for human rights being exported — such elements are undermining the standard that the world community had been tending to. Unfortunately, this situation will be bolstered as the quality of politics in major democratic countries degrades.


There are two elements behind the weakening of democracy. One is that as the middle class shrinks, income disparity widens, furthering class divisions. In the past, there was a strong middle class which supported centrist parties.


These two elements could be linked. The bottom most people of the shrinking middle class who toil without seeing real wages rise take out their frustration by targeting those on an even lower socio-economic class and on foreign workers. They may start becoming critical, asking why their taxes benefit the lower class and their wages are pulled downward by foreign workers.


Germany, where I recently visited, faces a similar situation. I asked a veteran researcher why the Social Democratic Party of Germany (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands) is rapidly losing support. He responded that their leaders were mostly highly educated elites who did not understand working class concerns.


Reference: OPINION: Toward rebuilding democracy, Japan is at a crossroads


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