Opinion

The Great Debate

Japan shows another side of the press

JAPAN-QUAKE/LEAKAGE

By Anya Schiffrin
The opinions expressed are her own.

Sitting in Japan in the days after the Friday earthquake and watching the official broadcaster NHK cover the disaster has been an unusual experience. There has been the typical blanket television coverage of this tragedy but the flavor of the reporting is different than it would be in the U.S. “Restrained” is how one friend described it. Over and over we’ve seen the same awful footage of the enormous dirty wave sweeping up cars and houses as it inches slowly along the land.

There are the inevitable interviews with displaced people and experts in their offices. But there are very few graphics or charts, no catchy logos and certainly no dead or injured on the screen. Just as U.S. presidents take off their ties when they visit the troops, Japanese officials appearing on television wear the blue uniforms of someone doing physical labor but with their logo of their ministry or office sewn on their pocket. “It’s theatre” a Japanese friend said dismissively as we watched television last night. But the purposefulness and determination of the government officials were evident — and even my skeptical friend agreed that this commitment would be well-received by the electorate.

At Columbia University we recently began a study with Professor Jairo Lugo in the UK comparing the New York Times and UK Guardian’s coverage of natural disasters. One thing that was immediately clear is how quickly newspaper coverage of natural disasters becomes coverage of the state. This is so even in the US where there is long standing skepticism about the state, and — these days — a widespread view that the government should play a limited role.

But things change when it comes to natural disasters. In Pakistan when religious groups stepped in to provide emergency care it was taken as a sign of how bad things have gotten there. When China’s premier Wen Jiabao immediately turned up in Sichuan after the earthquake there, he was thought of favorably. These responses inevitably are compared to the failure of the U.S. government after Hurricane Katrina.

A paper written by my students Alexandra Crabtree, Faith Kim and Lina Salazar noted that the New York Times reporting on Hurricane Katrina, the Haitian earthquake and floods in Pakistan critiqued the failures of government to administer aid and guarantee security and praised the role of non- governmental organizations. NGOs know that the media can help their cause and so work closely with reporters to highlight the work they do.

Euro zone faces QE2 pain test

QE2 — a second round of quantitative easing — means that soon the U.S., Japan and Britain will all be busily exporting their deflation, raising the question: Just how much pain can the euro zone take?

If by November we have three of the largest economies printing money and buying up their own debt, the outcome — in fact the intention — will be to drive their currencies lower against their trading partners, opening new international markets for their goods and, by raising the price of imported goods, fighting deflation before its debilitating psychology can take hold.

That is the plan, at any rate, and, unless something else happens, it will force the euro up against all major currencies, including, as it is tied to the dollar, the Chinese yuan. The euro has risen about 9.5 percent against the dollar in the past month, a trend that ultimately will murder European exporters and its stock market.

Goodbye America, Hello China? Think again

For the growing number of Americans who see China heading for inevitable global dominance, nudging aside the United States, a brief walk down memory lane helps put long-term predictions into perspective.

Not so long ago, Japan was seen as the next (economic) number 1. American executives studied the 14 management principles of The Toyota Way, developed by the automobile manufacturer that grew into the world’s biggest car maker and is now recalling millions of defective vehicles.

Between the mid-1980s and early 1990s, books with titles such as Trading Places – How We Are Giving Our Future to Japan and How to Reclaim It (by Clyde Prestowitz) were required reading in Washington. Learned panelists expounded on the wondrous efficiency of “Japan Inc.”

At least U.S. has Japan to fall back on

(James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)

The bad news for holders of U.S. debt, in case you missed it, is that China has sold so many Treasuries that it is no longer America’s leading lender.

The worse news is that there is a new creditor-in-chief, and it is Japan, an aging country with its own government debt bubble to contend with.

China sold about $34 billion of Treasuries in December, taking its holdings to $755 billion, while Japan increased its purchases and now is in the top spot of the Treasury Department’s scroll of merit, with $768 billion. China’s holdings peaked in April, since when the trend has been gently downward.

from The Great Debate UK:

Development of the risk trade

JaneFoley.JPG

- Jane Foley is research director at Forex.com. The opinions expressed are her own.-

A willingness to differentiate between risk on a country or at a regional level is an important part of the repair process in financial markets.

Credit worthiness is at the core of any assessment of risk and naturally credit worthiness can sort "risk" into a hierarchy which should be instrumental to the pricing of assets and currencies.

China must avoid a Japanese-style bubble

WeiGucrop.jpg – Wei Gu is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are her own –

Everyone agrees that China’s economy must be rebalanced, but few have bothered to delve into the costs. Japan’s experience has shown that even well-meant changes could sow the seeds for a bubble.

China cannot stay with its current economic model forever. But as the economy has become extremely unbalanced, to some extent even more so than Japan’s in the 1980s, rocking the boat too much risks tipping it over. Instead of rushing into changes, it would be better to make reforms gradually.

Japan, nominally lost, not really so

Al Breach was Russia economist with UBS and Goldman Sachs and is currently managing partner of TheBrowser.com. The views expressed are his own.

albreachHOSTENTAL, Switzerland – How bad was Japan’s “lost decade”? As we look east for clues as to the possible fate of western economies, it is worth dwelling on what actually happened, and not just how it was reported.

Japan’s stock market bubble burst at the end of 1989, and house prices started to fall about a year later. Asset prices at the peak were wildly inflated. Stock prices were trading at ratios of well above 50 times boom-time earnings, while the total value of housing represented around 300 percent of GDP.

from Commentaries:

Japan takes a kinder approach to growth

The victorious Democratic Party of Japan did not put economic growth at the heart of its electoral sales pitch. The party's manifesto mentions "growth" only once. The word "support", by contrast, appears 19 times.

Even so, there are reasons for optimism that the DPJ's softer and more nurturing policies are just what the economy needs.

The global slump provided a painful reminder of the dangers of Japan's export-oriented growth strategy. Output has fallen even faster than in other rich countries, leaving national income at roughly the same level as in the early 1990s.

from The Great Debate UK:

Japan: The election that might change everything

debito- Arudou Debito, is a columnist for the Japan Times, activist, blogger at debito.org, and Chair of the NPO Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association. The opinions expressed are his own -

Japan's famous mantra is that things don't change much or very quickly.  But I have a feeling that this approaching Lower House parliamentary election on August 30 just might prove that wrong.

But first some background.  Japan has been ruled essentially by one party since the end of World War II -- the Liberal Democrats (LDP).  That's longer than in any other liberal democracy, competing with other countries that have no other parties to choose from.

Forget Microsoft, Yahoo’s value is overseas

– Eric Auchard is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

eric_auchard_columnist_shot_2009_june_300_px2The fate of Yahoo Inc has become intertwined in the public’s imagination with the success or failure of its dealings with Microsoft Corp in recent years.

That’s despite the fact that as much as 70 percent of the value investors put on Yahoo’s depressed shares are tied up in its international assets or cash holdings — factors that have nothing to do with Microsoft.

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