暗いデフレの時代は「終わるかもしれない」

暗いデフレの時代は「終わるかもしれない」
2017年2月28日

近々日本が長く暗いデフレの時代から抜け出す可能性は大いにある。」

これは、BCAリサーチを代表してグローバル投資戦略を行っているピーター・ベレジン氏が、今週マーケットウォッチに向けて発表した楽観的な見解である。

これは日本経済を「患っている」、「瀕死の状態にある」と考えている多くのメディア評論家にとって驚くべきものとなった。この観点からいうと、デフレは経済的停滞の兆候であるといえる。

安倍晋三首相と日本銀行は2%のインフレを目標に掲げているが、先は長そうだ。最新のインフレ率は金曜日に発表されるが、経済学者たちの総意は0%以下、つまりはデフレの領域になるだろうというものである。

インフレの目標を達成できなかったことは、中央銀行と安倍首相の信頼の損失という形で影響を及ぼした。ベレジン氏の客観的な意見は、状況はすぐにでも変わるというものである。彼の意見は、日本経済の強みの一つである失業率の低さに基づいている。昨年12月には3.1%にとどまった。

ベレジン氏は低い失業率と高い求人数が、雇用主に新入社員と既存の社員への給与の増加を促すと信じている。これが起こるとなると、理論的には新たに富んだ社員たちが買い物をすることで、経済を活気づけ物価を上昇させることができる。
全ての人がこの楽観論に賛同するわけではない。日本銀行役員である木内登英氏は、人口動態上の傾向、特に労働人口の減少などを理由に、2%のインフレ目標は実現不可能だと主張する。

「物価状況は経済成長のポテンシャルとの一貫性を維持するであろう」と木内氏は言う。

デフレは全体像の一部に過ぎない。国の経済的成功はしばしばGDP(国内総生産)の成長率によって測られる。日本の成長は1990年代から平均して年間1%を下回っている。

ケビン・ドラム記者はマザージョーンズに興味をそそる記事を書いた。GDP(国内総生産)の数字だけでは限られたことしか語れないというものだ。ドラム氏は「経済の状態を判断する材料として最も有効なものは、労働者の生産性を測れることから、労働人口当たりのGDP(国内総生産)である。」という。

ドラム氏はさらに、日本の労働人口当たりのGDPはアメリカのそれよりも高い率まで上昇したと述べる。この驚くべき主張は、日本の労働者の生産性が悪いという見解に相反するものである。勤勉で生産的な労働者と低い失業率が給与の増加を正当化しているのだ。

潜在的には女性のほうが男性よりも利益を得られるといえる。安倍首相が提唱する、「ウーマノミクス」は女性が占める労働人口の割合の増加を促すものであり、機能していると思われる。安倍首相が就任した2012年12月の女性の労働力率が47.8%だったのに対し、2016年12月のそれは50.4%まで増加した。

増給は、特にそれが日本経済の未来を楽観的に示すものならば、女性、男性、どちらにとっても喜ばしいものであると言える。

(English) Interview with China expert Professor Rana Mitter

For China and Japan, the battles they fought in the 1930s and 1940s continue to scar their relationship. On a diplomatic level, there has been no meeting between their leaders since President Xi Jinping exchanged a frosty handshake with Prime Minister Abe in late 2014.

President Xi has worked in recent years to enhance the image of the Chinese Communist party and its achievements in the wartime period, even though many historians believe it was the Chinese Nationalists, not the Communists, who did most of the fighting against the Japanese army. The struggle with Japan therefore continues to be used as a way of providing legitimacy for the current Chinese leadership.

Chinese commentators also often claim that Japan has not properly apologised for its invasion of Manchuria in 1931 and for the Sino-Japanese war, which took place between 1937 to 1945.

Professor Rana Mitter is an expert on the period and the way it influences current political thinking in China. He is Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at Oxford University in the United Kingdom. Professor Mitter believes it is time for China to stop demanding more apologies, so that relationship between China and Japan can move forward to the mutual benefit of both nations. But he also wants Japan’s leadership to speak out against revisionist views of history.

