Japan is on the verge of a sea change. After more than fifty years of national pacifism and isolation including the "lost decade" of the 1990s, Japan is quietly, stealthily awakening. As Japan prepares to become a major player in the strategic struggles of the 21st century, critical questions arise about its motivations. What are the driving forces that influence how Japan will act in the international system? Are there recurrent patterns that will help explain how Japan will respond to the emerging environment of world politics?
American understanding of Japanese character and purpose has been tenuous at best. We have repeatedly underestimated Japan in the realm of foreign policy. Now as Japan shows signs of vitality and international engagement, it is more important than ever that we understand the forces that drive Japan. In Japan Rising, renowned expert Kenneth Pyle identities the common threads that bind the divergent strategies of modern Japan, providing essential reading for anyone seeking to understand how Japan arrived at this moment—and what to expect in the future.
Spotlight customer reviews:
Customer Rating: Summary: Adopt, Adapt, and Improve... Comment: Kenneth Pyle's examination of Japan's history and its ability to move with the flow of the times is well-done, detailed and very intriguing. He takes the reader through a sometimes clinical, but understandable tour of Japan's changes from the times of feudalism up through its 21st Century situation.
Japan has often taken a possibly Taoist stance on the changes put before it over the decades; to adopt, adapt and improve on what went about around it. The acceptance of western ways from the time of America's first appearance in the 1850's to the time of the Meiji Restoration show the ability to take up the way of others without losing one's own identity.
In recent decades that appears to be more of a concern; Japan's identity crisis is examined in great detail, from the time of the Yoshida influence, the maverick nature of the Nakasone administration, to the rise of Ozawa and the "Heisei Generation."
The relations between Japan and its neighbors is a balancing act, with regard to the US as well, and the gestures between the Koreas and China with Japan still have much to reconcile. In particular, the military atrocities in those countries during the Second World War, which are still open wounds to many.
A great history lesson, all in all. Customer Rating: Summary: Japan Must Rise! Comment: After the occupation of Japan ended in 1952 by the United States, the Japanese nation would emerge as one of the strongest economical nations in the world. Without a doubt, Japan has been the economic empire of the Far East along with China but the Japanese do pay their employees much better than China. Japan has adopted a largely pacifist constitution since it was the military leaders who led Japan into World War II and almost complete destruction.
This book traces the development of the Japanese military since the close of the Cold War and the beginnings of the new war on terrorism. The United States and most democratic allies are looking for Japan to rebuild its military might for several reasons. First, Japan is now an allied nation. Secondly, Japan is now a democratic nation allowing the people to help its leaders control the military. Thirdly, Japan could help offset North Korea and China as rogue nations in southeast Asia. Fourth, its simply a matter of time before Islamic terrorist target Japan. Japan has every right to protect herself.
I found this book to be enlightning. If you would have told the Marines at Guam or Iwo Jima that Japan would be an allied nation along with the United States, almost none would have accepted that premise. Today the United States (and Europe) needs Japan to rebuild its military to help fight terrorism. The spending by the Japanese on their military has been steadly going up as Japan seeks to defend itself in the coming battle. Japanese forces are already helping the United States in its battles in the middle east.
Overall this a good read. I would encourage you to study Japan as it rebuilds its military might. Customer Rating: Summary: Adapting to the Trends of the Time Comment: Kenneth Pyle's history of Japan's shifting foreign policies over the last hundred and fifty years is built on three premisses. The first, in accordance with the realist paradigm in international relations theory, is that Japan conducts its foreign relations in a way that maximizes the nation's interest, and that its national advantage can be determined in a straightforward and unambiguous manner. This distinguishes the author from other scholars who insist on socially-constructed goals or collective disciplines that can sometimes be at variance with a country's most advantageous course of action.
The second principle is that Japanese political leaders are a pragmatic lot who tend to "move with the tide" and adapt to changing circumstances. Whenever fundamental changes have taken place in the international environment, the Japanese leaders have proven skillful at adapting their policies to these changes and using them opportunistically to further the nation's interests and ambition. A corollary is that Japan takes its external environment as a given: it doesn't try to shape or transform it through the application of universalistic principles or home-bred ideologies. To use a metaphor from economics, Japan is a price-taker, not a market-maker.
