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Under the Security Umbrella: Japan's Weak Storytelling to the World



Why the weak strategic communications in a year that began with so much auspicious global publicity for Japan? 2020 was to be the year of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, the country’s big reveal to the world nine years after suffering the triple disaster—earthquake, tsunami, and Fukushima meltdown—known as 3/11.
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Volume 8 | Spring 2020
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Disinformation’s Societal Impact: Britain, Covid, And Beyond
Understanding Fake News: A Bibliographic Perspective
Under The Security Umbrella: Japan’s Weak Storytelling to the World
AI Ethi: A Strategic Communications Challenge
Communicating Threat In An Era of Speed and Fetishised Technology
ISSN: 2500-9486
DOI: 10.30966/2018.RIGA.8
Defence Strategic Communications | Volume 8 | Autumn 2020
DOI 10.30966/2018.RIGA.8.5.
A Review Essay by Nancy Snow
Japan Rearmed: The Politics of Military Power
Sheila A. Smith. Harvard University Press, 2019.
National Identity and Japanese Revisionism:
Abe Shinzo’s Vision of a Beautiful Japan and Its Limits
Michal Kolmaš. Routledge, 2019.
Peak Japan: The End of Great Ambitions
Brad Glosserman. Georgetown University Press, 2019.
Keywords—US-Japan relations, US-Japan Security Alliance, strategic communication,
strategic communications, national identity
About the Author
Dr Nancy Snow is Pax Mundi Professor of Public Diplomacy, Kyoto
University of Foreign Studies and 2020 Walt Disney Chair in Global Media
and Communications, Schwarzman College, Tsinghua University. Like Sheila A.
Smith, Snow was an Abe Fellow at Keio University where she researched Japan’s
public diplomacy after 3/11 and published Japan’s Information War (English and
Japanese versions).
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174 A Country with Diminished Marginal Returns
‘Japan is understudied, undervalued, and underappreciated in the analysis and
conduct of international relations.1 Brad Glosserman’s opening sentence in his
book, Peak Japan, could not be any more obvious for those of us who reside in
Japan, or any more true as it applies to the Japan of this century and specically
Why the weak strategic communications in a year that began with so much
auspicious global publicity for Japan? 2020 was to be the year of the Summer
Olympics in Tokyo, the country’s big reveal to the world nine years after suffering
the triple disaster—earthquake, tsunami, and Fukushima meltdown—known as
It was preceded by a successful run of global persuasion events in 2019, from
the seamless abdication of the Chrysanthemum Throne by Emperor Akihito
that marked the end of the Heisei era to the ascension of his son, Emperor
Naruhito. Japans Foreign Ministry provided an English translation of the new
era, Reiwa, as ‘beautiful harmony’, despite more common meanings of ‘Rei’ ()
in modern Chinese and Japanese as ‘command’ or ‘order’. This was also the rst
Japanese era naming from which the characters were drawn exclusively from
Japanese classical literature; in the past, era naming was drawn from classical
Chinese literature. The smooth Reiwa transition was followed in June 2019 by
Japan’s turn hosting the G20 Summit in Osaka, just three years after Prime
Minister Abe convened the G7 Ise-Shimla Summit in May 2016.
What could have been Japans and Abe’s leadership moment in the spotlight
was overshadowed by American presidents. Obama’s speech at Hiroshima in
2016 was instantly translated into Japanese and became a bestseller in a country
whose national identity is intertwined with its relations with another country.
At the G20 Summit in Osaka, the Japanese government and foreign affairs
ministry relinquished its hoped-for global leadership reins by acquiescing to
the American president and the senior advisers he had in tow, daughter Ivanka
Trump and son-in-law Jared ‘making the peace process in the Middle East great
again’ Kushner. It looked as if the G20 were taking place in Washington and the
people of Osaka were all but banned from the members-only venue.
