Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Japan's Ozawa May Get a New Platform

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Japan's Ozawa May Get a New Platform

Article excerpt

MENTION Ichiro Ozawa to any Japanese, and you won't get a neutral reaction. The bullheaded back-room leader of the Renaissance Party is either hated or admired; few citizens voice sentiments in between.

Smack in the middle of a critical election campaign, Mr. Ozawa has published a book which shows a seldom-noticed aspect of this thoroughly professional politician - that of visionary revolutionary. Entitled "Building a New Japan," the book is Ozawa's personal prescription for how to take Japan into the 21st century.

"Times have changed," Ozawa writes. "Japanese-style democracy" is no longer able to respond adequately to the changes taking place at home and abroad.... We can no longer enjoy the luxury of devoting ourselves exclusively to our own economic development as we did during the Cold War."

"To be an autonomous nation," he continues, "we must ensure the autonomy of the individual.... Japan's most pressing need is a change in the consciousness of our people."

An individual-oriented society, as distinct from a consensus-minded one, has been a goal for many Japanese since the country came out of self-imposed feudal isolation 150 years ago, but it is unusual for a conservative politician to articulate it.

Even more unusual is Ozawa's advocacy of "five freedoms," including "freedom from the company" and "freedom from regulation." These two alone, if realized, would undermine the basic building blocks of Japan's economic success story: unquestioning loyalty to the company, and business-government collusion within a society regulated with the consent of the regulated. Ozawa argues that these practices may have been necessary when Japan was trying to catch up with the West, but that now they only hamper the freer, more open society the country requires.

His proposals are all the more startling because they are being voiced by a man who has been at the core of the political and economic system he now condemns.

Internationally, Ozawa wants Japan to become a "normal nation," not one hiding behind constitutional restrictions on use of armed force, but acting in concert with the United States to help build a UN-centered new world order. …

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