The third precept is the "Primat der Aussenpolitik": Japanese institutions were shaped more by external factors than by internal political struggles or social conflicts. Repeatedly through the course of the 150 years of its modern history, each time the structure of the international system underwent fundamental change, Japan adapted its foreign policies to that changed order and restructured its internal organization to take advantage of it. In the process of adapting its domestic institutions to the external environment, concern with preserving the ideals of Japan's cultural heritage generally took second place. As a consequence, the book covers much more than foreign policy, and its scope encompass all aspects of japan's adaptation to the modern world.
Japan Rising provides a good introduction to the country's modern history and brings different periods that are often treated separately into a common narrative. Particularly valuable are the many quotations of Japanese statesmen or intellectuals that the author tracks back to their original source given in the footnotes (it is not clear whether the author offers his own translation of these sources or borrows them from translated versions). Kenneth Pyle also makes good use of the existing literature, including some Japanese scholarship, although he cannot do justice to all that has been written on so broad a subject. Nevertheless, references to historical debates and conflicts of interpretation that divide the historical profession would have been worthwhile.
I have some reservations however with the author's attempt to identify the "profound forces" or recurrent patterns that characterize Japan's engagement with the outside world. These persistent features (Japan's opportunism, pragmatism, outward orientation, etc.) tend to placate psychological traits over a nation, obfuscating the political processes, social struggles, and individual agency that are at the origin of historical outcomes. They establish a false continuity in Japan's modern history, minimizing the profound ruptures and new departures that have charted the country's course since the Meiji Restoration. The author's intention is to offer to American policy-makers interpretative lenses and guidelines for action in a bilateral relationship that has often been fraught with misunderstandings and prejudices. But I am not sure whether generalizations about Japan's national "style" or pattern of behavior are really helping toward that end.
Another reservation I have with the book is its interpretation of Japan's economic success. The author seems to have a problem with free trade and self-regulating markets, echoing in some sense Japanese leaders' preference for ordered capitalism and state intervention. He reproduces uncritically Friedrich List's indictment of free trade as a self-serving ideology sustaining British imperial rule: "It is a very common clever device that when anyone has attained the summit of greatness, he kicks away the ladder by which he has climbed up, in order to deprive others of the means of climbing up after him." Put in this context, Japan's imperial expansion was a rational response to a situation where the chances to climb the ladder were flawed. This was simply the way the game was played, and if someone is to blame, it is the imperial powers who set the rules of the game, not Japan who simply was a fast learner.
Moving on to the postwar era, the author sees Japan's recovery and economic success as the result of mercantilist policies taking advantage of a system ruled by classic liberal principles. There is certainly an element of free riding in Japan's postwar economic miracle, which was made possible by America's security umbrella and its maintaining of a liberal economic order. But claiming that there would have been no Japanese success story had Japan contributed a bigger part of burden sharing seems to me an unsubstantiated conclusion. More than mercantilism and state interventionism, Japanese economic success seems to me the result of sound economic policies and the collective effort of a people determined to catch up. Customer Rating: Summary: Resurgence of a Chastened, Wiser Giant Comment: Kenneth Pyle does a remarkable job in helping his readers better assess the future behavior of a resurgent Japan in fast-changing Asia. U.S. policymakers have been repeatedly wrong-footed in gauging Japan's foreign policy since the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry and his ships on Japan's shores in 1853 (pp. 10, 67). Think for instance about the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor as an act of economic desperation over the American oil embargo, despite the odds against military victory (pp. 10 - 11, 64 - 65, 135 - 36, 204, 354). Another example is the Yoshida doctrine, Japan's unique Cold War policy that relied on U.S. security guarantees while pursuing mercantile realism, to which American policymakers remained oblivious for a long time (pp. 13, 45 - 46, 212, 225 - 77, 291).
Part of the challenge in understanding Japan is that the country is simultaneously a state and a unique civilization (pp. 13, 49 - 50). Furthermore, Japan has vacillated between infuriating ethnocentrism and remarkable receptivity to foreign influences during its history without ultimately sacrificing its unique culture (pp. 18 - 19, 22 - 23, 58 - 62, 76, 100 - 05, 116 - 36, 176, 239, 245). Finally, Japan has often not done enough to factor in the legitimate concerns of other countries in its "opaque" decision-making process, resulting in some needless frictions (pp. 15 - 16, 229, 250 - 52, 306 - 09, 354).
To his credit, Pyle clearly shows that the Japanese tend to shun radical change in their interaction with the outside world unless the circumstances deprive them of any other option. The difficulty of making change and the rapidity with which irresistible changes occur have often confused foreigners because of the apparent, inherent contradiction in this policy (pp. 52, 76).
