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Japan Gives More and Expects Less, Despite Its Woes

Moshavi, S. (2000, March 14). Japan gives more and expects less, despite its woes. The Boston Globe, pp. A1, 11.

OVERVIEW

Japan’s four main islands and many smaller ones comprises an area of only 377, 819 sq. km. Yet its population is more than 126 million. Rich in history, Japan is a leader among Pacific Rim nations—and indeed the entire world. Among the nations of the world, it ranks eighth on the Human Development Index. Despite its recent economic woes, Japan remains one of the strongest economies in the world.

This article begins:

 

Japan may be suffering from a nearly decade-long economic down-turn, and running a huge budget deficit in an effort to stimulate its own economy, but it is spending freely in another significant area—foreign aid.

In fact, Japan—already the world’s largest donor of aid—is giving more money than ever, in hopes, analysts say, of bolstering its international clout.

 

Each year Japan has given 10.5 billion in foreign aid. This money has gone to projects like

  • Ships from Middle East that could bring oil to Japan.
  • Harbors in Indonesia.
  • Roads in the Philippines and Malaysia.
  • Bridges in Thailand.
  • Power projects in India.

Some of these projects were self-serving. But increasingly projects are being screened by criteria such as the democratization of the country and stabilization of the economy. And the amount of aid stands to increase some 14%. Japan can afford to engage in such largesse, not only because it is an economic power, but because it is a demilitarized country. It is following the example of Western countries in gaining international influence through foreign aid.

A development aid specialist at Hiroshima University, Shunji Matsuoka, explains:

 

Japan has lost confidence in its economic power, and doesn’t really have a clear image of the future, so overseas aid makes us feel like we can play a large role in the world. It’s almost psychological.

 

Japan’s putting forward a candidate for head of the International Monetary Fund this year would be an example of its seeking such world leadership. Especially in Asia, Japan is seeking to dispel any unfavorable images left over from its aggression in WWII. In Vietnam for example, Japan is providing, not only money, but lawyers to help in the stabilization of the country’s economic structure.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION

  1. Did you know of Japan’s generosity to other countries before reading this article? Why is so little known about this, do you think?
  2. What role of regional and world leadership should Japan fill?
  3. What responsibilities do rich individuals have in contributing to the poor? What responsibilities do rich nations have in sharing with poorer ones? To what extent should self-interest guide such contributions?
  4. Should trouble break out between China and Taiwan, how should Japan, India, the U.S. and the U.N. respond?

IMPLICATIONS

  1. Bad news, even among nations, seems to overshadow good news. World citizens should know a great deal more about benevolence among nations.
  2. Many people in the world have stereotypes about Japan and the Japanese people that should be overcome.
  3. There are increasing opportunities in the world to do good, and many young people today want to get in on chances to help others.

Dean Borgman cCYS