Yukio Hatoyama, the leader of Japan’s opposition Democrat Party equates globalization to US dominance of the world in an article in the New YorK Times. He calls for Japan to form a closer alliance with other countries in its “sphere of being,” a rather thinly veiled reference to the Japanese Empire’s “Greater East Asia Co-Prospertiy Sphere,” to counter US hegemony. His appeal to latent Japanese resentment of America and long lost visions of being the dominent society in the Far East is aimed at energizing his political supporters in this weekend’s elections in Japan. The smart money is on his party tossing the ruling party out in a landslide upset.
I was surprised that this article was not festooned with Hatoyama standing in front of the Japanese naval ensign, a rising sun radiating power throughout the empire, wearing a head bank saying, “Banzai.” Yes, demogoguery is expected in elections and this is a fine example.
But I am not interested in Japanese elections other than to note that that country’s slow recovery form the Great Recession is a major factor. No, I am interested in his attack on globalization per se.
I find it a bit disingenuous for a Japanese politician to dis the very thing that has allowed his country to prosper in the post WWII era. Japan’s economic success is squarely based on its dealings with the entire globe, not its domestic economy. No other country has benefitted more from our increasingly interdependent world. To cry out against globalization in Japan is like a child protesting motherhood.
I also object to his suggestion that globalization is a development foisted on the rest of the world by an America seeking to keep other nations in its thrall. Globalization rests on one basic truth, the people of the world want the best products and services, at the best price possible. This simple idea has served to bring down barriers to trade and investment throughout the world. No wall can prevent the world’s population from acquiring what they want, when they want, and at the cheapest price. One could argue that the “Iron Curtain” ultimately fell victim to this demand. The visions of propsperity in the West undermined the strict control of the East.
Perhaps even more important, globalization has served to overcome poverty in much of the formerly poor countries of the world, including India and China, that alone hold one-third of the world’s population of 7 billion. Trade, not aid is more than a slogan, it is the formula that has allowed poor countries to catch up with the wealthier countries. China did not perform its massive economic transformation from a poor country to one that will overtake Japan soon as the world’s second largest economy through foreign assistance. It did it by engaging whole hog in the global economy. Ditto for India which had to shed its autarkic policies to enter the global economy.
In my book, railing against globalization is to deny the reality that the countries that have shed poverty and joined the ranks of the wealthier nations have done so by linking themselves more closely to those wealthier countries. Not by appealing to xenophobic sentiments.