48 Comments

Re: what the Japanese government can do to accelerate the trend is incentivize translations of their visual exports into many languages!

It's crazy how popular both written and video manga is everywhere, and it will grow if kids in India or Hungary or Colombia would have more content they could understand!

Expand full comment

Would make a lot of sense for there to be a centralised Japanese-to-X language translation and dubbing business, located in a country that speaks that language natively. Then Japanese creatives could contract to have their works translated (for subs or just replacement captions on manga) and dubbed (for anime) into the appropriate language. Investing to get these businesses off the ground would be a good place for the Japanese government to spend money.

I'm thinking essentially of an equivalent to Funimation in every language that has a sufficient market to justify its existence.

Expand full comment
Nov 26, 2022Liked by Noah Smith

"But they illustrate the downsides of dictatorial decision-making in a way that should prompt observers to recalibrate their own narratives about the ascendance of autocratic systems"

Unfortunately people only observe post-autocratic fall. Top few see it coming as the nad thing it really is.

Fabulous discussion on China!

Expand full comment
author

Thank you!

Expand full comment

Noah,

Very insightful. It reminds me of your post from October 6, detailing how authoritarian societies seem not to be governing very effectively.

I concur that there is too much overwrought rhetoric about “China Collapsing.” I think stagnation is more likely unless true reform can be realized. My guess is a lot of economic dynamism will migrate to South East Asia and the Indian sub-continent with potential for great growth in parts of Africa as well. I think FDI will follow the dynamism.

The question will be, how does China adapt to long-term growth rates of 2-3%, which is of course far more sustainable but much less prestigious.

Expand full comment
Nov 26, 2022Liked by Noah Smith

I think for us as Americans its hard to imagine what life would be like under an authoritarian regime. At least it is for me. One thing that has made me think about it, and possibly understand it, more is the new Star Wars series Andor. If you haven’t seen it I would definitely recommend it. It really highlights the absolute frustration of being a part of an authoritarian state.

It’s crazy when the government can do whatever it wants and the citizens have essentially no rights. I feel bad for all the Chinese citizens who just have to deal with whatever Xi feels like doing.

Expand full comment

Without chips and chip making equipment, which may be down the line, China will definitely fall behind. It is only through entrepreneurial effort, whether in military, trade, or design and invention, that nations thrive. Blocking out an abundant future for China, to engage in one that is managed, is not gong to lead to prosperity in the long run.

Trump, and his cohorts plus AOC and her's are declining. For me, the mid-terms proved people want to know "what have you done for me lately" not about the past grievances. That is basic and traditional Americana. It worked real well for Senate Candidates and Governors, including on down the line. In America, we look to the future, we are way to busy to be overly concerned with yesterday's news.

Expand full comment
Nov 26, 2022Liked by Noah Smith

China’s CPUs are at least ten years behind, and the recent export restrictions will hurt them even more. There’s not a lot of money in making chips with perf/power ratios from the early 10s, except in captive markets like defense, or perhaps if you don’t mind wasting power and space on inefficient supercomputers. In mobile devices, to be 10 years behind is to be dead - perf/power is effectively all that matters. And China has lost access to all new ARM core licensing, or any possibility of licensing anything x86-related.

They’ll produce (already are) chips suitable for embedded devices, basic industrial and defense stuff, but without a miracle I don’t see how they overcome the new export controls. No more advanced GPUs for AI, no more modern CPUs for datacenters, and no more technology transfer than has already happened (which is significant, but becomes out of date very quickly).

Expand full comment

Thank you for the further information. Always glad to fill in gaps of knowledge with more.

Expand full comment
Nov 26, 2022Liked by Noah Smith

Regarding Japanese advertising to the world, I’m anecdotally starting to see more YouTubers move to Japan and gain insider access to companies in Japan for videos or sponsorships. It’s a welcome development, and I hope Japanese institutions continue opening up more.

