Next to the USA, the second largest economy in the world used to be Japan. But after the bubble collapsed, the Japanese economy has been stagnant and, in 2012, fell to third place. Second place, as you probably know, was taken by China, whose economy is expanding at an unprecedented rate.

China’s rise is an undeniable fact. But is it true that Japan is on the wane? Mr. Chong Wong, a Chinese expert on diplomatic issues, took up the question. Writing on his blog (Chinese only), Mr. Wong offered up evidence that Japan wasn’t in decline but was actually the best in the world in some ways. We’ve listed the major ones below.

Mr. Wong’s List of Japan’s “Best in the World”

Energy, Iron, and Steel Production

Japan produces 1,000 grams of petroleum for US$10.50. (China does so at about 7 to 10 times the cost.)

In terms of steel production, Japan is number three, but the quality of their steel is the best in the world and they export the most raw material.

Science and Technology

In the field of science, Japan’s competitive power is second only to the US.

Japan’s expenditures on scientific development is, again, second only to the US. The country’s budget for scientific development is equal to Germany, England, and France combined.


100 percent of Japan’s children are entered into elementary school.

99.5 percent of Japanese children enter middle school.

Soft Power

(For those not familiar with the term, “soft power” refers to the “ability to attract and co-opt rather than coerce, use force or give money as means of persuasion.” Wikipedia)

Japan took Time Magazine’s number one spot in their ranking of countries with a good image.

64 percent of Japan is wooded, making it the country with the greatest percentage of tree-covered land. (China is only 18 percent.)

Japan’s average life expectancy is the highest in the world.

The country ranked in the top 30 of the “cleanest governments” in 2004.

In terms of equality of income distribution, Japan is, again, in the top level.

According to Mr. Wong, the secret to Japan’s high economic and social standards is education. While we might not necessarily be able to say that Japan’s universities are the best in the world, basic education is done well.

He also added on his blog, “Japanese media widely reports on China’s fierce economic development and furiously laments Japan’s economic decline. (…) Japanese people might speak this way due to their modesty, but after all is said and done, Japan is still in the top level. With all of these achievements, it’s easy to see that Japan is not on the decline at all.”

Mr. Wong does not reveal which sources he used, and it’s likely that more recent numbers might paint a different picture. Either way, it’s clear that he wanted to emphasize that Japan’s economy is not declining as much as people might think. Maybe others have different views on the situation, but that’s what makes these kinds of analyses all the more interesting, don’t you think?
[ Read in Japanese ]