Japan-An Asian Power like No Other

 Japanese interpretersJapan has been like no other Asian power since the beginning of the modern era. It was competing with European powers for overseas territories in the late nineteenth to early twentieth century at a time when the rest of Asia was largely capitulating before the might of European colonial power. Japan dominated Southeast Asia and China during the early years of Second World War, defeating the British in the early stages of the war. They even became the cause of dragging the reluctant Americans into the war with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Given their imperial ambitions at the time, the Japanese translation services industry must have been running in overtime.

After their defeat in the war, Japan successfully transitioned from an imperial expansionist power to an industrial one that swore by pacifism. In the process, they built some of the world’s most iconic and respected brands in the automobile, consumer electronics, trading, and a host of other sectors. As always, the role of behind the scene industries like Japanese to English translation services, certified translation services, and so on in making this possible has been immense.

The 21st century has seen a lot of talk about the other Asian power China inevitably marching to the spot of the number one power in the world, but Japan will always be Japan. Take the case of Chinese-Japanese trade, for example, valued at a whopping $350 billion,[1] easily one of the biggest instances of trade between two nations. Quite naturally the demand for Chinese interpreters as well as Japanese interpreters must be quite high.

Talking about who among the two will dominate the world stage, one needs to understand that even though China has surpassed Japan to become the number two economy in the world, unlike the latter it really hasn’t been a global maritime power like Japan has always been. Japan boasts of a more uniform spread of wealth and therefore greater stability. That apart, it is doing its best to secure its future, by investing in research into artificial intelligence, automation, and robotics, in order to retain its superlative efficiency.

Despite all the talk of the rise of global Chinese cities, Tokyo still enjoys the status of being the top Asian city when it comes to attracting global talent. It is right there in the third place among the top cities of the world,[2] with London and New York occupying the second and the third spots. No wonder that there has been an unending growth in the demand for Japanese interpreting services and Japanese translators.

The fact that Japan is going to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympic Games in Tokyo will ensure that the Japanese interact with many more foreign visitors and thereby shed some of their insular and reticent image. Again, the role of Japanese translation services will be of crucial importance in this.

Japan has of late, especially under the present Prime Minister Shinto Abe, decided to tone down its avowed pacifist military doctrine and prepare its troops for a more active global role. It sees itself facing threats from China and North Korea and seeks to protect its interests.

The Chinese-Japanese rivalry over superpower status sees them compete not just militarily but in multilateral economic fora as well. This is quite evident in the competition between the two to influence the members of ASEAN, a block of 10 Southeast Asian countries with a combined population of 600 million people. China invested $30 billion by way of loans in the region, while Japan invested $180 billion between 2011 to mid-2016.[3] Tellingly, Japan has supplied patrol boats to Vietnam to shore up their defence against an assertive China.

Japan’s emergence as a possible security guarantor in the region has been welcomed by some and caused concern in other quarters, in light of Japan’s far from benign imperial record in the region during the Second World War. However, Japan has more than made amends in the decades since then with its unflinching pacifist world policies.

In an era of Chinese ascendancy and declining U.S. power, and with President Trump publicly complaining about the U.S. having to spend money to ensure other nations’ security, it is perhaps just right for Japan to step up to the plate the way that it has. The next few years are going to be crucial in deciding the extent to which Japan is willing to flex its considerable muscles.

To the people of the U.S., Japan is the nation that makes some of the best cars, motorcycles, and consumer electronics in the world. It is also the land of Sumo wrestling and Manga comics. The fact that it was once an enemy country has long been forgotten. This is a testimony to the people and leadership of the two nations that they haven’t led the destruction of Pearl Harbor and the atomic bombing of two Japanese cities come in the way of them becoming model allies.

The U.S. would be quite comfortable with an ascendant Japan that shares its democratic values becoming an active partner in imparting stability to a region that promises to be an engine of growth for the world economy in this century. Japan was one of the first Asian countries to adopt Western ways of living a hundred and fifty years back. At the same time, it follows some uniquely Japanese values that help it strive for excellence in whatever it undertakes.

Now that it has decided to be more assertive in world affairs after a prolonged hiatus, we will have to wait and see as to what sort of miracle the land of the rising sun brings about. They have a long tradition of surprising the world and there is nothing to suggest that they won’t do it again.

After all, Japan is an Asian power like no other. If there is a nation that is primed to assume that mantle of a global superpower, it is the Japanese. This is something that the Japanese themselves are beginning to concede.

  1. https://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/1112/the-relationship-between-japanese-and-chinese-economies.aspx
  2. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/10/12/national/tokyo-still-top-global-power-city-asia-takes-third-spot-rankings-worldwide/#.W7JCyuJMTIU
  3. https://www.forbes.com/sites/ralphjennings/2017/03/22/japan-is-becoming-a-new-asian-superpower-thanks-to-china/#1a440d2475b9