Peter Tasker, Arcus Research, for JAPAN Forward

In the year of the coronavirus, more than one sixth of the entire Japanese population went to the cinema to watch Demon Slayer. They clearly did not get the memo from WEF’s Klaus Schwab.

This time last year I wrote in JAPAN Forward about the possible occurrence of “Lenin weeks.” I was referring to Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin’s dictum that “there are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.”

My thinking was that a random incident, such as a marine confrontation between China and the U.S. or Japan, could quickly escalate into a conflict that would change our world out of all recognition.

I had no idea that, as I wrote, a new coronavirus had manifested itself in the Chinese city of Wuhan and was already in the process of seeding a global pandemic that would cause the sharpest economic downturn of the modern era. At the same time, the corona crisis has accelerated technological, social, and political change in a way that Lenin would surely have appreciated.

The digital economy has powered ahead, while businesses that depend on face-to-face transactions — whether selling pints of beer or automobiles — have suffered. In the wealthy countries, the middle classes with spacious homes and information-processing jobs that can be done remotely have felt no pain. Many low-paid workers have lost jobs that will never return.

In Japan, where such statistics are quickly available, suicides have started to rise after 15 years of decline. The social malaise will be much deeper in Western countries that have suffered greater economic and human damage. Already, there have been reports of increasing depression, domestic violence, and alcoholism. Meanwhile central bank policies have made the asset rich even richer. Globally, there could hardly be a more favorable environment for populism and social unrest.


By - grape Japan editorial staff.