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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.
Posted November 23, 2007
Too Much Past, Not Enough Present - Too Much History, Too Little Prophecy. As a historical work focused with an eye to explaining Japan's easy and quick accomodation to new world orders, this is an excellent work formulated on a formidale bolus of research. Unfortunately, this perspective is at odds with the book's title, 'JAPAN RISING'. Again, Bushels of the past explained, and hardly a pint of prophecy for the future. What is presented based upon Japan's repeatedly demonstrated paradigm for dealing with new world orders and yet still maintaining the nation's homogenous character is superb, but as the author points out, Japan failed miserably in the decade of the 1990s in adjusting to a world order in great flux. Accordingly, as long as this great flux dominates world economic, political and military interaction, justification, learned prophecy or just simply explanation as to why there is reason to expect better performance in adjusting the paradigm within Japan in the future is just not in the book. And for that, the work fails to live up to its title. It's an excellent read for understanding Japan's history and the formulation and repeated demonstration of its successful eco-political paradigm, but no more than that.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 4, 2007
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-trWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 19, 2011
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