Robert Dujarric in Japan Times: Immigrants can buoy Japan as its regional power gives way to China


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Hi Blog. Here is a thoughtful article from Temple University’s Robert Dujarric on how immigration might help Japan as its power wanes vis-a-vis China.

I will say, however, that if Japan offers the promise of domestic work, and if (to quote Dujarric) “Many individuals would start to study Japanese, in the hope of one day working in the country.”, then it had better make good on the promise of offering equal opportunity for advancement and assimilation regardless of background, by enacting laws that protect against discrimination.  We were made a similar promise under the purported “kokusaika” of the Bubble Era.  That’s why many of our generation came to Japan in the first place, and decades later feel betrayed by the perpetual second-class status.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


The Japan Times Thursday, May 20, 2010
Immigrants can buoy Japan (excerpt)
By ROBERT DUJARRIC Special to The Japan Times

It is not possible to spend more than a few minutes with a Japanese diplomat or scholar without hearing the “C,” namely China. Most of them are convinced that the People’s Republic is expanding its global influence while Japan’s is shrinking. The entire world, and most worryingly Asia, which used to look toward Japan when Harvard scholar Ezra Vogel crowned it “No. 1” now sees China not only as the country of the future but already as today’s only Asian giant.

There is an element of truth in this concern. China has deepened and expanded its economic, political and cultural reach in the past two decades. Japan, on the other hand, has failed to show the same dynamism. Past and current Japanese administrations have sought to counteract these trends, but their ambitions have generally been thwarted by the unwillingness to spend more (foreign aid, cultural diplomacy, etc.) and the power of the agricultural lobby, which has forced Japan to lag behind China in initializing free-trade agreements (the value of which may be disputed, but they do have a public-relations impact).

There is one area, however, where Japan could engage in a strategy that would simultaneously help its economy and give it an edge over China. This is immigration. Japan is unique among economies that are highly developed and in demographic decline in having so few immigrants. In fact, even European states that are in much better demographic condition also have large numbers of foreigners and recently naturalized citizens in their labor force.

The domestic economic advantages of a more open immigration policy are well documented. What is less understood is how it can be used as a foreign policy instrument. If Japan were home to several million guest workers, the country would become the lifeline of tens of millions of individuals back in their homeland who would benefit from the remittances of their relatives in the archipelago. Its economic role in the lives of some of these countries would become second to none. Many individuals would start to study Japanese, in the hope of one day working in the country. Familiarity with Japan and its culture would also rise dramatically in these nations.

Moreover, Japanese diplomatic power would increase as well…
Rest of the article at


4 comments on “Robert Dujarric in Japan Times: Immigrants can buoy Japan as its regional power gives way to China

  • Quite so. In the original article, Dujarric gives the neoliberal case for opening borders to free trade and migration but has little say on citizenship or political inclusion; the phrase ‘guest worker’ is a bit ominous in this extract, as it is not clear if it is the same as a naturalized citizen. I suspect the real thrust of his full article is about how to counter the rise of China with an alternative Japanese/Asian (and pro-American) bloc, which is a different tangent. Presumably Dujarric, like Thomas Friedman, is someone who believes that the world is flat.

    Incidentally, the original article took a potshot at the alleged ineptitude of western English educators in Japan, which seems a mite ungracious to his colleagues at Temple University Japan

    — Provide a link to the original article?

  • I just meant the full Japan Times article you linked to in your original post which came out last week. If I may quote from that:

    It would thus give Japan direct access to the Chinese people, especially the educated elite, without interference from the Communist Party’s propaganda machine. This is particularly important since Japan should prepare itself for the possibility of a future China where public opinion could play a greater role in shaping policy.

    -is that is based on ‘guest workers’ returning to their home country or on a diaspora of Chinese citizens of Japan?

    Bringing qualified teachers from countries such as the Philippines and India could give Japanese students, for the first time in their lives, the experience of learning English with instructors who actually know the language fluently (unlike many Japanese who teach English) and who are trained to teach (as opposed to the many Westerners in “English conversation schools” whose blue eyes and blond hair are frequently their only qualifications).

    -I won’t comment on that except to say this is why I think Dujarric is really proposing a realignment of Asian countries in this article

  • The article with the link above does have a bit of criticism leveled at people who aren’t actually trained in language instruction, particularly in Eikaiwa, but it also is leveled at Japanese teachers of English who aren’t actually proficient themselves.

    However, I can’t really see Japan being proactive about the treatment of foreigners. The political pressure will likely need to build up first. Who knows what straw it will be, but we’ll see what happens after immigration is encouraged on a larger scale and the foreigner population is significant enough to make some political demands.

  • Personally I dont think Japan will ever start to bring in foriegners to even things up. I think they will just accept their place in Asia and start to automate even more. They still got their head stuck in the sand and think that the bubble days of all things superior Japan will return. They are still very closed minded when it comes to allowing foriegn made machines into their market, obvisouly keeping with the old guard mindset of the superiority of made in Japan. It would be great if Japan would move its head offices out of Tokyo, develope the suburbs and move companies out there to improve life for all of us. Instead we all cram into trains, work in hells and repeat the cycle day after day(definition of insanity). We see new malls go up, but with the same boring stores and boring stuff to buy. Japan could be a great place to live and work, but its got a lot of changing to do, and since most Japanese fear change, I dont see change anytime soon.


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