Shrink­ing pop­u­la­tion the bane of Ja­pan

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

pos­si­ble na­tional se­cu­rity threats.

The US has been try­ing re­lent­lessly to di­rect global at­ten­tion to­ward China by por­tray­ing it as a coun­try that hacks se­cu­rity net­works of other coun­tries to steal trade se­crets. The in­dict­ment of five Chi­nese mil­i­tary of­fi­cers by the US De­part­ment of Jus­tice and the case against Su, based on muddy facts and lax ev­i­dence, show how des­per­ateWash­ing­ton is to dis­tract at­ten­tion from the NSA’s crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties.

The tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ment by China, too, is a fac­tor prompt­ing the US’ cam­paign to stem cy­ber-en­abled theft of high-tech data. China is nar­row­ing the gap with the US in com­pre­hen­sive na­tional strength and thus putting enor­mous pres­sure onWash­ing­ton to up­grade its in­dus­trial tech­nolo­gies. No won­der the US con­tin­ues to re­strict the ex­port of high tech­nol­ogy to China and strengthen its cy­ber se­cu­rity.

Although there has been no ex­plicit al­le­ga­tion of the Chi­nese govern­ment’s in­volve­ment in Su’s case, the un­der­ly­ing logic of the com­plaint hints at Chi­nese en­ti­ties, in­sin­u­at­ing that the Chi­nese govern­ment, mil­i­tary and Sta­te­owned com­pa­nies are the buy­ers of the al­leged stolen data.

As a vic­tim of cy­ber at­tack, China re­spects and fol­lows all the laws of cy­ber­se­cu­rity. The US is thus mak­ing a mock­ery of it­self by brand­ing China a “hack­ing em­pire” in order to main­tain its cy­ber hege­mony and blunt world anger against its global sur­veil­lance pro­gram.

The gov­er­nance of cy­berspace com­mands the con­certed ef­forts of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, and de­spite the dif­fer­ences be­tween Bei­jing andWash­ing­ton over cy­ber­se­cu­rity, there is enough room for di­a­logue and co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the two ma­jor play­ers in a wide range of cy­ber is­sues, in­clud­ing the for­mu­la­tion of norms of state be­hav­ior in cy­berspace. It will be of great help to not only the two coun­tries, but also the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity as a whole if Wash­ing­ton puts its dif­fer­ences aside to join hands with Bei­jing in deal­ing with cy­ber threats and mak­ing cy­berspace a more se­cure sphere. The au­thor is deputy direc­tor of the In­sti­tute of Amer­i­can Stud­ies at the China In­sti­tutes of Con­tem­po­rary In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions.

The na­tional cen­sus and sur­veys in Ja­pan point to a de­mo­graphic cri­sis. Ja­pan has one of the high­est life ex­pectan­cies and one of the low­est fer­til­ity rates in the world. As a re­sult, chil­dren below the age of 15 ac­count for a record low 12.5 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion, the Ja­panese In­ter­nal Af­fairs and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion­sMin­istry an­nounced on April 1. The per­cent­age of peo­ple aged 65 years and above has also hit a record, al­beit on the higher side: 25.6 per­cent.

The an­nounce­ment has left Ja­panese pol­i­cy­mak­ers, both cen­tral and provin­cial, wrack­ing their brains to solve this un­prece­dented de­mo­graphic prob­lem. Some of the sug­gested so­lu­tions were in­deed bizarre. For ex­am­ple, Tomon­aga Osada, mem­ber of Shin­shiro city assem­bly in Aichi pre­fec­ture, sug­gested that “punc­tured con­doms” be dis­trib­uted among mar­ried cou­ples to in­crease the birth rate. Osada has got a stern warn­ing from the assem­bly, and he also has apol­o­gized for his plan to turn the city hall into “a nice and friendly place” for cou­ples.