Resource poor and a late arriver in the modern world, Japan is among the few countries in modern history which have been especially sensitive and responsive to the forces of the international environment (pp. 21 - 22, 27, 49). As a matter of self-interest, Japan has repeatedly allied itself with the dominant ascendant power (pp. 12, 44 - 46). Modern Japan's behavior is especially remarkable when one remembers that the country benefited from a unique isolation and security for almost all its history prior to the 19th century. (pp. 32, 34). The origin of that astonishing capability to adapt to external forces lies in the legacy of Japanese feudalism (pp. 39 - 41, 59, 62, 84). The same conservative ruling elite has displayed an extraordinary resilience in carrying on the strategic principles of the Meiji leaders, despite the ups and downs in their fortunes (pp. 23 - 24, 43 - 44, 49-51, 194, 220, 225 - 26, 260 - 77, 293, 357).
Pyle spends most of his time covering how Japan reorganized its domestic institutions to support its foreign policy while accommodating five fundamental changes in the international order in East Asia in the last century and half (p. 28):
1) The collapse of the Sinocentric system under the pressure of Western powers taking advantage of a weakened Imperial China in the middle of the 19th century (pp. 34 - 39, 72 - 136);
2) The substitution of the imperialist system for the decade-old Washington Treaty System based on the ideals of international liberalism under the influence of Woodrow Wilson after WWI. The new system was designed to check Japanese expansionism in East Asia (pp. 139 - 54, 159 - 67, 201);
3) The disintegration of the Washington System following the worldwide economic depression and the remodeling of Japanese domestic institutions after those of Nazi Germany in its conquest of much of East and Southeast Asia between 1932 and 1942 (pp. 167 - 69, 172, 183 - 91, 198 - 205);
4) The annihilation of Japan's fascist order and the imposition of a new U.S.-inspired liberal order after 1945 and its evolution during the Cold War. Postwar Japan retooled its domestic institutions to get the most out of the free-trade U.S.-sponsored regime while leveraging the military alliance between the two countries (pp. 205 - 77);
5) The post Cold War transition in Japan following the implosion of the Soviet Union-dominated communist order in 1989. Surprisingly, Japan, at the zenith of its economic power, sank in economic and political torpor, partly due to the absence of a clear-cut new order in East Asia and partly due to the emergence of other economic powers, especially China, in the region (pp. 5, 280, 284, 286, 300). Japan started rebounding from its torpor under the premiership of Koizumi Junichirï¿½ by undermining the Yoshida doctrine and by engaging in economic and military multilateralism (pp. 291 - 309, 355 - 74).
Pyle consecrates the end of his book to the triangular relations among China, Japan, and the U.S. The U.S. has pursued the same policy in East Asia since WWI: No domination of any power in the region, free trade, and the spread of democracy to preserve peace and stability in the region (pp. 145, 311). The U.S. has developed a mixed policy of containment and engagement with China while strengthening its military alliance with Japan (pp. 314, 333, 348 - 54, 368 - 69). The continued engagement of the U.S. in the region is vital to keep Japan from putting itself in the orbit of China (p. 353). Japan, mindful of its past, location, and culture, has been conditionally engaging China in a way that is somewhat different from the U.S. (pp. 314 - 16, 324 - 36).
The legitimacy of the Communist Party leadership in China is built on strong economic growth (p. 337). If economic growth falters, the Communist Party leadership could be tempted to internationalize its problems by playing once more the nationalistic card that could backfire. Think for instance about fascist Japan in the 1930s and 1940s. More optimistically, the Communist Party could give up power peacefully as its counterparts in Central and Eastern Europe did in 1989.
To summarize, Japan's international behavior cannot be correctly understood without a proper grasp of the tectonic forces that have molded the country's history, geography, and culture.
Customer Rating: Summary: The Sun Also Rises Comment: Japan is a country that has faded into the background for many Americans. It is there, but not front and center like China or even Korea (North/South.) But the terms of our two countries' basically comfortable bilateral relationship may soon shift.
Professor Pyle, a well-informed academic, reminds his readers that Japan is important not only as a current major world economic force but as an emerging political and military power in the future of Asia. Change is afoot in Japan -- with a younger population not grounded in the searing aftermath of World War II -- as it adjusts its foreign policy to post-Cold War realities.
A book for those serious about understanding both historical and modern Japan, and its possible future in relation to China, Taiwan, Russia, Korea, and the United States.