Media  Global Economy  2021.11.08

Japanese somehow accept false views of China and Afghanistan as true ~Lack of information causes loss to the state and lost opportunities to enterprises~

The article was originally posted on JBpress on September 17 , 2021 

International Politics/Diplomacy

1. Assessment of the Taliban and information gathering

At the end of August, the Japanese government’s delayed operation to allow people to escape from Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, left behind Afghan and other people who had supported Japan’s activities in the county.

Various problems have been pointed out about this incident, but the important point the author emphasizes is that if the government had had the superior ability to gather information on local circumstances, this situation could highly likely have been avoided.

It is also pointed out that when all personnel of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the Japanese embassy in Kabul escaped from Afghanistan, they did not choose to gather necessary information and protect Japanese and related people by leaving some of them at the airport because they lacked information on what actions other countries were taking.

If they had obtained sufficient information, the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could have given appropriate instructions.

The Japanese government has expressed its policy of supporting Afghanistan in the future, but in order to effectively implement the policy, it is essential to gather proper information.

The new administration in Afghanistan is controlled by the Taliban. The majority of people in Japan recognize that the Taliban is a terrorist organization.

This is significantly affected by the fact that the U.S. government and mass media have spread such information.

But the view of a reliable expert familiar with the situation in Afghanistan is that the Taliban is not necessarily a terrorist group.

It is indicated that if the Taliban had a stronger orientation toward terrorism, they would be more violent and could not easily garner the support of Afghans.

The Taliban, however, placed Kabul under their control in a short period of time without serious military conflicts at a speed that had not been expected even by the U.S. armed forces.

The above-mentioned expert is of the opinion that this would not have been realized without the strong support of Afghans.

2. Background to the problem of Afghan refugees

Western experts are skeptical about the U.S. government’s argument that by injecting huge amounts of funds into Afghanistan, it helped the reconstruction of the country and brought certain satisfactory results.

National government and reconstruction support began with U.S. support in 2001.

But even in 2015, more than ten years after that, over one million refugees, including hundreds of thousands of Afghans, flowed into European countries.

Refugees numbering nearly 10% of the population of a country rushed to small countries such as Hungary.

Some of those refugees did not follow ordinary roads but stamped across cultivated fields, eating up vegetables and fruit randomly.

Furthermore, tens of thousands of extremely poor refugees occupied terminal stations and other facilities in the urban districts of major cities, disturbing the peace of the communities.

This prevented the people of these European countries from getting to such areas, causing tremendous economic loss as well as damage to agricultural products.

Eventually, Germany and other countries broke the deadlock by accepting these refugees.

Partly because of those past circumstances, French President Emmanuel Macron just recently showed his negative stance toward the acceptance of refugees, arguing that Europeans needed to protect themselves from enormous waves of illegal immigrants from Afghanistan.

As described above, European countries have been forced to take a negative position toward the acceptance of refugees.

In view of these various past experiences, European experts conclude that if the United States had achieved satisfactory results in its reconstruction support, it would not have brought about the situation in which so many Afghans abandoned their country and left for other countries as refugees.

If the Taliban is not a terrorist organization and works seriously to reconstruct the Afghan region while receiving international assistance, the Japanese government should make active efforts to support Afghanistan.

Under the leadership of Dr. Tetsu Nakamura, local residents successfully constructed irrigation facilities, harvest more agricultural products, and secure sufficient food, and this is an excellent result achieved by Afghans on a grassroots basis.

Assisting these private organizations in making steady efforts and bringing satisfactory results is a new way of assistance for Japan.

In providing such assistance, appropriate information gathering in the country is essential when considering, among others, specific effects of support measures, the safety of the persons concerned, and methods that enable long-term stable initiatives.

3. Lack of information to understand China

The problem of lack of information on the local situation also applies to when trying to understand China.

China-related information usually obtainable in Japan is unbalanced with too much weight given to politics, diplomacy, and national security, and there are only a few news reports on the Chinese economy, society, and culture.

For this reason, the negative aspects of China, including the characteristics of its political regime, which is different from democracy, its tough foreign policy, and its military threats in the East and South China Seas, tend to be emphasized.

In addition, as U.S.-China relations have become aggravated in recent years, only negative assessments of China by the U.S. government, experts, and mass media are presented in Japan.

In particular, Japanese government officials and news reporters gather information mainly in Washington, D.C. Information obtained in the national capital focuses on politics and diplomacy, and only a small amount of information on economic aspects is available.

Therefore, in the U.S., there is particularly strong anti-China sentiment.

Nonetheless, such strongly biased views are presented in Japan as those that represent Americans, inviting misunderstanding among Japanese.

Only recently, the author heard about a problem that had been caused by such a defective tendency of Japanese.

According to a manager of a first-class, prominent Japanese enterprise, stationed in China, Japanese government officials always stress negative information on China at its headquarters.

This encourages its management to swallow such information without gathering information on their own and confirming that it supports what the government officials say and continue to take a cautious stance when investing in China.

The management never pays attention to first-class Western enterprises as they are actively expanding investments in the Chinese market.

As a result, the top managers take a more negative attitude than is necessary and even lack in enthusiasm for making the most of business opportunities in the Chinese market.

4. Issues to be addressed when improving the ability to gather information

The first priority to correct such a bias is to keep a certain distance from the U.S. and not to swallow the information obtained there.

It is necessary to obtain information from well-balanced sources by constantly exchanging information with European experts who have a strong tendency to assess the U.S. from a calm and objective perspective.

Secondly, it is important to gather information on the economic, social, and cultural aspects of Afghanistan and China steadily in the real fields and make comprehensive assessments of local circumstances through appropriate analysis.

Specifically, the perspectives described below are recommended.

Is the current Taliban really a terrorist organization? What has changed, and what has not when the former Taliban is compared with the present one.

What measures did China take when it successfully controlled and prevented the spread of COVID-19? Why do Western enterprises continue to expand their China business actively despite the intensifying conflicts between the U.S. and China and the former’s strict sanctions against the latter?

How much do provincial governments across China welcome Japanese enterprises? How are the needs of the Chinese market changing as it provides business opportunities to Japanese enterprises?

It is necessary to gather and analyze such information steadily based on objective data, make comprehensive decisions from the viewpoint of not only politics, diplomacy, and national security but also the economy, society, and culture, and implement a well-balanced policy toward China and administer China business.

Accurate information is essential to make appropriate policy and managerial decisions whether they concern reconstruction support in Afghanistan or diplomatic relations with China or initiatives for China business.

The government needs to establish intelligence agencies to gather a wide range of accurate information on politics, diplomacy, national security as well as the economy, society, and culture in a well-balanced manner and enhance the ability to analyze information on the global situation appropriately.

On the other hand, it is important for enterprises to substantially increase their budgets for information gathering and improve the quality and quantity of information they gather. At the same time, it is essential for their senior managers to obtain a deeper understanding of the importance of gathering information on markets in various places around the world.

In particular, it is important to ensure that the heads of management planning, legal affairs, finance, and human resources departments in the administrative division share such an understanding.

Top managers’ leadership is indispensable to resolutely implement such a reform of awareness of the organizations.

The prime minister in a government and the president and CEO in an enterprise must take the lead in carrying out such a reform of awareness thoroughly, establishing necessary organizations and systems, and making it an integral part of the organizations and systems to build a culture that requires accurate information for policy decisions and business administration.