Shrinking population the bane of Japan
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. email@example.com