1 Glosserman, Peak Japan, p. 1.
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For Japan, like the rest of the world, 2021 cannot come fast enough. This year’s
3/11 coincided with the World Health Organization’s announcement of the
global COVID-19 pandemic. Japan’s weaknesses are on display in glaring detail,
beginning with the wide conversational gap between Japan and the English-
language global media. Outside of the Japanese diplomatic community, an
English-speaking government spokesperson who can carry on a live television
interview with a foreign reporter is rare. Tomohiko Taniguchi, Abe’s spokesman
and speechwriter, and diplomat Noriyuki Shikata, former director of the Ofce
of Global Communications, are two prominent communicators of Japan’s
international messaging. In the COVID-19 era, Tokyo Metropolitan Governor
Yuriko Koike, with her broadcast journalism background and overseas education,
has earned higher marks than Abe for holding press briengs in English. At
the highest levels of government, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is unable to
carry on a conversation in English. This is not to dismiss the point that there
is a predominant Americanisation or Englishisation of international relations,
which in some academic circles counts as a form of cultural imperialism.
Hegemonic or not, Japan needs more English speakers. It was once all so
different and promising. At the time of Akio Morita’s death in 1999, The
Washington Post described his life as equal parts cultural diplomat and company
CEO: ‘Garrulous and uent in English, he traveled abroad extensively and
counted as friends such people as the late conductor Leonard Bernstein and
Katharine Graham, chairman of the executive committee of The Washington
Post Co.; US ambassadors were guests at his home in Tokyo.’ Morita, like UN
High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata, transcended their nationality.
They were global citizens, with Morita playing the role of master conductor. In
his autobiography, Made in Japan, he writes: ‘Our plan is to lead the public with
new products rather than ask them what kind of products they want.’
Glosserman’s astute observation would be an unimaginable statement in the
1980s. The United States reeducated Japan after its defeat in World War II
and, by the 1980s, it felt like the most studious pupil in democratic capitalism
had outgrown its instructor. The fear then was that Japan, Inc. would overtake
America, Inc., long before there was any concern about a rising China. Not only
was Japan’s binge buying of cultural landmarks in Hollywood and Manhattan
threatening American soft power, but also Japan, with its growing economic
power, was being perceived in Washington less as employee and more as
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176 Japan’s prowess was paradoxically fascinating and disconcerting in its challenge
to the US and to the West, warranting a global interest that it cannot hold
today. Imagine a country whose real estate speculation became so ‘Wild West’
legendary that the land below the Imperial Palace in Tokyo was once said to have
higher speculative value than the entire state of California. Shintaro Ishihara’s
1989 bestselling book (co-authored with Sony’s Morita), The Japan That Can Say
No: Why Japan Will Be First Among Equals, was translated into English in 1991
for an American audience. It was Japan’s last hurrah before things began to go
in a southerly direction. In it, the future Tokyo Metropolitan Governor (1999–
2012) spelled out a common sentiment among rightwing conservatives—Japan
follows no one: not the United States in the 1990s, and not, by extension, China
today. It called for a strong and independent military separate from the United
States. Ishihara’s charismatic prognostications aside, none of this bore out.
Japan’s dutiful economy continued to make products that over time were much
more cheaply manufactured elsewhere throughout Asia.
Japan was doing exactly what it was forced to do under occupation (1945–
52) with the creation of the toothless Japan Self-Defense Forces. With an
imposed orientation toward non-intervention and a total focus on rebuilding
its economy, Japan received add-on ‘gifts from heaven’—American reforms that
gave women the right to vote, broke up feudalistic landlord control of rural
areas, and strengthened labor unions. Likewise, the victorious US reeducated
Germany from its fascist past and, although Germany continues to host US
troops, its political leadership is unquestioned, while Japan by comparison is
politically-stunted. Germany is acknowledged as the leading state of a weakened
EU. Japan has no comparable regional position, certainly not in East Asia,
where neighbourly political economic relations go hot and cold, bitter histories
pervade the atmosphere, and China casts a long military and maritime shadow.
The Japanese economy was once projected to overtake the US economy by
2000. As late as 1990, books still abounded about how to be more like the
Japanese in business management. To spur growth, US companies needed to
adapt their workers to the Toyota Way or the Honda Way of weigela, a made-up
Japanese word loosely translated as hubbub or chatter, to signify the chaotic
communication and disagreement buzz that leads to continued improvement on
the production line. Akio Morita’s 1986 biography Made in Japan: Akio Morita and
Sony, became an international bestseller and was translated into twelve languages.
