|THE CYCLES OF MODERN JAPAN’S RISE AND FALL
Makoto Iokibe,Professor, Kobe University
Yutaka Kawashima, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs
Jiro Ushio, Chairman & CEO, Ushio, Inc.
Masayuki Yamauchi (moderator),Professor, University of Tokyo
HOW LONG WAS THE 20TH CENTURY
Yamauchi: Some historians in the West say that the 20th century began at 1914, the year World War I broke out and ended with the end of the Cold War, or in December 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union. For the Japanese, I think the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 is a defining event, the beginning of our 20th century. Japan concluded the Anglo-Japanese Alliance in 1902, and from there on Japan entered the world dominated by Western powers. Iokibe: It is important to note that one of the 20th century’s features is the tri-polarization between the United States, Europe and Japan. Until then, world history was determined by Western civilization. The United States, in fact, entered the century as a global power after its war with Spain. Japan, on the other hand, became a global power only after the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars. In the first half of the 20th century, Japan became a military empire that was one of the three greatest naval states in the world, next to Britain and the United States. In the latter half of the century, Japan became a pillar in the tripolar world as an economic giant. Unlike the previous century, the 20th century did not have the Congress of Vienna-type of framework; it was a century of war and revolution. In this sense, World War I is the beginning of the 20th century; then followed World War II and the Cold War. If 1989 is the end of this century, the 20th century was a short one. My feeling is the changes that have been occurring in the past 10 years already belong to the 21st century. It is better to think that we are in fact 10 years into the 21st century. Ushio: But if we look at Japan’s economy, it is difficult to find a unifying theme that runs through this century. Before the war, it was the time of the military and politics; the economy was run from the top. It is only after the war that Japan joined the Western club of market economies. Prewar and postwar economics are so different. The speed of economic development in the latter half of this century is also significantly quicker. At one point, we experienced an unprecedented growth rate at 15 percent, but we were also able to undergo fundamental reforms that are usually forsaken as a trade-off for economic growth. Postwar reforms were more than revolutionary; from constitutional reform that gave power to the people, the land and educational reforms to female suffrage: everything was transformed. People who supported the past system were taken out as war criminals, and those who hadn’t experienced past success rushed blindly towards a newer, richer “civilization” under an American system. No one ever dreamed of doubting that they were doing anything wrong. I don’t think any other country has gone through an experience like Japan in order to become a member of advanced nations. Yamauchi: I think the high-rate growth in the 1960s brought one of the fundamental transformations in Japan’s social structure. The family system disintegrated, farm villages were taken apart, and cities became the center of society. But going back to defining the 20th century, how do you, as a diplomat, view the 20th century? Kawashima: While I resided in Europe, I got the sense that in Europe the impact of World War I on its history is far more deeply felt than that of World War II. Everything started from there. Europeans view it as the trigger to the Russian Revolution and World War II. Japan, on the other hand, was tagging along with the victors in World War I, and many felt that it was another victorious “episode” for Japan. But in terms of Japanese history, in some ways, the Russo-Japanese war was a precursor to World War I. But the Japanese didn’t notice this significance and kept on repeating the same thing later, and becoming involved in serious imperialism. When we look at the 20th century in terms of world history, first of all, the Russian Revolution instigated the conflict with communism. Other fanatical movements became dominant for a while, but in the end, even the communist experiment failed. Market economy, which relies on desire as its operating parameter, survived as a social system. IT WAS A MISTAKE FOR JAPAN TO LOOK AT THE WORLD Yamauchi: If we think about the continuity between the 19th and 20th centuries. The 19th century brought prosperity to mankind. But at the same time, the competition inherent in absolute liberalism also brought poverty. I think the 20th century was about how to correct this negative impact on society. It could be said that the Russian Revolution and the rise of communism provided one answer to this challenge. Would we have had Keynesian theory or Schumpeter without it? I think the Russian Revolution had the effect of enriching the theories on liberalism. In this sense, the Russian Revolution was a significant event in the 20th century in terms of the impact it had as a revolution and the reaction it provoked. Iokibe: But at the same time, I think the 20th century was America’s century. The Soviet Union had an important role, but the United States was the lone shining star. And, looking in the long run, perhaps the impact of decolonization might outlive the impact of the Russian Revolution. As a Japanese, though, let’s say that the “ups and downs”of Japan is the biggest event of this century. In the non-Western world, Japan was the forerunner who succeeded in modernization. Japan