Expand full comment
author

That's interesting. What do these YouTubers do? I don't watch a lot of YouTube.

Expand full comment
Nov 27, 2022·edited Nov 27, 2022

A mix of content. Some of them review anime or do voice acting. Others make tourism and day in the life vlogs. It turns out several of the ones I follow (Daidus, Emirichu, CDawgVA, and Gigguk) are all part of the same Japanese talent agency (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BookWalker#Subsidiaries), which might explain some of this movement.

One of the best day in the life channels (Paolo from Tokyo) regularly has videos that can't have been possible without cooperation of major Japanese corporations. For example, his latest video features multiple interviews with rank-and-file employees of Square Enix.

Expand full comment
Nov 26, 2022Liked by Noah Smith

COVID lockdowns and apps facilitate greater control, look how it was used during the run on regional banks

Expand full comment

Really love this article.

I’ve just shared on LinkedIn as I think this standard of writing needs a wider audience.

Keep going!

Expand full comment

I asked my friends in China how it's going. They said they can't complain.

Expand full comment

Of course “…they can’t complain..”, because they’ll be arrested, their families harassed.

Expand full comment
Nov 26, 2022Liked by Noah Smith

Always such interesting perspectives and analyses.

Expand full comment
author

Thanks!

Expand full comment

I assume China’s slow reactions to setbacks in Zero Covid is because Xi Jinping’s relentless anti corruption and party discipline campaigns. It basically frightens officials and low-level bureaucrats and they refrain from doing anything that resembles criticism against Xi. The lack of critical inputs crippled China’s policymaking.

Expand full comment

History of land sales is interesting.

Zhao Ziyang, a former premier, describes in his memoir how he was introduced to the idea of selling land to raise funds:

It was perhaps 1985 or 1986 when I talked to Huo Yingdong [a Hong Kong tycoon better known as Henry Fok] and mentioned that we didn’t have funds for urban development. He asked me, “If you have land, how can you not have money?”

I thought this was a strange comment. Having land was one issue; a lack of funds was another. What did the two have to do with one another? He said, “If municipalities have land, they should get permission to lease some of it, bring in some income, and let other people develop the land.”

Indeed, I had noticed how in Hong Kong buildings and streets were constructed quickly. A place could be quickly transformed. But for us it was very difficult.

https://www.netinterest.co/p/ever-grande

Expand full comment

"Countries like Australia and Taiwan and South Korea (and China) successfully suppressed the virus, closed off international travel, and then were able to ease off on social distancing measures."

Small correction, I think you meant New Zealand here, not Australia. Melbourne had 262 days of severe lockdowns (way worse than US lockdowns), and another year of what we in the US would consider strong restrictions.

It seems to be a function of luck and timing. New Zealand closed its borders when it had just a handful of cases. Australia waited an extra day or two, but it was too late.

Expand full comment

Not really correct. Australia did wait a little too long, but still got back to zero Covid.

Most of Australia (over 80%) then had zero Covid and no restrictions (apart from the border and some very short periods after hotel quarantine leaks) until they were highly vaccinated and chose to open up.

It's not just luck. Melbourne happens to actually have a proper Winters so was always at higher risk. They screwed up hotel quarantine and let the virus back into the community in Winter 2020 so needed a long lockdown to get back to zero again. At zero you don't really need any restrictions at all and Melbournians actually had very little in the way of restrictions for many months. The risk at zero Covid though is complacency, both at the borders and with the need for vaccination.

The other states didn't learn from Melbourne's experience and allowed more quarantine leaks. The virus managed to get from them back to poor old Melbourne so they spent most of Winter 2021 in lockdown as well unfortunately.

Expand full comment

They did have near-zero covid, but my correction is that they don't count as "able to ease off on social distancing measures." Having your biggest city under severe lockdown for 262 days is a huge failure in my eyes. They also had significant infringements on civil liberties https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/09/pandemic-australia-still-liberal-democracy/619940/

Expand full comment

They had absolute zero Covid for significant periods with no meaningful restrictions and no masks required. I am Australian and I was actually there.