Morita wrote, ‘I believe there is a bright future ahead for mankind, and that future
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holds exciting technological advances that will enrich the lives of everybody on
the planet. Only by expanding world trade and stimulating more production can
we take advantage of the possibilities that lie before us. We in the free world
can do great things. We proved it in Japan by changing the image of the words
‘Made in Japan’ from something shoddy to something ne.’ A nearly fty-year
trajectory of growth was all but gone by the lost decade of the 1990s. All that
is left of Ishihara’s and Morita’s vision is a stagnant economy, a declining and
aging population, a weakened higher education system that struggles to keep up
with its upstart authoritarian neighbouring state, and nonsensical nationalism.
In my talks on Japan as a nation-brand, I show a photo of Morita on the May 1971
cover of Time magazine with the heading, ‘How to cope with Japan’s business
invasion’, or the New York Times Sunday magazine cover from September 1988
showing Morita embracing pop singer Cyndi Lauper with a caption that reads,
‘Sony and CBS Records: What a Romance!’ The students are nonplussed. I
tell them that Morita’s Sony and Matsushita’s Panasonic were the Apple and
Microsoft of their era. Morita said about Sony’s success that ‘curiosity is the key
to creativity’. So where is the curiosity of the young Japanese students I regularly
encounter in the classroom? They don’t know who directed Tokyo Story while their
lm buff peers outside of Japan do. They are hard pressed to name one Akira
Kurosawa lm. They are apathetic to Japan’s postwar rise in signicance—when
a nation of pragmatists shifted from imperial war ambitions to manufacturing
goods that the world didn’t even know it wanted until it was presented with
them. We’re often told that in life there are only two guarantees, death and
taxes. But I tell my Japanese students that there is a third guarantee: The United
States and Japan will never go to war against each other. They should not only
embrace that guarantee but also be able to explain why Japan-US relations are
so important to the rest of the world. It isn’t for any military reason. It’s an
arranged marriage that has outlasted any conventional marriage. As Glosserman
points out, Japan’s economic success after WWII led to complacency in the
present generation of young people, who cling apathetically to Japanese values
and comfort foods. I once asked my class: Would you take your dream job if it
were located outside your home country? None of the Japanese students said
yes while all of the international students said they would. I asked them to tell
me why in writing. One Japanese male said that he would worry that he couldn’t
nd ingredients overseas to make Japanese food.
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178 Japan to the World: We Don’t Need to Explain
Japan is mostly quiet on the global and Western front. Its weak international
relations prole is acknowledged from the chambers of the parliamentary
Diet to the high-rise executive suites of advertising giant Dentsu. Government
ministers inside the Gaimusho [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] and at the Prime
Minister’s Ofce of Global Communications bemoan the taciturn international
[mukuchina kokusai] reputation Japan has among its economic peers in the G7
and G20 and in intergovernmental organisations like the United Nations.
Takashi Inoue, Chairman and CEO of Inoue Public Relations in Tokyo, says
that Japan possesses a ‘unique communications format due to the impact of
its homogeneity and the inuence of Confucianism’. Unique. If there were
one overused word to describe Japan, unique might be it. The Japanese are
unique, the island nation is unique, the culture is unique, the cuisine is unique,
the language is unique. Even the four seasons are unique, or so it was explained
to me in a PowerPoint presentation designed by a group of Japanese executives
who had spent a year studying how to represent Japan to the world. Nihonjinron
[theories/discussion about Japan and the Japanese] is the name for this cultural
nationalism. It is just part of the story as to why Japan suffers so much in
explaining its identity to the world.
The other challenge is Japan’s sense of superiority in all matters except for its
relationship with the United States. As Michal Kolmaš points out in National
Identity and Japanese Revisionism, a sense of national identity superior to China,
Korea, the rest of Asia pervades, just beneath the surface of Japanese tatemae
[public behaviours and attitudes], commingling with an arrogant aversion to
having to explain itself. Japan has always operated in a hierarchical structure,
both internally and also in its relations with the outside world. Even the ritual
of exchanging meishi [name cards] is a rank and order rolodex for the mind.
Kolmaš observes that Japan’s acceptance of much of Western modernity during
the Meiji period paved the way for the country to differentiate itself from what
were thought to be backward Asian countries. ‘Japanese narratives have tended
to portray Asia as inferior to Japan.’ With that in mind, it does not take much
to understand Prime Minister Abe’s focus on becoming the great xer, making
Japan great again—not great 1950s style à la Trump, but more like the Japan
that existed before its postwar infantilising security submission to America.