Another sug­ges­tion was to in­clude lo­cally grown yams in the diet be­cause they are be­lieved to be mild aphro­disi­acs.

In­May came a more shock­ing an­nounce­ment, this time from Ja­pan Pol­icy Coun­cil, a think tank, that half of Ja­pan’s towns and vil­lages would be de­void of women of child­bear­ing age within three decades.

The prob­lem is that, young Ja­panese are in­creas­ingly opt­ing out of mar­riage, par­ent­hood and even love­mak­ing. A re­cen­tMeiji Ya­suda In­sti­tute of Life andWell­ness sur­vey shows that 40 per­cent sin­gle men in their 20s had never had a ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ship with a woman, and more than two-thirds of sin­gle women in their 30s were look­ing for a hus­band who earned at least 4 mil­lion yen (or about $40,000) a year when less than a third of the re­spon­dents earned that much.

Agrow­ing num­ber of young Ja­panese­men­con­sider them­selves “her­bi­vores”— a term coined by Ja­panese edi­tor and colum­nistMaki Fuka­sawa in 2006 for straight­men­who have no in­ter­est in women. In the past 30 years, the num­ber of un­mar­ried Ja­panese­me­naged be­tween 30 and 34 has tripled. Many of them choose to be “her­bi­vores” be­cause they don’t want to live the life their fathers did — toil day and night to change the lives of their wives (mostly house­wives) and chil­dren.

More than 60 per­cent Ja­panese women leave their jobs af­ter de­liv­er­ing their first child, a rate that has not changed in the past two decades. Many women can’t find af­ford­able day­care cen­ters for their chil­dren and have no do­mes­tic helps to turn to. More­over, a woman’s chance of be­ing pro­moted re­duces dras­ti­cally if she mar­ries be­cause gen­er­ally man­agers don’t like women to take ma­ter­nity leave.

Also, Ja­pan’s cor­po­rate cul­ture of long work­ing hours, fol­lowed by com­pul­sory so­cial­iz­ing, makes it dif­fi­cult for mar­ried women to con­tinue work­ing af­ter mar­riage, es­pe­cially af­ter be­com­ing moth­ers. It also leaves Ja­panese men lit­tle time to help their wives with house­work and child­care. Re­search shows that on av­er­age Ja­panese men spend only one hour a day with their chil­dren.

In such cir­cum­stances, bring­ing up a child could be­come an ex­haust­ing solo job for moth­ers. Per­haps that’s the rea­son why 60 per­cent Ja­panese women in the so-called peak child­bear­ing age of 25 to 30 have not mar­ried.

Ja­pan’s Na­tional In­sti­tute of Pop­u­la­tion and So­cial Se­cu­rity Re­search says that the coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion would shrink to two-thirds from the present 127 mil­lion in 50 years and one-third in 100 years. And the land min­istry says that the shrink­ing pop­u­la­tion will leave more than 60 per­cent of the coun­try’s to­tal land­mass un­in­hab­ited by 2050.

The cur­rent Ja­panese ad­min­is­tra­tion vowed to keep the coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion above 100 mil­lion. But for that, as Ja­pan Pol­icy Coun­cil has pointed out, ev­ery 100 Ja­panese women have to bear 207 chil­dren, up from the cur­rent 141, which is eas­ier said than done.

Un­less there is a dra­matic change in Ja­pan’s birth rate or its rigid im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy, a fast-shrink­ing work­ing pop­u­la­tion will find it dif­fi­cult to carry the weight of the fast ag­ing pop­u­la­tion and main­tain even a healthy eco­nomic growth rate. In fact, if the cur­rent trend con­tin­ues, 40 per­cent Ja­panese would be 65 or above by 2060.

Ja­pan has to free its young peo­ple of the “celibacy syn­drome”, for which un­for­tu­nately there is no for­mula. It seems the coun­try has a tough task ahead. The au­thor is China Daily’s Tokyo Bureau Chief. cai­hong@chi­

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