Pow! What Could Happen If Japanese ‘Cool’ Rode The Wave Of China's Industrial Boom

Analysis: As Japan tries to regain its late 20th century prowess in cultural exports, it should look next door to the steamrolling Chinese economy: both as a market and an industrial resource. A soft-power plan to conquer the world.

An Astro Boy poster
An Astro Boy poster
Daisuke Kondo

BEIJING – Culture and entertainment can sneak onto center stage in both global economics and diplomacy. Take the recent opening of the Japan Anime Festival 2011 in Beijing, where Japanese Foreign Minister Genba Koizumi and Chinese Cultural Minister Cai Wu shared their own childhood memories of watching manga films.

From the Astro Boy science fiction series of the 1960s to the latest Crayon Shin-chan, Japan's animation industry – not to mention related phenomena such as Hello Kitty or Nintendo electronic games – still exerts global influence.

Faced with a prolonged economic slump, the new government of Japanese Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda, has drawn up a new three-pronged national campaign to boost industry, labeled Life, Clean and Cool. "Life" covers the health and well-being fields, particularly associated with an aging population; "Clean" is for renewable energy; and "Cool" is for the creative industries like animation, television series, music, films, architecture, computer games, fashion and design.

On the "Cool" front, Japan's Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry opened in October the Creative Industries Promotion Office with a staff of 60. "Cool Japan" is its slogan for promoting the diffusion of Japanese culture in other countries.

The Cool Japan approach

Back in the second half of the 20th century, Japan adopted a "convoy" approach to marketing its products abroad. The Japanese government took the initiative to form a team of enterprises and promoted them as a whole package to the West. This was once the driving force of Japan's rapid post-war economic development. But over the past two decades, this force slowed down and eventually collapsed, under the weight of American resistance, the diversification of the market, as well as the rise of a more independent enterprise spirit.

Of late, the world has instead watched China's "troika" industrial and export policy. Driven by the Chinese government, its state-owned banks and state-owned enterprises marched proudly into the world market. Tokyo's response now appears to be Cool Japan, seeing this "soft power" strategy as the most effective way of spreading and maintaining its influence in the 21st century.

Under the government's guidance, Japan is unveiling its Cool Japan program in nine countries and 13 regions around the world. Currently, Japanese animation, comics, games and films are very well accepted overseas, but its export ratio is a very low 5%. The output simply does not meet the needs of the increasing Asian audience. For instance, integrating Japan's anime industry with Hollywood, so as to establish a Japan-America-Asia transmission model for Japanese culture would be critical. The trade and industry ministry has set a goal of more than tripling the present 0.7 trillion yen ($8.9 billion) worth of Japan's cultural products sold overseas.

I have my personal view as how to promote Japan's soft power. China and Japan should work jointly to seize the world market. There's already an example of such a joint venture. This year, "The Tibetan Dog", an animated film co-produced by Madhouse and the China Film Group Corporation has set a precedent.

When I saw the Chinese and Japanese ministers singing the Astro boy theme song together at the Japan Anime Festival, I was convinced that the two countries harvest from the same cultural soil.

Japan has the most advanced technology while China has the most talent. If they work together, like they did on Tibetan Dog, they'd be able to develop joint cultural products. This would be an invincible blend, first occupying the vast and growing Chinese market before exporting to the entire world.

Next year will be the 40th anniversary of China and Japan's normalization of diplomatic relations. Together Cool Japan and Hot China can join forces to advance a Sino-Japan cultural strategy.

Read the original article in Chinese

Photo - utpala

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How Low Trust In Government Fuels Violence Against Politicians

The deadly stabbing of UK MP David Amess confirms this researcher's ongoing study on trust and governance in democracies around the world: It's bad.

Tribute to slain UK MP David Amess in Leigh-on-Sea on Oct. 15

James Weinberg

The killing of British Conservative MP David Amess, who was stabbed to death in his constituency on October 15, is a tragic moment for democracy. What makes it even more devastating is that such a catastrophic failure is not without precedent or predictability. Labour MP Jo Cox was shot at her constituency surgery in 2016. Before her, another Labour MP, Stephen Timms, survived a stabbing in 2010. And Andrew Pennington, a Gloucestershire county councillor, died in a frenzied attack in 2001 while trying to protect local Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones.

This is to say nothing of the 2018 attack on the Palace of Westminster that left police officer Keith Palmer dead and MPs in a state of shock.

Beyond these critical junctures in the public debate about politicians' safety, elected representatives must live with an increasingly insidious level of popular cynicism that threatens violence on an almost daily basis.

Between the divisive politics of Brexit and the growing polarization of British party politics, MPs currently work in a low-trust, high-blame environment. Even before the existential angst and subsequent politicking of the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent Hansard Society audit of political engagement concluded that “opinions of the systems of governing are at their lowest point in the 15-year Audit series – worse now than in the aftermath of the MPs' expenses scandal."

