October 18th, 2017

Are we heading in the wrong direction?

By Letter to the Editor on April 20, 2017.

“China, a land of famine” used to be a common characterization of the now prosperous country. Korea, too, used to conjure up an image of hunger and poverty. In fact, one of the biggest non-governmental international charities, World Vision, began to help Korea in the 1950s. Japan was not too much behind on the poverty index.

Now, some Americans want to build trade barriers against their cars, clothes and electric gizmos. There are people keen to stop Asian money spiking up the price of real estate beyond the affordability of ordinary Canadians. Where are those former recipients of charity today? They are economic success stories.

Now China and India are top greenhouse gas producers, kicking the U.S. to No. 2 status and the European Union to No. 3. Should they celebrate the biggest polluter status like a badge of honour? They are the successful story of the free market system and industrialization. In fact, during the 1950s, a teacher in social studies at my middle school in Japan suggested that the degree of success in advancement of civilization could be measured by the amount of water consumption and the volume of trashed garbage. The bigger the better: he said seriously.

Japan, Korea, and China were the first success stories of the development model advocated by the Western countries since the end of the Second World War. Foreign aid worked for Asia like the Marshall Plan did for Western Europe.

Science and technology; exploitation of natural resource, production and consumption; competition and a free untethered market: those are some of the buzz words to be a successful economy. They were encouraged to follow the Western model of development and succeeded. Asians have proven themselves to be good in the imitation game. But now some Americans hate it because they see Asians succeeding in what they had been encouraged to emulate. Ironic, isn’t it? What is scary is: what’s going to happen if and when Africans catch up with the rest of the world? The day is coming fast. That’s why China is furiously investing in Africa as their future market.

More scary is the fact that very few people are questioning the direction of the development model. I am not rejecting progress. I am not a romantic advocate of the paternalistic and racist notion of “noble savages.” But I think we have to slow down to survive: sustainable development.

Tadashi (Tad) Mitsui


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