This collection of lucid essays by leading experts takes stock of Japan’s many problems: extreme susceptibility to natural disasters, an aging society, the decline in permanent employment, a lack of women in the work force, excessive limits on immigration, a paralyzed energy policy in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, a weak manufacturing sector, high government debt, and the rapid turnover of political leaders. All of that adds up to a fairly grim portrait. Only two chapters are moderately optimistic, noting Japan’s technological lead over China and the political system’s ability to gradually generate a stronger security posture in response to Chinese assertiveness, despite frequent changes of administration. Japan is still a formidable force in the global economy and in regional politics. Yet solutions to its problems seem to be blocked by a combination of cultural preferences and vested interests.
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.