The assumption is that Japan is somewhere between the US and China. The reality is that China is somewhere between the US and Japan.

The "Western" aspects of Japan are technological and

largely superficial.

Japanese society, at the fundamental level, is little different from pre-modern times. And in most ways, it represents the traditional Chinese model far better than the modern Chinese have done.

Here are some key points:

  • The inherent infallibility of the Paternal figure:
    In Japan, one's supervisor, father, teacher etc is infallable as a matter of principle, not as a matter of fact. While the position of "leader" is still absolute in China, the nature of infallibility is different in that it has to be based (or people have to pretend like it's based) on fact, not principle. It is not publicly correct in China to say that "all leaders are right" even if in practice the subordinates often pretend so.
    In Japan, the issue isn't even openly discussed as the principle is the leader is right in principle even if he is wrong in fact.
  • The role of women:
    While Japanese women have made substantial progress in the past decades, and have mostly broken from the stereotype of the "the OL that serves tea", they are still in an unquestionably inferior position when compared to men. Just count the number of Chinese vs. Japanese female business leaders and public figures.
  • The dynamic between employer and employee:
    In Japan, this is still a paternal relationship. The employer is seen as a parent taking care of a child. Promotions and pay increases are more dependent on the needs of the employee than his merits and achievements. In that sense, the wage itself is more of a stipend than a compensation. This principle is also behind the still very strong Japanese tradition of lifetime employment. After all, you can't just abandon a parent, or a child.
    In China, the material relationship between the two is very much Westernized, especially in non-SoEs. Wages are wages, not stipends, and the employee is not expected to stay longer than a few years cause everyone wants to seek new opportunities.

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