Happy New Year
Changing of the guard
Happy New Year! I trust everyone is fully enjoying the holidays. A bit of rest and relaxation is called for after the action-packed year that was 2012. Now that 2013 is upon us all, the energy boost will come in handy. There is work to be done—and lots of it. Two key themes surfacing at the start of this year are renewal and transformation. First and foremost, leadership changes are happening on every front.
Most recently, on December 16, the conservative leaning Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), led by Shinzo Abe, was voted back into power, following three years on the political sidelines. The election results echo the (slightly unenthusiastic) voice of the public, whose sentiment—if you pay attention to news reports—is one of weariness with business-as-usual. Yet, by returning the LDP to power, many suggest that business-as-usual is precisely what will prevail.
Regardless, the results of the LDP’s return to power will ripple through the region for the foreseeable future. Issues to watch include the ongoing Senkaku Islands row with China, in which Abe is expected to take a strong stance, and Japan’s energy dilemma. To develop renewable energy infrastructure or deepen its dependence on nuclear power—that is the question. Abe, now in his second term as Prime Minister, is expected to lean towards nuclear—a controversial choice.
The economy, perennially, is the other big issue of the day. Abe’s fiscal plan appears to be instituting “unlimited” monetary easing and increasing big spending on public works in a bid to rescue the nation from its decades’ long economic plight. This pork barrel approach has been criticized by many. Only time will tell how it fairs. All of these issues will be worth keeping an eye on throughout this year.
Closer to home, the ACCJ announced the election of its new president in early December. Everyone, in case you haven’t heard, please welcome new ACCJ President Larry Bates! For that matter, please welcome the ACCJ’s new Governors as well (see President’s Message on page 9 for a list of the Governors). And while you’re at it, thank Michael Alfant for his excellent leadership as ACCJ President over the past two years.
In this issue, Larry shares highlights from his own story and expounds on his plans for his term as ACCJ President in Welcome, Mr. President. He may be best known as a paragon in Japan’s business community, but his experience and roots in the broader Asian region run deep. Hearing his story gives a healthy dose of perspective about just how qualified he is to take on his new role as ACCJ President. His string of personal successes also prefigures his motivation to set the bar so high for his goals during his time in office.
Key points on President Bates’ agenda include growing the ACCJ’s membership and reach, providing more opportunities for members to build their skills—particularly in the area of leadership—and holding more dialogues with Japan’s key decision makers and thought leaders. All of these efforts are underway. President Bates is merely pushing the ACCJ even further along its current path.
One ACCJ committee that is doing the kind of government outreach that President Bates hopes to increase is the ACCJ Healthcare Committee, which is the subject of this month’s Committee Spotlight, written by committee Chair William Bishop. In this article, Bishop shares about the Healthcare Committee’s efforts to engage the Japanese government through a series of White Papers that outline various policy recommendations aimed at improving Japan’s preventative healthcare efforts.
Specifically, Bishop unpacks the message in the White Papers, gives an update about the reception of the latest one, issued in 2011, and shares some details about the upcoming paper, which will be published in March 2013. He also brings us up to speed on the Healthcare Committee’s innovative efforts to convert its White Paper into an evergreen document.
In American Pie, we learn about an innovative program called SelectUSA that was launched by the U.S. Federal Government to court foreign direct investment (FDI). As the second largest source of FDI in the US after the UK, Japan is a key market for this program, making this initiative particularly relevant to businesses in Japan.
This issue also includes a write-up on the ACCJ Kansai’s Inaugural Award Ceremony for its most outstanding members (Kansai’s Rising Stars), a rosy take on the chances that Japan will rebound in 2013 (Jesper Koll’s Welcome Back, Optimists) and a look at Japan’s transformation into a rentier state (Seth Sulkin’s Japan as Rentier Nation). In a trends piece, columnist Dominic Carter considers whether Japan is finally warming to Facebook (About Face), while Andrew Silberman gives pointers on living fearlessly—excellent advice at the start of a New Year (Dealing with Fear).
Finally, there’s one last milestone worth noting. This January marks the 50th anniversary of the ACCJ Journal itself. Here’s to the hope that the Journal continues to serve as a forum for discussion, sharing and outreach for many years to come.