Japan’s been stagnating for two decades, right? Well, not according to Eamonn Fingleton, it hasn’t. He argues that Japan’s been doing very nicely indeed, thank you. It’s just that Japan doesn’t want you to know that:
If we believe the evidence of our eyes, we necessarily must look again at those economic growth figures. Preposterous though it may seem to an unacclimatized Western observer, it appears that Japanese officials have been deliberately understating the nations growth. But why would they do such a thing?? For those who know Japanese history, a clue lies in trade policy. The fact is that, constantly since the 1870s with the exception of a brief interlude in the late 1930s and early 1940s, Japans pre-eminent policy objective has been to keep ramping up exports. That policy came very close to derailment in the late 1980s as a groundswell of opposition built up in the West. By the early 1990s, however, the opposition had largely evaporated as news of the crash led Western policymakers to pity rather than fear the “humbled juggernaut.” It is a short jump from this to the conclusion that Japanese officials have decided to put a negative spin on much of the economic news ever since.