Japan’s Waking Nuclear Nightmare At Fukushima

Like you, we are following the nuclear emergency situation in Japan intently. The human tragedy in the earthquake’s aftermath heart wrenching enough. Schadenfreude and mixed feelings in Shanghai may seem particularly cold but not ahistorical.

Who can the Japanese turn to? There have been 6 prime ministers in 5 years. As of this writing, Prime Minister Kan has been in office 272 days. Kan’s foreign minister just resigned because of scandal. And Kan is battling the ‘Sith Lord’ of Japanese politics, former DPJ master mind Ichiro Ozawa, whom the DPJ expelled for corruption. Ozawa in the days before the quake was openly working to topple the DPJ and return to politics himself. Kan has called the disaster the greatest threat since WW II but his options are constrained. Japan already has the largest public debt in the world.


  1. Dr Leo Strauss says

    Dilbert, good points. Those savings will be drawn down fairly quickly one imagines as it is almost impossible to get the requisite insurance in Japan. Which suggests that in the medium to long term the U.S. will feel the pinch most as Japanese fund internal reconstruction rather than purchase U.S. debt.

    Here’s an item that bears out Jamie’s analysis re China taking the high road.


  2. dilbert dogbert says

    The Japanese have one of the highest savings rates in the world and most of the debt is self owned. They can borrow at very low rates. Not a problem yet. Their balances of trade are on the plus side vis a vis the USA.

  3. Comment says

    @jamie btw re Francophobia – if you read the winger press only you’d have no idea that no one died during the riots in the French suburbs. People like Mark Steyn are afraid to go to 1/2 of American cities, so they decided to sell a similar story about Paris. That whole biz about the heat wave was particularly squalid.

  4. Dr Leo Strauss says

    @sglover Fiscally, the Japanese are in a straight jacket. In 1995 after the Kobe earthquake the government stimulus was around $3 trillion. Most expect a response now for the far greater tragedy to be limited to around $1 trillion.

  5. Dr Leo Strauss says

    @jamie Fascinating link, Jaime. Your point about an opening for China well taken as are the issues of comparison with domestic quake victims. It’s possible China will send mixed signals, depending on faction. Hard to say as the psychological dimensions of the catastrophe all around are still unknown.

  6. says

    I think the Minter piece is accurate enough but a little unfair. “A lot of people acting like a d*ck on the internet” is hardly restricted to China. I remember in particular the response from a whole load of American bloggers to fatalities in the French heatwave of 2003, following Chirac’s refusal to get involved in Iraq:vicious stuff. The scale isn’t the same but the only pretext for emnity was a simple policy disagreement.

    There is an opportunity here for China. Japan has been a major element in the containment architecture the US has been trying to construct over the past year: Maehara, the foreign secretary who had to resign, was the leader of the pro-US faction in the DPJ. With him gone and Japan now out of the diplomatic game for the forseeable, China has a chance to improve Japanese opinion of it’s role if it acts with sufficient generosity. But that won’t happen if the historical resentment of its native wingnuts becomes the story.

    There’s a good roundup of Chinese reactions to the Japan quake here:


    The context is a quake two days earlier in Yunnan, down by the Burmese border. That makes it an issue if locals think China is being too generous with Japan.
    jamie recently posted..bystanders

  7. sglover says

    Not really apropos under the circumstances, but since Nanking was mentioned, you might want to check out “City of Life and Death” on (if I remember right) YouTube. It’s a very new, meticulously done Chinese rendition of the Rape of Nanking. One of the most impressive things about it is how it’s **not** jingoistic, simplistic, or maudlin — yet still harrowing. In fact, probably more harrowing, as only movies made for adults can be.

    Dr. LS — Do you really think that Japan’s financial condition will be a problem, now? I mean, sure, they’re going to have a terrific bill. The geographic scale of the disaster, let along the severity, looks like it could dwarf Katrina, on a proportional basis. But as far as one can tell from news reports, their rescue organizations seem to be on the ball. And while the government may be new, they don’t seem to be behaving like, you, the Man-Child.

    Then again, I reckon that nowadays anybody in authority goes out of their way to **not** appear like the Man-Child.

  8. Redhand says

    A pretty incisive post IMO. Utter physical destruction challenging a rotted out political system and a poor economy doesn’t inspire confidence for a robust recovery, does it? (Consider US, with two out of three). Plus, you are on target in pointing out foreign ambivalence, especially in Asia. One almost can’t blame the Chinese, given what Japan did there from 1931-45. Rape of Nanking, anyone?

    Still, I don’t believe the Japan that created Pikachu and Hello Kitty masks the bad old Nippon of WWII. And looking at the horrific videos of the waves destroying everything in sight, it’s not hard for me to feel the deepest sympathy for the poor souls caught up in it. The entire world in which so many of them lived–neighborhoods, homes, cars, schools, jobs, not to mention family and friends–destroyed and or just plain gone.

    These are strange times for natural disasters. There have been so many in the last few years–Indonesia, New Orleans, Pakistan, Chile, China, Haiti, New Zealand, and now Japan–that it’s hard not to feel a bit Apocalyptic about things these days.

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