Melbourne isn't Australia's biggest city, but I don't think anyone would disagree that 262 days under lockdown was a long, long way from ideal. The problem was that the rest of Australia had zero Covid and wanted to keep it that way, so the only other option was living with a hard border around Melbourne/Victoria indefinitely and being cut off from the rest of the country. The vast majority of people understood that, supported the lockdowns and saw them as necessary and successful because they achieved the desired goals. The people of Melbourne voted today, reelecting in a landslide the same leader who put those lockdowns in place.

Civil liberties are always a balance of the rights of the individual balanced with the rights of others. The restrictions in Melbourne were far less harsh than those currently in place in China and liberal democracy seems to have survived and thrived post-pandemic.

Expand full comment

I'm not necessarily saying it was a bad idea (though I do think it was a bad idea). But Australia clearly doesn't belong in the same league as Taiwan and New Zealand, which had very short lockdowns (if any) and virtually zero restrictions the entire time.

Expand full comment
Dec 3, 2022·edited Dec 3, 2022

Your reasons for lockdowns being relaxed being due to the vaccine take-up makes no sense is light of the CDC admitting the vax doesn’t stop transmission. And if you look at Africa which hardly had any restrictions and almost no vaccinations, they faired just fine despite very little healthcare resources. Also, Sweden with no lockdowns had some of the lowest COVID mortality rates. Contemplated natural immunity much? Or are you just reading headlines written by Pfizer and Moderna? I understand that your article is mostly about China, but thinking the answer is the vax ignores all the evidence that is available.

Your implication that places like Australia implementing their strict lockdown policies (including pulling people out of their homes and violently suppressing alternative views) was a good thing, completely ignores the extremely high excess mortality in those countries now after lockdown with deaths higher now than during COVID peak times. It’s certainly seems to have failed.

Be careful about simply adopting headlines from main stream media which have been beating the same drum for two years. They’re clearly just bowing to pressure from their sources of revenue instead of actually doing proper journalism and looking at the data.

Expand full comment

I'm not a doctor, so I am not inclined to share my opinions about vaccines one way or the other. Although, I do read a tremendous amount (not just about vaccines) with many of my sources right here on Substack. As I mentioned before, there is a lot of information out there if you choose to look. I've learned not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and read many sources where I agree with much of what they write, and disagree with other points. I strongly believe our government is purposely muddying the waters to create conflict and opposing views in an effort to confuse everyone. Even very knowledgeable people are seeing conflicting information, a lack of data, and assumptions based on incomplete numbers. In most cases I believe the truth is somewhere in the middle, and with covid vaccines in particular the poles are so distanced that the middle covers a wide swath. Even the generally accepted under-reporting of information from VAERS would indicate a n issue that in years past would be cause for further research that today doesn't seem to be happening. Sorry, but I don't believe "safe and effective" any more than "these were the most secure elections ever." Excuse me, but I need to readjust my tinfoil hat.

Expand full comment

Speaking to Cool Japan, a lot of what makes Japanese cultural exports cool is the fact that they don't try to be more accessible to non-Japanese. In many ways, you could draw a line between aspects of Japanese culture and Italian culture in this way.

Both cultures have strong artisan and craft industries. Both have a very specific design aesthetic. Both have very strong cultural industries. And both have strong export orientations, but focus what I would call "business energies" on satisfying the domestic market.

Where Italy differs, is that it is strongly connected to its neighbours, where Japan is more isolated. Japan would benefit greatly from adopting something of Italy's focus on protecting its cultural patrimony (think Wagyu) and finding ways to "export" its traditional knowledge to other places, with the goal of creating more sympathetic minds across borders (ie. bringing Indian selvedge denim "home" or brewing a sake in South Carolina with locally grown rice).

Expand full comment