SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English
Xie Zhihai “Encouraging Fixed Point Observation”
The internet and smartphones are now the norm and we can access a large volume of information instantly anywhere we go. On the other hand, however, we are asked to check the quality or correctness of such information and it has become imperative for us to gather genuine and high-quality information. For such purposes, we have to take action on our own to gather information using our own eyes and ears. This means that I, as a specialist in international relations, have to run around the globe. This is not easy for me to achieve personally, but there is a person who is in fact doing just so.
This person is Mr. Jituro Terasima, President of Tama University. I come across his phrase “fixed point observation” very often when listening to his interviews or reading articles written by him. Since I see him often on TV, I did not think that he is actually running around the world. However, he has actually been visiting countries and cities in America, England and the Middle East by himself every year. He is listening to the opinions of his friends or key individuals in these areas. What he saw, heard and felt on site is “genuine,” useful information. Regretfully, I have a feeling that getting information from smartphones in Tokyo then trying to verify its reliability and source is not as useful.
This spring, I returned to Beijing after being away for six years. I was too amazed by its complete change to say anything. In programs discussing “recent China” on TV in Japan, we can see people who pay for everything using smartphones, share-economy like car ride-sharing or rental-cycles, and electric cars. You may possibly believe that Chinese people are enjoying their life based on more advanced technology than Japan.
However, in reality it was chaotic in the city. The subway has been extended since the last time I lived there. However, upon exiting the subway at street level you will be greeted by “share-cycle” bicycles piled disorderly and occupying the pavement. Despite the ride-share system (which is not popular in Japan), roads are congested throughout the day.
According to a taxi-driver, they can allocate taxis anywhere using smartphones. However, passengers and drivers sometimes miss each other and cause traffic congestion instead. Under economic development in China, the share-economy is developing, but the number of cars increasing even more. It is a symbol of fortune to possess a vehicle, especially a foreign one. Traffic congestion in Beijing is very famous in Japan. I have a feeling that public order in Beijing cannot catch up with the convenience doing everything using smartphone apps. I visit Shanghai for business once a year, but was surprised by Beijing this time. I acutely realized that I overlook many things in China only by “fixed point observation” once a year, and it is not enough to visit just one place.
When, living in Gunma Prefecture, I would visit Tokyo once a week for lectures or participating in academic conferences. I can keenly realize Tokyo is changing every minute for the Olympics in 2020. Taxis are changing. The bus service in the center of Tokyo is also changing, displaying the Olympic mascot characters on the side of the bus body. When I see English, Chinese (not only by simplified but traditional Chinese characters also) and Korean language in Tokyo, I have a feeling that Tokyo is progressing towards becoming an international city. If I had continued living in Tokyo, I would not have been aware of such changes.
As much as possible I like to visit places which are related to my field of research or interests and try not to miss the change of history or turning of the tide. Speaking of the phrase “fixed point observation”, I recall a famous speech which has been referred to as many times as there are stars in the sky. It is from the commencement address by Mr. Steve Jobs at Stanford University in 2005. “…you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. …” (quoted from the original speech, available in full here: https://news.stanford.edu/2005/06/14/jobs-061505/)
Going to the spots I believe in, increasing the spots. I want to make the most of them in my research and classes from here on out.
(Xie Zhihai / Associate Professor of Kyoai Gakuen University )
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Sonja Dale