Abe’s 2012 election campaign slogan was Nihon wo torimodosu [‘I will recover/
regain Japan’] explained in his books, Toward a New Country and Toward a Beautiful
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Country, where he portrays himself as the proverbial man with a plan. But as
Brad Glosserman reveals in Peak Japan, the country’s demographics (126 million
and declining) and its Mt Fuji of national debt (270% of GDP, the highest of
any developed democracy) forecast driving winds against Japan’s rst-tier status.
It all begins and ends with the Japanese people and their attitudes. Glosserman
doubts that the majority of the Japanese people share Abe’s, much less the
government’s, ambition to be a major power player that can stand on its own
beside China and the United States. The pacist mindset built into Japan’s 1947
Constitution has pacied the country as a whole. It is hard to imagine tolerance
for any normalisation that might involve Japanese troops returning in body bags.
Glosserman is deputy director of and visiting professor at the Tama University
Center for Rule-Making Strategies; he served as executive director of the Pacic
Forum International in Honolulu for sixteen years. As a senior scholar and Japan
watcher, he offers readers a lively discussion on Japan’s loss of dynamism. In
contrast, Kolmaš is an active and ambitious junior scholar who rst visited Japan
just twelve years ago. Being Czech, he nds himself in familiar territory when
he explores intercultural differences related to national identity. Reading Kolmaš
is like participating in a highly interesting Theories of International Relations
class. He dissects Abe’s vision of a beautiful Japan using theoretical assumptions
—constructivist, neo-realist, and post-structuralist—drawn from European
debates about security. He offers a refreshing analysis that breathes life into
Glosserman’s negative prognosis by using national identity as an analytical tool
to explain state behaviour, a long-overlooked point of view in political science
and international relations. He then goes further to answer questions about
how political concepts are socially constructed, more in keeping with gender
theory, green theory, and post-structuralism. He even holds up a mirror to Hans
Morgenthau, dean of the dominant school of international relations, who,
in 1948, wrote in Politics Among Nations that ‘the kind of interest determining
political action in a particular period of history depends on the political
and cultural context within which foreign policy is formulated’. Culture and
identity—state and individual—determine national interests and socioeconomic
Both Kolmaš and Smith write about Japans military power, but from very
different perches. Kolmaš, assistant professor at the Metropolitan University
in Prague, offers a new theoretical approach to Japanese national identity in
international relations. Of the three authors, Kolmaš has the most ambition
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180 about moving the needle forward in how global scholars talk about Japan.
His scholarship not only serves to advance his career in the academy but also
helps a spectrum of stakeholders—from old Japan hands and other non-
Japan-hand scholars to curious observers—to understand why Japan continues
to nd itself unable or unwilling to raise its global prole in diplomacy and
security. Specically, his research poses three main questions: How is national
identity constructed and reconstructed? How did Japan’s post-war pacist
identity emerge? What inuence does the pacist identity have on Shinzo Abe’s
contemporary revisionism?
Sheila A. Smith’s name is well-known among scholars of Japan. More impor tantly,
she is the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Senior Fellow for Japan Studies
and her recent book, Japan Rearmed, was published by Harvard University Press.
The Japanese conundrum, heard ad nauseum in security policy circles in Tokyo,
is printed on the book sleeve: ‘Japan has one of Asia’s most technologically
advanced militaries and yet struggles to use its hard power as an instrument of
national policy.’ Smith was an Abe Fellow at Keio University (2007–08) where
she researched Japan’s foreign policy toward China, and she holds a Ph.D. in
political science from Columbia University. She has been a visiting researcher
at leading Japanese foreign and security policy think-tanks, including the Japan
Institute of International Affairs (JIIA), a think-tank connected to the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs. Before joining the CFR, Smith was at the East-West Center
in Honolulu, Hawaii. This pedigree is important to understanding how detailed
and dryly predictable her analysis of Japan’s defence policy is. It is shaped, she
says, by three principal factors: the US-Japan security alliance, domestic politics,
and external threat perceptions.
When Smith says something about Japan, the world pays attention and Japan
listens and nods along. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage for Japan’s
storytelling. An underappreciated Japan gets noticed when Smith publishes,
but her prominence brings into sharp focus the fact that Japan cannot produce
either an organisation equal in authority to the Council on Foreign Relations or
a comparable Japanese native Senior Fellow for American Studies. The reality of
Japan’s dependency on the United States for its own global messaging is like an
anti-cherry blossom phenomenon: it just never dies. Japan is a US ally, but one
that does not have equal status with its security benefactor. In fact, and in rank,
Japan is the weaker interlocutor. One might consider the position of the US as
the spoils of victory going back to World War II, but it’s more than that. Japan’s
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lack of an equivalent inuence to Smith means that Japan’s narrative about itself
does not originate in Tokyo, Okinawa, Sapporo, Osaka, Kyoto, or anywhere else
in Japan. It begins and ends in Washington.
