Considering the rise of China, will Japan join a new West? The answer is likely to be “Yes.”
In the past Japan was a leader in charting new strategic choices for the world. In the late 19th century, Japan emerged from the Industrial Revolution and elected a military course, attacking China and then Russia. Later she expanded geographically into Manchuria and China, and took on the United States of America as well in World War II. In both cases other powers followed in her wake.
After the world economy was reestablished, Japan took the lead in fashioning an opposite strategy: that of the “trading state.” Eschewing militarism, she set a new pathway for the recalcitrant superpowers, Russia and America.
Today the rise of China and Japan’s increasing political and economic success denominate her as a member of the New West. The New West is like the European Union; it is open to new members but not by means of coercion or military pressure. Instead of colonization, the New West is looking for democratic states which have succeeded economically, like those in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Japan can join because of new developments in her own governance. Partly owing to the triumph of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), but also because of a new course by the LDP, Japan has undertaken broader responsibilities in her military relation with Washington. She has taken military roles in the area surrounding Japan including in 2004 a commitment to fight alongside the United States in a military crisis.
Second, she has begun to reinterpret her obligations under Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. Drafted in 1946, the assumption of the Constitution was that the United Nations would provide international peace and security. If it did not, however, Japan was not thereby prohibited from arrangements with the United States in the interim. “In like manner Japan could justify participation in NATO arrangements prior to the assumption by the United Nations of full responsibility for international peace and security. It could also export military equipment, whether finished systems or components, to NATO associates.” Japan’s full participation in NATO, if it comes about, would dramatically change the global structure of power.
The European Union, the United States, and Japan combined account for 60 percent of World GDP, an amount unequalled by any other stat or combination of states. China, for example, will not be able to surpass the sum of these three economies in this century no matter what its rate of growth. In addition Japan has a powerful contribution to make to the militaries of the US and Europe through its expertise in robotics. It already produces 70 percent of all industrial robots worldwide.
We know that Japan’s example transformed American politics and raised technology and exports to a new priority in US policy. That example has also influenced the countries of East Asia and together with the postwar German example many European countries. Japan’s joining of the New West can produce a strong economic and political combination which, in the end, may attract and influence China.
(Note: This entry draws from ideas in an article I co-authored with Mayumi Fukushima and Yuzuru Tsuyama in The American Interest magazine, titled “Rising Sun in the New West,” in the May-June, 2012.
Richard Rosecrance is Adjunct Professor and Senior Fellow, International Security Program; Director, Project on U.S.-China Relations, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs