The relationship between the United States and Japan is torn by contrary impulses. We face each other across the Pacific as friends and allies, as the two most powerful economies in the worldand as suspicious rivals. Americans admire the industry of the Japanese, but we resent the huge trade deficit that has developed between us, due to what we consider to be unfair trade practices and "unlevel playing fields." Now, in Altered States, historian Michael Schaller strips away the stereotypes and misinformation clouding American perceptions of Japan, providing the historical background that helps us make sense of this important relationship.
Here is an eye-opening history of U.S.-Japan relations from the end of World War II to the present, revealing its rich depths and startling complexities. Perhaps Schaller's most startling revelation is that modern Japan is what we made itthat most of what we criticize in Japan's behavior today stems directly from U.S. policy in the 1950s. Indeed, as the book shows, for seven years after the end of the war, our occupational forces exerted enormous influence over the shape and direction of Japan's economic future. Stunned by the Communist victory in China and the outbreak of war in Korea, and fearful that Japan might form ties with Mao's China, the U.S. encouraged the rapid development of the Japanese economy, protecting the huge industrial conglomerates and creating new bureaucracies to direct growth. Thus Japan's government-guided, export-driven economy was nurtured by our own policy. Moreover, the United States fretted about Japan's economic weaknessthat they would become dependent on usand sought to expand Tokyo's access to markets in the very areas it had just tried to conquer, the old Co Prosperity Sphere. Schaller documents how, as the Cold War deepened throughout the 1950s, Washington showered money on what it saw as the keystone of the eastern shore of Asia, working assiduously to expand the Japanese economy and, in fact, worrying intensely over the American trade surplus. Fear of Japanese instability ran so deep that Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson approved secret financial help to Japanese conservative politicians, some of whom had been accused of war crimes against Americans. Then came the 1960s, and the surplus faded into a deficit. The book reveals how Washington's involvement in Vietnam provided the Japanese government with political cover for quietly pursuing a more independent course. Even in the 1970s, however, with America's one time ward turned into an economic powerhouse, the Nixon administration failed to pay much attention to Tokyo. Schaller shows that Kissinger openly preferred the more charismatic company of Zhou Enlai to that of Japanese technocrats, while economics bored him. The United States almost missed the fact that Japan had developed into a country that could say no, and very loudly.
Michael Schaller has won widespread acclaim for his earlier books on U. S. relations with Asia. His fearless judgments, his fluid pen, his depth of knowledge and research have all lifted him to the front rank of historians writing today. In Altered States, he illuminates the most important, and troubled, relationship in the world in a work certain to cement his reputation.