Smith’s book has 240 pages of text and 72 pages of notes, but her narrative
voice is lacking. There is no ‘as seen through the eyes of ’ biographical ourish,
nor does she provide much in the way of a theoretical underpinning. This
book does not give the Japan-curious much access. As a close Japan watcher
for the last eight years, I kept waiting for her expert opinion to rise above the
descriptive. It did in a few sections. She pulls back the curtain a bit to reveal
how much ‘Tokyo 2020’ was part of Abe’s nostalgic vision for a beautiful Japan
and a reconstituted Constitution. Smith writes that, in a video message Abe
prepared for his pro-revision supporters in May 2017, ‘he linked constitutional
revision with the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics, arguing that, just as the 1964
Olympics had been a new beginning for postwar Japan, so too would the 2020
Olympics be a moment of rebirth for the nation’. His plan was to revise the
Constitution within a few years of this message. Smith writes:
The Japanese public remains sensitive to the possibility of military action
abroad. The SDF [Self-Defence Forces] too have become accustomed to this
low-risk conditioning of their overseas deployments. No member of the SDF
has died abroad, while Japanese police, diplomats, and aid workers have lost
their lives. Should Japan’s military be found wanting in response to a dangerous
situation abroad, or should the situation end up costing SDF lives, the Japanese
will have to decide if they are ready to accept that. If the SDF is to be effective
in international military coalitions, it will need to be able to confront risk.2
The risk avoidance conclusion Smith reaches in Japan Rearmed is that Japan is
ready, it is armed, but it does not accept that the best defence is a good offence.
Prognosticators of Japan’s Economy and National Identity
Both Glosserman and Kolmaš present Japan from a perspective much closer
to the ground, reminding us that Japan’s military is adapting to change—
assessing external threats and undertaking the global humanitarian need for
more Peacekeeping Operations (PKO) and international assistance operations,
such as Japan itself needed post-3/11. But neither author believes that Japan is
2 Smith, Japan Rearmed, p. 237.
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182 becoming a ‘normal’ militarist country. Within its cultural DNA is a strong need
to remain unique. As Kolmaš reminds us, the Japanese public still matters, even
if it is ignored. ‘All of the Japanese security laws in the last few decades were
passed despite massive political protests.3
Glosserman’s assessment of Japan’s national identity, economy, and security
is reected in the title of his book—Peak Japan: The End of Great Ambitions.
Japan’s ascendency has peaked. Regardless of headlines overselling Abenomics
and womenomics—more pipedream than reality, even at the start—this once
rst-tier nation is now on the wane. The weakening of the yen has prompted
droves of international visitors to ock to Japan, and its soft power appeal in
terms of culture and cuisine has never been higher, but beneath the dazzle of
its Michelin star restaurants, the structure cannot hold. Whereas Abe should
be credited for understanding the power of public relations in political matters
(slogans, buzzwords) he forgot rule number one: pigs shouldn’t wear lipstick.
After the colour fades, the pig will still be slaughtered. Glosserman is correct in
his assessment that the status quo persists despite calls for reform. Habits of
rhetoric, ritual, and consensus are hard to break. One need look no further than
to the Abe government’s coronavirus communications and its management of
the Diamond Princess debacle and postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
The Japanese sensibility does not jibe with the current political necessity to
‘brand ideas’ such as the normalisation of Japan’s Constitution. In the 1980s,
Akio Morita’s ‘It’s a Sony’ ad campaign helped get the world hooked on Japanese
electronics. What happened to that condence? The three books reviewed here
help uncover the pressure points in Japan’s global storytelling as we begin the
third decade of the 21st century. What is Japan’s story?
The Three G’s of Japan’s Story to the World
Shinzo Abe 2.0 returned triumphantly to the Prime Minister’s Ofce in
December 2012, where he remains to this day—the longest-serving prime
minister in Japanese history. Six months into Abe’s second term, I began my
Abe Fellowship focusing on Japan’s global strategic communications after 3/11.