I interviewed him London at the Sino-British Summit in London in February 2017. I started by asking him about the perception among some Chinese people that Japan still owes China an apology.

I spent he best part of ten years doing research for my book China’s War with Japan 1937-45 entitled “The Struggle for Survival”. I particularly looked at that war from the Chinese side. You cannot study the history of the period without realising that the present-day resonance of the war is still very much a current issue.

And one of the things that you hear repeatedly, often form very well informed people, is the idea that Japan has never fully apologised for its war crimes. You also hear that Japan’s text books are full of misleading accounts or they ignore issues such as Rape of Nanking in 1937. I point out that a succession of Japanese prime ministers has made very comprehensive expressions of remorse and sorrow and horror at the crimes which were committed by Japan in the 1930s and 1940s. Anyone who knows about what the Japanese did in China and Korea and other parts of East Asia will know that these included appalling acts of brutality, there is no question about that.

But we also know that there has been a series of Japanese leaders who have apologised publicly and profusely.

China is talking about taking up the role of global economic leadership. This was something President Xi alluded to in his speech at Davos in January. He suggested that this role suits China because America is taking a more inward- looking and protectionist position under Donald Trump. Where does that leave China’s relationship with Japan?

If China is about taking a leadership role, particularly within the Asian region, then I think it should recalibrate its relationship with Japan. China is seeking leadership so it is pushing hard on economic integration in the region. However, China is aware than no infrastructure can be developed in the region without Japan being included. So, if there is a pivot to Asia by China I think it’s going to have engage seriously with the other countries including Japan. That would be a serious change of direction.

In that scenario, China warms to Japan. But what would China have to do to create a warmer diplomatic relationship with Japan? It seems very cold now.

Yes, I think the relationship is cool, at least on the diplomatic level. There have been no direct talks between President Xi and Mr Abe since they met on the fringes of an ASEAN meeting at the end 2014. Also, there is continuing friction on both sides about the islands in the South China Sea. However, it is important to look at the whole picture. There is a very high level of mutual trade between China and Japan and many Japanese companies are investing in China, so from an economic point of view, China is very aware that it cannot afford to alienate Japan completely. Japan also aspires to increase its profile and leadership capacity in Asia. It cannot do that simply by presenting itself as the country which is in opposition to China. Japan needs to build a new relationship with China. There could be a great deal of mutual benefits for both sides, if they are willing to seize them.

What about Japan’s relationship with the United States? Does Mr Abe need to be careful in terms of the way he deals with Mr Trump? If he tells Mr Trump he wants a bilateral trade deal and that he wants to collaborate with the US on security and defence, what signal does that send to China?

China’s leaders have said more than once which is that the Pacific Ocean is wide enough for two big powers to co-exist there. China is prepared to share influence in the region with Japan. All the countries in the Asia Pacific region will need to work out what it means to have a balanced relationship with the US and with China but I think it is misleading to think of these as mutually incompatible goals. There are a lot of areas where Japan has common interests with China and with the US so there is a lot to be gained from economic co-operation. The fact is that Japan and China will always be next to each other geographically, so this provides economic opportunities.

Some people say that Mr Abe is an extreme nationalist. What do you make of that claim and how does it affect the Japanese-Chinese relationship?

I think one should not take too seriously accusations that Mr Abe is on the wilder fringes of nationalism. He is quite mainstream and he leads a mainstream party.

What I do regard as problematic is that there is a part of Japanese society which takes a very inward-looking and only partial view of Japan and the Second World War. I recently visited the Yasakuni Shrine in Tokyo, where the descriptions on the exhibits blamed the reasons for the outbreak of war almost entirely onto China and other Asian nations and said nothing about Japan’s fault. This kind of rhetoric makes it harder for Japan to put itself forward as a regional leader. I do not think anyone who looks at Japan seriously sees anything other than a liberal, pluralist, democratic state but it is also the case that there as aspects of Japan’s engagement with the past which still make other countries uneasy. So, it would be helpful if someone like Mr Abe, who has the credentials of a patriot, speaks up much more openly to say that any displays of extreme revisionism in the public sphere are unacceptable. It would do wonders for Japan’s image in the region.