proved that it was possible to prosper by learning the methods of Western civilization. But in 1945, Japan was in complete ruins, although that wasn’t the end of it: Japan rose again as an economic power. Now, it is once again struggling not to sink in this economic quagmire. Japan has been repeating this ups and downs, and I’d like to list this as the chief “event” of the 20th century. Relating to what Mr. Kawashima said, in Europe, the self-prophesy of decay after World War I became a reality. But while Europe was feeling devastated by the war, the United States remained optimistic, and advanced energetically towards its vision of eternal prosperity. On the other hand, Japan took the war lightly. It couldn’t redefine its national interest by changing its imperialist ways in response to the changes that World War I brought to the world. That carried Japan towards confrontation with the United States. Kawashima: Until World War I, China was the arena for Western powers to lock their horns, but after the war, Russia and Germany left the scene. Britain and France had enough on their hands with the situation in the Middle East, leaving only Japan and the United States. Yamauchi: The Ottoman Empire also disintegrated around that time, and a situation comparable to the collapse of the Soviet Union was plaguing the Middle East. Kawashima: That is why none of the European powers had the time to play the imperialist game in China. In that sense, China became a kind of vacuum, and only Japan expanded its influence there. Consequently, Japan ended up clashing with the United States. I think this was a consequence of World War I from an international perspective. Ushio: Everyone in the world was short-sighted in the early half of the 20th century, with the exception of the United States after World War I. They could only see what was happening close by; hardly anyone looked at the big picture. In any case, Asia was a blank space on the world map, and Japan wasn’t part of the world in the 1870s and 1880s. Japan’s international sense or view of the world didn’t count for much. In that sense, Japan didn’t have any idea of the world in the beginning of the 20th century, let alone the 19th century. Iokibe: I think self-reflections of the two world wars finally forced Japan to look at the world squarely. Ushio: Yes, exactly. Japan was especially unaccustomed to looking at the bigger picture, so its bird’s eye view tends to be unreliable, even in postwar Japan. We didn’t make mistakes when all we were required to do was to see the world through the glasses of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, but after the Cold War, everyone began to look at the world in their own ways, acting independently of others. This is the dangerous phase for Japan. Yamauchi: To say that Japan makes mistakes when it looks at the world. Does that mean we shouldn’t conduct diplomacy? I think you’ve made a sharp observation. Iokibe: I think there were two patterns in our past behavior. One was defined by our alliances with the Anglo-Saxons. Like the postwar U.S.-Japan alliance, in the Anglo-Japanese alliance, we entered into an alliance with an Anglo-Saxon country that acted by looking at the whole world, linking its national interest to the international system. As long as the United States or Britain didn’t misjudge the situation, Japan was less likely to go the wrong way. But the other pattern is that when we contemplate ourselves as one of the masters of the world and try to create regional order. For example, we have made grave mistakes such as the Great East Asia War. We have to overcome both of these patterns. Ushio: To put it another way, that’s like saying only the Anglo-Saxons have an international perspective. Kawashima: Japanese foreign policy is often criticized for following the Americans too much. More recently, this criticism has extended to our policies toward China, South Korea and North Korea, stating that we’re too weak against all of them. But going back to the Anglo-Saxons, I think the international system that they, the Anglo-Saxons, created was very convenient for advancing Japan’s interests. England had the wisdom from having managed an empire; the United States had the strong belief that what they are doing was right. For example, the Bretton Woods system created by the Americans served as a framework for the order for Japan’s postwar economic growth. Yamauchi: If we look at the history after the Meiji Restoration, the fact is Japan was doing fine when it was together with the Britain or the United Statesﾑthe Anglo-Saxon maritime nations. But Japan went down when it joined forces with non-maritime nations, like Germany and Italy. Iokibe: Japan started late, after the Meiji Restoration, and it was just barely able to catch the wave of modernization. Japan was in a position to change the status quo. If such a country were to join forces with anti-status quo countries, it would naturally lead to war. But Japan learned the world order view by being in an alliance with a country that was managing the world order_England. Japan had a chance to gain a way of maintaining order by managing the system as well as by force. That was an amazing opportunity for Japan. The tragedy began in the 1930s when it became increasingly difficult to maintain that system. Yamauchi: At the Washington Conference (1921-22), the ratio between British, U.S. and Japanese naval capacity was 5:5:3. This ratio was reasonable considering each nation’s capacity for sustained growth. There was no need to join forces with the non-naval Germany after breaking off the negotiations at the London Conference. Follow this link and discover more about Publications in Japanese.
Ushio: There are many blueprints of world strategy. How we choose which one to pursue is the key, and I don’t think we need to create our own from scratch. For example, look at what happened to India. 40 years ago, when 1 rupee was 75 yen, those who went there to study from Japan apparently thought highly of Indian civilization. But now, 40 years later, 1 rupee is 3 yen. The difference between India and Japan was that India chose the Soviet model of socialism and a closed economy, instead of the American model. It made the wrong choice, and 40 years later, the difference is so vast. The issue is how we make the choice. The Japanese have the ability to solve any problems, so I think we should be concentrating on the kinds of strategy we choose to adopt. Kawashima: Many Japanese became rather arrogant during the 1980s when the economy was good. But now, pessimism rules everywhere. I think the question today is whether Japan has the national energy to take up another challenge, like it did in the Meiji Restoration or in the postwar period. Iokibe: During the Meiji Restoration and in the early postwar era, Japan thought it had nothing to lose, so it could reinvent itself. But today, we have things that we need to protect. On top of that, we have an aging population. It’s difficult to muster up the energy to build from scratch. On the other hand, we might expect those Japanese who have been trained overseas and have experiences of working with foreigners to emerge. Ushio: Right after the war, MacArthur came to Japan, and we accomplished what he set us out to do beautifully. The Japanese were diligent students compared to the Germans. That dynamism we showed when we were responding to a problem might be considered a world threat. But today, Japan is an economic victor, so no country is giving us a menu to follow. There isn’t a clear strategy, which is why we’re trying to come up with a vision, but we’re unable to create a large vision. INTERNATIONAL RESPONSIBILITY AFTER THE GULF WAR Yamauchi: Looking back at postwar Japanese diplomacy, I think the Gulf War was a turning point in the relationship between international responsibility and domestic opinion. Kawashima: Until the Gulf War, Japan’s politics had been divided on the issue of deterrence since 1945. Many Japanese believed that no one would attack us if we didn’t attack, as all the wars which Japan fought in modern history took the form of Japanese attacks on the Asian continent. The Mongolian attack in the 14th century is the only exception. That kind of historical experience became the backbone of the ﾒnon-entanglementﾓ opinion in war. The reformists were against rearming, because they thought that invited trouble. The conservatives, i.e. the government, on the other hand, supported the security alliance with the United States and the Self Defense Forces. This was the basic structure of the inconclusive argument on security in Japan during the Cold War. But when the Cold War ended and the Gulf War broke out, Japan found itself unable to respond effectively because of its legal framework designed under a heavy allergic reaction to the use of force. The situation became embarrassing because all Japan could do was give money in that kind of situation. This gave rise to the issue of cooperation in maintaining international order, instead of “non-entanglement.” It was a rude awakening for the nation that had hitherto been arguing over the issue of deterrence. Of course, from a constitutional point of view, there was a limit to what Japan could do; this hasn’t changed. These developments have affected the way we responded to the situation in East Timor; the problems that arose during the Gulf War revisited us. Ushio: The time for talking about unilateral pacifism is over. The important issue is Japan’s stance and role in international security. But we are giving off the image of dodging this issue, using the Constitution as an excuse to pay our way out. That this is being heavily criticized is a serious problem. National policy that affects world security has to be discussed in a broader context of global standards, but I think Japanese discussions on security issues today are off-track. Iokibe: It is possible to make this argument because of the experience from the Gulf War. In postwar Japan, war was defined in terms of our self-defense or invasion, but the Gulf War wasn’t about either of these issues. “This isn’t our problem; we are pacifists”: that was the logic. But our response faced severe international criticism, and only then did we begin to seriously think about war for the sake of international security. Belatedly, we changed our awareness and managed to achieve a rare success in Japanese diplomacy in Cambodia’s peace process. Japan acted solely based on its own judgment of the local situation and didn’t kowtow to the P-5 nations or ASEAN: a rare case of Japan contributing to the restoration of regional peace. This was the direct result of our shifting attitudes after the “shock” of the Gulf War, but at the same time, it was also crucial that we had specialists with expertise knowledge of the region. Yamauchi: On the point of regional specialists, the mutual trust between Tajikistan’s government and Japanese diplomatic staff played an important role in the release of hostages in Kyrgyzstan. That case proved how human ties cultivated during peacetime could become assets in moments of crisis. Ushio: Foreign Minister Masahiro Ohira once said that Japan shouldn’t expect to have leaders like Prime Minister Jawaharlall Nehru or President Tito. Japan’s diplomacy should concentrate on building trust bit by bit, working daily on small issues and keeping promises. Kawashima: But then we can also ask: “What were Nehru or Tito actually doing?” There was so much revolutionary rhetoric at the time, but their socialist system failed in the end. What is healthy about Asia today is that the government’s legitimacy rests on the extent of its economic development. This is also the case with China. North Korea is the only exception in East Asia, but the rest are all facing the same direction, building a market economy linked to the international system. I think this is one common conclusion every- one reached at the end of this century. We are entering an era that is more stable than the era dominated by revolutionary theory. Iokibe: I think there are two groups of countries that are friendly to Japan. One is comprised of countries that benefited from the defeat of the Russian Empire in the Russo-Japanese War. These countries were victims of Russian expansion and therefore still appreciate what we did back then. The other group consists of countries that we are diligently assisting in their economic development, reconstruction and peace-building. I think economic cooperation is a key factor contributing to Japan’s solid reputation among developing nations. Among the advanced nations, Japan is unique in that it tries to look after rather than to bully. Japan doesn’t possess dignity, but its efforts are being appreciated. Developing countries will come to our support when necessary. Ushio: I agree. Japan’s methods are invisible and are not designed to achieve instant gratification, but they appear sincere for that reason. Japan is rather clumsy, so it doesn’t know how to steal the spotlight even when it’s dispensing aid. Japan has no military backing, so private corporations have to be very courteous when going overseas. But the Japanese also like to boast. There are two sides to this, but the good side is that we are diligent and polite with our clients. We are only interested in selling our goods and quality service. When everyone was withdrawing capital from Asia during the 1997 Financial Crisis, Japan withdrew the least. Even when factory operation output was down to 20 percent, we remained in the region. We also succeeded in transfer of advanced technology to the region. I cannot help but wonder where this kind of diligence comes from, but I suspect that the state’s lack of power is behind the private sector’s restrained behavior. Kawashima: I accompanied Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama in the summer of 1994 to Vietnam. The leaders he met then were all veterans who had fought against France and the U.S. They said, “We have experts on war, but we don’t have any experts on state-building so we have to make them.” Vietnam was trying to rebuild itself after the long war by learning from Japan, and they were comparing their own experience to that of postwar Japan. Shortly after that visit they embarked on their dynamic economic growth. Vietnam is the latecomer in the East Asian market economy, but it is very interesting. FROM COMMON INTERESTS TO COMMON VALUES Iokibe: I would like to point out two things that we haven’t talked about so far. One is the prospect for Japan-U.S. relations. I recently encountered an American professor who told me that by the end of the 1980s, Japan’s power was felt all over the world, but in the past ten years, both this power and Japan-U.S. relations have crumbled. This declining status of Japan was reflected in the “Japan passing” by President Clinton when he visited Jiang Zemin in China. But I don’t necessarily think this is so. There are good sides to the relationship. The Japan-U.S. security alliance has been redefined for, and extended to, the 21st century, and there are also the new Guidelines, and by 1995, the outstanding trade disputes were resolved. I don’t think it’s a one-way street to disintegration; it is just that the fluctuations in the relationship are greater. Japan-U.S. relations is becoming more fluid. But it’s extremely important to manage this fluctuating Japan-U.S. relation for the sake of the Asia-Pacific region, which is becoming increasingly like a floating market. The other point concerns Japan’s relationship with its neighbors, China and Korea. In the past, Japan was not able to cultivate good relations with these countries for geopolitical and