I chose this as a starting point because it encompasses the nature/nurture
combination of unavoidable force majeure disasters (earthquake and tsunami) with
the avoidable human error (the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s mishandling
3 Kolmaš, National Identity and Japanese Revisionism, p. 19.
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of the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant meltdown). 3/11 also reignited
domestic opposition to nuclear energy expansion and government-industry
collusion. Once Abe secured the 2020 Summer Olympics for Tokyo in
September 2013, Japan was globally relevant again. But becoming relevant in the
eyes of the world cuts both ways. The media also turned a critical eye towards
the Abe administration’s public policies and ‘Abenomics’, and scrutinised
embarrassing events the administration would rather have kept quiet. A quiver
full of arrows was aimed at ministerial resignations, sales tax increases, low levels
of consumer condence, executive ats, and state secrets. Most controversial
has been the proposed revision of Article 9 of the constitution that would once
again give Japan limited powers to ght in foreign wars, not strictly in defence
of the nation as had been the rule ever since WWII. Global campaigns against
Japan’s whaling and dolphin hunting policies were soft power opportunities to
align national policies with global standards. But that didn’t happen. Japan took
offence at being told what to do in relation to its shing heritage.
Japan has persistent security challenges that I call the three Gs: gender,
generation, and globalism. As with Japan’s three Cs to avoid in the COVID-19
pandemic—closed spaces, crowded places, and close contact—there is no quick
x for these challenges. Each of the three Gs impacts military security readiness
and national identity.
In April 2013, when Abe laid out the details of his Abenomics plan, he said that
active participation by women would serve as the core of his growth strategy.
The major goal was to have no less than 30 percent of leadership positions lled
by women by 2020. The most recent World Economic Forum Global Gender
Gap Report shows that Japan is ranked 121st of 153 countries, just before
Kuwait and after the United Arab Emirates. This ranking is an all-time low for
Japan, which also makes its gender parity ranking the lowest of any developed
country. Among its G7 peers, Germany ranks highest for gender parity in 10th
place followed by France (15th), Canada (19th), Britain (21st), United States (53rd),
and Italy (76th). Japan fails to rank within the top 100.
Gender and Media Diplomacy Must Be National Priorities for Japan
‘Womenomics’ was the Abe administration’s dream for diversity and inclusion.
It was designed to increase the appointment of women to high-level public and
private sector positions and to support the creation of economic opportunities
for women. In the political empowerment category of the 2020 Global Gender
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184 Gap report,4 gender parity in Japan lags far behind the global average, with women
holding only 10% of parliamentary positions and 5.3% of ministerial positions.
This is seven years after Abenomics was set in motion. Women’s empowerment
continues to decline, despite ve high-prole ministerial-level World Assembly
for Women (WAW!) gatherings in Tokyo since 2014 that included speeches by
IMF president Christine Lagarde and her successor Kristalina Georgieva, along
with Trump presidential adviser and rst daughter, Ivanka Trump, who gave a
keynote in 2017.5
With regard to demographics, Japan is an outlier among Asia Pacic nations. The
generation gap in Japan is a common topic of concern with a high proportion
of ageing Japanese. A 2004 report by the Pew Center’s Global Attitudes Project,
A Global Generation Gap, cited no major generation gaps in Asia, except in Japan,
where 84% of older people thought that their culture was superior, compared
with only 56% of those under the age of 30 who held the same view. The same
report stated that there was ‘widespread agreement’ in Asia across all age groups
regarding the importance of learning English, a sentiment held in common with
other regions such as Latin America and Western Europe. (In the US and Britain
there was widespread agreement across generations that learning a foreign
language is important.) The lone exception was Japan, where 75% of those
aged 65 and older ‘completely agreed’ that it was important for children to learn
English, while only 45% of those aged 18–29 ‘completely agreed’.6 Although
the study is dated, more recent studies by Rakuten and McKinsey & Co and
my own interactions with hundreds of Japanese university students and elderly
people, reenforce the idea that there is no reason to believe the generation gap
is shrinking; attitudes diverge, not only with regard to learning English as the
global lingua franca, but also with regard to politics and culture.
Japanese exceptionalism persists. What’s more, the generation gap intersects with
gender inequality: more often than not, young women in Japan express greater
openness toward learning English and/or going abroad for travel or study.