The ramifications of governing in such an age of distrust are significant for the mental health and wellbeing of politicians. With colleagues, I've argued that such visceral and endemic distrust is a key stressor in political life. People are not simply wary or skeptical of politicians, they now routinely criticize their personalities and dismiss their good intentions. At its most severe, this “distrust stressor" manifests in the growing threat of physical violence faced by politicians.

Unfortunately, the distrust stressor is commonplace in the febrile climate of post-millennial UK politics. Serious cases of stalking and harassment have become a “common experience" for MPs. In the UK general election of 2017, for example, 56% of surveyed parliamentary candidates expressed concern about the levels of abuse and intimidation they had received and 31% said they had felt “fearful" during the campaign. Misuse of anonymous social media accounts has intensified these problems and created a toxic environment for elected politicians that regularly exposes them to online rape and murder threats.

Governing under threat

As part of an ongoing study of trust and governance in five democracies around the world, I recently carried out more than 50 in-depth interviews with junior and senior politicians in national legislatures, including questions on the stresses and strains of political life.

Reflecting on the ramifications of simply doing their job, one Conservative MP commented:

There have been votes that have been controversial, and you can then get a lot of abuse as a result of picking a side. My office has been vandalized, I've had stuff sent to me in the post, I've received death threats. And you do build up a very thick skin doing this job, there's no shadow of a doubt. Because one week in it, if you're not able to roll with the punches, you won't see through a whole term.

Almost 40% of interviewees were able to cite more than one instance of serious abuse or threats of physical violence. Not only are these experiences felt across both sides of the political aisle in the UK, but they also appear to be growing more common in other democratic contexts where the climate of politics has been presumed to be both calmer and more volatile. As one MP in New Zealand told me:

I've had some pretty horrible death threats and I've had a lot of abuse, particularly through social media. But also, funnily enough, in writing and phone calls. Unfortunately it's becoming more part of our political life.

Another, this time in South Africa, said:

What [this group of constituents] were saying is that if the water supply was not fixed by a certain time, they were going to kill me. And what they did is they took a tyre and said that this tyre was going to go around my neck and they're going to light it and that was going to be my demise. Listen, when you see your life flash before your eyes… you start to question whether it's worth it.

In the UK, analysis of data from the Representative Audit of Britain (a survey of all parliamentary candidates who stood in general elections between 2015 and 2019) suggests that the harassment, abuse and intimidation of elected and aspiring politicians is also highly gendered. Women politicians, and black and minority ethnic women in particular, experience a disproportionate share of sexualized abuse online. They also receive more aggressive and sexualized threats offline.

Contact between politicians and the public is at the very heart of effective democratic representation.

It is relatively easy to understand why all this would be detrimental to politicians' professional competence and their sense of personal worth and wellbeing, but it is harder to find solutions to this crisis.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has called for increased security measures in the wake of Amess's death. This is welcome but it's an instrumental response which might not be easy to implement. Political contact between politicians and the public is at the very heart of effective democratic representation – and it is unlikely that most MPs will agree to suspend constituency surgeries or fill their offices with armed guards at a time when governor-governed relations are already so strained.

Photo of \u200bNew Zealand's parliament in Wellington

New Zealand's parliament in Wellington

Guo Lei/Xinhua/ZUMA

Compassion and education

While specific issues around MPs' security and training are grappled with, we also need a call for conscious restraint and compassion in political discourse. When some politicians themselves resort to dog-whistle populism, verbal abuse and infighting, it broadcasts an image of politics as an arena for incivility. At the same time, it perpetuates a binary worldview that crowds out the possibility of empathy and compromise.

Alongside this, we need to overhaul the media coverage of politics. Increasingly intent on personalizing the political and politicizing the personal, a 24-hour news media too often drip feeds blunt stereotypes about politicians' personalities and motives. In contrast to much news coverage of politicians, my own research with hundreds of elected MPs and councillors has shown that the majority enter politics with an extraordinary dedication to improving the lives of others that is rarely perceived or appreciated by those they govern.

A deficit in democratic education leads to inflated public expectations about what is possible.

Equally important, nations around the world must commit to fully funded and well-resourced programmes of democratic education. Politics is messy and full of contingencies, and a deficit in democratic education leads to inflated public expectations about what is possible or desirable. In turn, this breeds disappointment and lowered self-efficacy, which together disrupt the positive potential of deliberative participation.

Ultimately, there is no place for political violence, harassment or intimidation in a functioning democracy. At the very least, politicians are ordinary humans attempting to undertake an extraordinary job on behalf of everybody else. Whatever their political views, nobody who has the courage to "step into the arena", to paraphrase Theodore Roosevelt, deserves to fear for their life in the pursuit of public service. To say that we need to rediscover civility and respect in our politics is once again an understatement of a devastating truth.The Conversation


James Weinberg is a lecturer in Political Behavior at the University of Sheffield

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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