Friday, July 4, 2014

Nippon Vantage Point

The Japanese government is cleverly using alleged Chinese commercial and military incursions into Japanese territory to raise the ultra-sensitive, almost taboo, issue to re-interpret Article 9 of the Constitution to allow Japan to use military force to come to the aid of its allies if they are attacked.

One of the allies is understood to clearly mean the U.S. but it doesn’t indicate who the other allies are.  Then again, who and how is the word ally’ or “closely connected” as the Japanese government has stated, defined? Are allies those countries with whom you have trade agreements? Joint military exercises?  Cultural exchanges?  UN programs?  It’s an open interpretation that can be used as a pretext for military engagement not only in the surrounding China seas but anywhere else in the world. This can lead to an ironic misinterpretation of a re-interpretation of an official document.

Even if Japan has no intention of coming to the aid of an ally under attack, domestically it’s a psychologically powerful tool to shift the mindset of the Japanese government and citizenry as to how they see themselves as participants in world affairs and an opportunity to becoming a “normal” country.  This shift worries China in the short-term and the rest of Asia in the long-term.

China builds man-made islands in disputed territory and Japan re-interprets Article 9 on how they are to defend themselves. For the first time in history both Japan and China are strong which, without precedent, creates a situation that is sailing into uncharted waters.

In business in a highly competitive market with two heavy-weights, similar to the tensions in the China Sea, even the most subtle shift can generate reactions from your competitor you may not expect.  To fully engage management and rank & file for a potentially intense commercial battle you can create an enthusiasm in a subtle way to shift the mindset going forward.

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