Japanese females make up between 60 and 70% of all study abroad participants,
a phenomenon so noteworthy that it has spawned several new concepts in
4 See World Economic For um 2020 Global Gender Gap Report.
5 The fth World Assembly for Women WAW!/W20, was held at the Hotel New Otani Tokyo on March 23–24,
2019, three months before the G20 in Osaka.
6 These ndings are based on the Pew Global Attitudes Project’s surveys conducted during 2002 and 2003 among
more than 66,000 people in 49 nations plus the Palestinian Authority.
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public diplomacy research—‘gender diplomats’ and ‘gender diplomacy’.7 The
more globally-oriented mindset of women in Japan can be explained in part by
the expectations traditionally placed on the stereotypical salaryman, or corporate
(male) employee, to remain faithful to company and country for the chance of
promotion, but there seems to be something else at stake here.
The more leaders such as Abe emphasise women’s empowerment in Japan,
allowing for marriage/motherhood to be combined with work, the more
Japanese women—and not men—awaken to their global potential. This
new empowerment includes leaving Japan never to return. Nobuo Tanaka,
chairman of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation in Tokyo, said that the brain
drain phenomenon with regard to women in Japan is what led him to focus on
women’s empowerment. When he worked abroad at the OECD and the IEA,
he met many talented bilingual and trilingual female Japanese professionals who
told him that they had no plans to return to Japan, and even if they did, they
could not make use of their abilities there.8
Finally, globalisation/globalism, or the lack thereof, is an ongoing challenge
for Japan. The country has had incredible success in creating a relatively safe
and secure society, largely due to its traditional cultural values. The proportion
of Japan’s population in jail is one-tenth that of the United States. Japan’s
liberal democratic political structure, warts and all, is quite stable, though in
need of greater ideological diversity and greater inclusiveness in ideology in
political representation. Japan has much to be proud of—its prowess in science
and innovation, rich culinary traditions, and family culture. On the minus side,
individuals are discouraged from risk-taking and entrepreneurship—to be
blunt, Japan is a red tape nightmare. It also lags behind its regional neighbours
in understanding, explaining, and promoting its values and strengths to the
international community. This is where third-party advisors in Japan, who have
greater credibility than government spokespeople, can be of enormous value in
helping the country to hone its communications to the outside world.
7 See for example, Nancy Snow, ‘Japan must take lead in gender diplomacy’, Japan Times, 5 May 2017; Felicia
Istad, ‘Gender in Public Diplomacy’, USC Center for Public Diplomacy Blog, 20 February 2020.
8 See ‘Women’s empowerment works in Japan’s interest: A call for male leaders to realize its value and promote
it’, Sasakawa Peace Foundation. Interview by W20 Steering Committee member Renge Jibu with SPF Chairman
Nobuo Tanaka, 15 May 2019.
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186 Conclusion: Global Communications as If People Mattered
Unlike its immediate neighbours, South Korea and China, Japan has concentrated
its institutions of higher education (like its hot spot tourist destinations) in only a
few cities—Tokyo, Kyoto, and Sapporo. Japanese universities have no renowned
international relations departments, and public relations as a discipline does not
exist. Strategic communications, specically public relations or public diplomacy,
is largely a matter of on-the-job training. In contrast, China and the United
States have well-developed infrastructures for the study of communications
and international relations. At Schwarzman College in Tsinghua University,
where I work, teaching public diplomacy falls to the School of Journalism and
Communication and the Department of International Relations. As of yet, there
is little foundation to support the development of professionalism and global
sophistication that Japan needs to be able to communicate about its national
interests and security in the global arena.
The bilateral security alliance has been hotly debated in Japanese domestic politics
and among American elites. Issues that strain the longstanding relationship
continually crop up; for instance, the rift between mainland Japan and Okinawa
pertains to the vast US military presence in Japan’s poorest prefecture and the
seeming love/hate relationship native Okinawans have with local US military
bases. On mainland Japan, US bases are discreetly tucked away: Yokosuka
Naval Base is 61 kilometers from central Tokyo and Yokota Air Base is 54
kilometers distant. These military outposts go largely unnoticed by Japanese
citizens going about their business. More concerning are external threats from
a nuclear North Korea and an assertive China, particularly in the South China
Sea, where rumblings of a new US-China cold war percolate despite the global
public health crisis.
