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Home > Debates Last Updated: 10:42 06/25/2007
Comment (June 25, 2007)

Rejoinder to Jin Yi Chen on "Global Mindset in the Information Age"

Kanzo KOBAYASHI (Visiting Research Fellow, GLOCOM, IUJ, and Secretariat Division, ITC Coordinators Association)

First of all, I highly appreciate Jin Yi Chen's comment on my article, because we should encourage dialogue and debate globally by involving individuals with different national and cultural backgrounds in order to deepen our understanding of this kind of global issue.

The main point of the comment, as I understand it, is that my view is "too idealistic in believing that individual actions outside business and government infrastructures have the power to change Japan's presence in the global economy," and in a country like Japan, where conservative mass media and business organizations are dominant, individuals are relatively powerless unless the existing organizations start the movement.

Although Chen's criticism is well taken, I must point out that one should not be too pessimistic about the flexibility and adaptability of not only individuals but also at least some, if not all, existing organizations in Japan. As Japanese society and business are entering the age of information and globalization, individuals and corporations are being globalized, whether they like it or not. In that process more and more highly motivated and well trained Japanese individuals seem to be participating in various international activities, and more and more globally oriented corporations including many small companies are actually doing business overseas and employing foreign workers at home for their survival under global competition. Furthermore, organizational influence and control over individuals have been gradually declining, as individuals are becoming more aware of importance of self-training outside their organizations and companies are less willing to give internal training to their employees for various reasons.

In other words, Japanese people as well as organizations are certainly moving in the same direction as their counterparts in other advanced nations, however slowly it might seem. Although it may not be so visible from outside, many Japanese organizations tend to adjust their actual "honne" activities to catch up with global trends, while maintaining their superficial "tatemae" appearance and formality, and the current transition is no exception. Of course, there always exist some best fit organizations in the existing environment, resisting any change in their practices, for example, some large traditional companies in Japan, but their overall presence and influence are certainly decreasing, at least relatively, in the age of information and globalization.

My final point is that, looking back in the Japanese history, there have always been conservative, sometimes ultra-nationalistic, elements resisting to global forces, but at the same time an overwhelming majority of individuals quietly and slowly have been adapting to beneficial trends from the pragmatic standpoint, as seen in the post-Meiji Restoration period as well as in the post-WWII period. In the present age of information and globalization trends facing Japan, individuals should take stronger initiative and more actions than ever to facilitate desirable changes in the whole nation and society from the Japanese as well as the global point of view.

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