historical reasons. But there was a historic reconciliation when President Kim Dae Jung visited Japan in 1998. We are now working hard in developing a relationship of multilateral cooperation, and this is important. On the other hand, the problem with China is more difficult. I think China harbored the hope of containing Japan with the U.S. at one point. But when I visited China two weeks ago, I received a different message. China wanted to develop a strategic relationship with Japan.”Strategic” in this sense wasn’t military; what they wanted was “a long term, significant relationship between powers.” It should be noted that this expression has only been used toward Russia and the U.S. in the past. Yamauchi: The objective of China’s foreign policy is the establishment of strategic partnerships, and it stresses relations between powers. Until recently, China didn’t like Japan taking initiatives in regional matters, but I think that’s now changed. Jiang Zemin’s visit to Japan was overshadowed by its negative images, but the relationship that was defined then seemed to signify a “strategic” one, although the word wasn’t used. The relationship is in a new phase. Kawashima: There are basically two outlooks for future China. There is one in which China continues to grow economically. In this case, the problem is that China might become a military super-power. Another is the one in which China’s economy fails, leading to internal turmoil and outflow billions of refugees. Whichever view one takes, what is common in both cases is that there is a big problem ahead. I think it will take a route somewhere between these two, with a softer landing. What Japan has been doing in its relations with China is to make a dense web of mutual interdependence and common interests, and to make China get a deeper understanding that to be part of the international system is indispensable to its reform, open door policy and modernization. If China developed in that way, it could be an important stabilizing factor not only for this region, but also for the world. Then, I think, Japan-China relations will stabilize. If Japan-China relations could evolve beyond sharing interests to sharing values, the relationship would stabilize even more, but that is easier said than done. On the other hand, Japan and South Korea have been sharing interests since the normalization of ties, and now the two are at the stage of sharing values. This is due to the progress of democratization in South Korea and it has enhanced the bilateral relationship further. In East Asia, what has been important in the past 20 years is the rise of the middle class through economic growth. They push the process of democratization forward; this has been the case in South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. I think Indonesia is now at this stage. Iokibe: I’m not too enthused about the idea of “democratic peace” because it smacks of American egocentricity. This doctrine, I’m afraid, could lead Americans to bomb and punish the nations they define as “anti-democratic,” like the medieval Europeans who justified war against non-Christian countries because they were enemies of Christianity. But the progress of democracy in Korea is significant. I think maturing of democracy in Korea has enabled Japan and Korea to share values, and alleviate fundamentalist anti-Japanese opinion. Kawashima: The Central and Eastern European nations that are now joining European integration also want to catch up with their Western colleagues at the level of sharing values. This creates a sense of unity that goes beyond sharing interests. It might be too much to expect that in Asia yet, but common values are far more important than military balance as a factor for global and regional stability. Ushio: What gives a sense of hope today is that Japan and Korea have managed to build a relationship of mutual trust. When things change, they really change. There’s even talk about creating a Japan-Korea free trade zone. If this becomes successful, I think it could lead to a way for Japan to co-exist and share prosperity with other Asian nations. I would also like to point out that the Japanese who live in rural areas tend to have fewer problems with co-existing with people from other parts of the world. Those who work in factories or live in deep rural areas have a better sense of international exchange than those in the city. I learnt this from experiences of working abroad and also looking after foreign students. We have the talent to live in the international community. Yamauchi: In international relations in the 21st century, I think China and Islam are the two main problems. We have already seen how frightening Islamic social movement can be when it is linked to ethnic issues. Japan’s diplomacy in the21st century must seek a balance in the tension between the successful pursuit of international exchange and crisis management. 2000, Gaiko Forum English Edition
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