The Significance of Japan’s International Relations

Abstract from Japan’s International Relations – Politics, Economics and Security by Hook, Glenn D & Others- Chapter 1 – International Relations of Japan – Prof. Lindsay Black – Universiteit Leiden

  • Japan’s rise to international prominence of an East Asian latecomer has evinced metaphors and polemics of change, challenge and contradiction.
  • 1960-1990: metaphor of the ‘rising sun’ – Japan ascends to great power in the economic, political, and possibly even the security dimension following its economic rehabilitation and re-emergence.
  • 1960 – Japan got into the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which means its entry into the club of major industrialized countries.
  • 1976 – Japan had grown to the stature of East Asian’s new economic giant.
  • 1986 – Ezra Vogel, Harvard academic, declared the American Century and age of Pax Americana could be replaced in the next century by an era of Pax Nipponica.
  • Positive view of Japan’s rise (Vogel and others): it would galvanize US business to upgrade their competitiveness and prompt the government to take measures to eradicate the social costs of growth, in the one hand. But on the other, it would provide the US with a new partner to share the burden of maintaining the global order.
  • Negative view of Japan’s rise (Karen von Wolferen from the Revisionist school): deliberate strategy of mercantilist free riding on the back of the established economic, political and security order maintained by the other industrialized powers (especially the US). They also said the new superpower had no aim in the international sphere save the short-sighted and reckless pursuit of market share and the systematic crushing of economic rival. Altogether, it was seen as a peril and a parasitic threat to the international order, because it’s an economic juggernaut, driverless and careeing out of control.
  • 1990-1 – during (but also after) the Golf War Japan was highly criticized, altough your economic prowess appearead to have reached its zenith. Japanese leaders and people proved unable to build a consensus on Japan’s global security and military role.

“Japan is anything but number one.” (Woronoff, 1991)

“Japan is heading for the edge.” (Paul Krugman, 1999)

  • Since 1946-47, Japan has had only three Self-Defence Forces (SDF) in accordance with the Article 9 of the Peace Constitution.  They are: Ground Self-Defence Force (GSDF), Maritime Self-Defence Force (MSDF) and Air Self-Defence Force (ASDF), no one of them constitutes truly ‘military forces’ in the strict meaning of an army, navy or air force. Then, Japan does not possess nuclear weapons.
  • 2004 – Japan despatched troops to Iraq only for humanitarian work, which was interpreted as an unbalanced contribution.
  • Although there are lots of critics that seek to ignore the presence of Japan in the international system (preferring China as a superpower in the region, for example), they are forced to accept that Japan matters greatly and that it also has a vital position in the political, economic and security dimensions (regional and international).

But Why Japan Matters?

  • Meiji Era (1868-1912): Japan caught up with the West in the military and economic dimensions of power.
  • WWII and the Japanese defeat eliminate any post-war ambition to match the other industrialized powers militarily. Instead of this, Japan has been forced to channel its energies into recover from wartime devastation.
  • In the early 1960s: Prime Minister Ikeda Hayato’s administration implemented the Income Doubling Plan, which promoted high-speed economic growth.

This plan reaffirmed the government’s responsibility for social welfare, vocational training, and education, while also redefining growth to include consumers as well as producers.” (From: Encyclopedia Britannica)

  • Since 1945 the principal image of Japan’s IR has been linked firmly to the pursuit of economic interests. Until 2004 Japan possessed the second largest national economy in the world. In the realm of finances, since 1985 Japan has been the largest creditor. On the other hand, Japan’s national debt has been growing in the wake of the bursting of the ‘bubble economy’ to more than 8 per cent of GDP in 2003. But it also is the biggest borrower among the major industrialized powers, although most of this comes from domestic sources.
  • Japan’s economic presence is felt materially also through the products and activities of its TNCs (Transnational Corporations) and other business enterprises – Honda, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Sony, Nissan, Panasonic, Toshiba, etc). It has raised also to economic superpower through its gradually enhanced-presence in global economic institutions. Primarilay into the so-called 3 pillars of the Cold War such as IMF, IBRD and GATT (after WTO) with the US’s sponsorship.
  • In terms of security, Japan has been less salient since defeat in WWII. Rapkin appoints an apparent lack of any universalistic values in Japan to be exported to other countries — ‘legitimacy deficit’ — if compared to Western countries such US or UK. Furthermore, Japan has not been created a identifiable or forceful political and international ideology, althought such Prime Ministers as Nakasone Yasuhiro (1982-87) and Koizumi Junichiro (2001-) have raised the international profile of Japan more than others previous.
  • It is notable that Japan’s rise in the economic role brought it inevitably a degree of political power in global institutions, as can be seen in its entrance of the G8 — the only member from East Asia —, as well as in the United Nations (where it has increasingly contributed to the UN budget, which might be interpreted like attemp).