US-occupied post-war Japan had to ‘embrace defeat’. In place of an imperial
war system and a samurai past, Japan would be conditioned to embrace its
newfound aversion to war as a tool for resolving conicts. Article 9 of Japans
postwar constitution clearly states:
(1) Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice
and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a
sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as
means of settling international disputes.
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DOI 10.30966/2018.RIGA.8.5.
(2) In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph,
land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never
be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be
The Japan-US Security Treaty of 1960 further cemented the marriage between
the two countries. It was overseen by the unforgettable and formidable General
Douglas MacArthur on the American side and Shinzo Abe’s grandfather, Prime
Minister Nobusuke Kishi, on the Japanese side. In Rearmed Japan, Smith writes
forebodingly that since Tokyo can no longer ‘rely on Americans to defend Japan,
Tokyo’s political leaders are now confronting the possibility that they may need
to prepare the nation’s military for war’.
Under Abe, in 2015, the Japanese government gave $5 million each to Columbia,
Georgetown, and MIT to endow professorships in contemporary Japanese
politics. Japan’s political leaders may think it is gaining leverage in global capitals
by funding endowed chairs, but elites talk to other elites and travel in the
same small circles. The result has been a homogenizing reinforcement of the
power dynamic. Japan follows orders while Cambridge, in Massachusetts or in
the United Kingdom, gives them. Japan doesn’t follow the habits of its Asian
neighbours because its main economic competition is with the West. Japan’s
global communications needs an egalitarian overhaul. It does not need to grab
headlines such as ‘Japan sets aside $22 million to buff government’s global image
amid pandemic struggles’ published in April 2020 in The Washington Post about
the money earmarked for the foreign ministry ‘to dispel negative perceptions of
Japan related to infectious diseases’,9 and ‘to strengthen communications about
the situation in Japan—over the Internet and through its embassies’.10 In the age
of a global pandemic, a country that can communicate naturally and seamlessly
to both domestic and global publics is more likely to raise its global reputation.
In 2007, I published The Arrogance of American Power11 in response to what I saw
as an out of control executive branch engaging in a post-9/11 global war on
terrorism with no end in sight. When crisis comes, as it has come to us now, we
need all hands on deck, not just elected or self-elected leaders making unilateral
9 Simon Denyer, ‘Japan sets aside $22 million to buff government’s global image amid pandemic struggles’, The
Washington Post, 15 April 2020.
10 Ibid.
11 Snow, The Ar rogance of American Power: What U.S. Leaders are Doing Wrong and Why It’s Our Duty to Dissent,
(Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littleeld Publishers, 2006).
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188 decisions. The inspiration for my book came from The Arrogance of Power by
J. William Fulbright, the namesake of the exchange programme that brought
me to Germany as a student and to Japan as a professor. Fulbright wrote: ‘We
know so very much more about things than we do about people, so very much
more about the workings of jet planes and nuclear missiles than about our own
inner needs. We are exploring the mysteries of outer space while we remain
puzzled and ignorant about the mysteries of our own minds. Far more than
supersonic airplanes or rockets to the moon, we need objective perceptions of
our own fears and hopes and a broader perspective about our own society, our
relations with others and our place in the world.’12 Fulbright could have easily
been talking about Japan and its quest for an independent and critical voice on
the global stage.
12 Fulbright, The Arrogance of Power, p. 173.
The web of lies surrounding COVID-19 has been purposefully exacerbated by hostile actors, with researchers, analysts, and policymakers alike attempting to keep pace with unfolding disinformation narratives and subsequent effects on citizens. While the content of hostile disinformation narratives is relatively well-researched, how these narratives interact and are amplified to generate psychological effects requires further scrutiny. To address this gap, this study uses Russian COVID-19 disinformation combined with network methodologies to contextualize a novel hypothetical model of this process. Specifically, we conduct a content analysis of known disinformation articles about COVID-19 (N = 65) from Russian news sources (e.g. RT, Sputnik, New Eastern Outlook). Using co-occurrence network visualizations, we map the nexus between narrative and psychological effects to provide new insights and testable models of the effects of COVID-19 disinformation. Main findings show how hostile anti-Western narratives primarily target the emotions of anger, disgust, and confusion with the aim of undermining citizens’ trust in (supra-) governmental institutions and the media. This is the first step in a research agenda that can help media practitioners develop interventions and aid policymakers in bolstering societal resilience to hostile disinformation campaigns.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.