Current Institutional Affiliation
Senior Fellow for Japan Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Award Information

Abe Fellowship 2006
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Research Fellow, Politics, governance and security, East-West Center
China's Place in Japan's Foreign Policy Debate: Ideas, Agents and Issues in Remaking Postwar Japan

Japan's relationship with China is today at its worst, and the potential for a sustained Sino-Japanese rivalry is seen as a critical problem for the Asia Pacific region. Territorial disputes, energy resource competition, military tensions and other policy challenges have raised concerns over the possibility of a clash between Asia' s two largest countries. But it is the old question of "history" that raises the specter of serious discord . In particular , Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro' s visits to the Yasukuni Shrine have incited international concern about Japan 's domestic politics and the ability of Japan to engage diplomatically with China. Are we witnessing a rise in "nationalism" in Japan? Or, are we seeing instead a changing Japanese calculus of its foreign policy interests - a more "realistic" Japan? Finally, to what extent is Chinese behavior shaping Japan' s domestic debate, and in what direction? This project seeks to address these questions by placing Japan' s China policy debate within the context of domestic politics in Japan. Political change in Japan over the last decade has resulted in a broad debate over the need to reform "postwar" Japanese policy goals and institutions. Old patterns of interest articulation and policy debate have given way to a new emphasis on the open competition of ideas. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the realm of foreign policy . New ideas are motivating Japan ' s debate: Constitutional revision, overseas dispatch of the SDF, and the role of history in shaping contemporary policy towards China. A detailed study of Japan ' s foreign policy debate over China will illuminate the ideas and the agents that are shaping this debate. Several hypotheses can be generated to investigate the changing dynamics shaping Japan' s foreign policy debate: First, the end of thel955 system reduced the influence of Japan' s progressive elites on the shaping of the policy debate. Second, the change in the balance of power in the policymaking process between bureaucrats and politicians opened the foreign policy debate to greater politicization and contest. Third, in both the contest for ideas and influence over policy, we are now seeing greater efforts by political leaders to acquire popular support for foreign policy . These broad hypotheses can be tested by a close empirical examination of four episodes of change in key aspects of Japan' s policy towards China over the past decade: the end of "apology" diplomacy, the reform of Japan' s ODA to China, the changing assessment of China in Japan' s defense policy, and the Koizumi Yasukuni Shrine visits.The policy implications of this study are twofold: first, it will contribute to assessing the extent to which external actors, China first of al lbut also the U.S., can shape Japan's debate; and second, it will allow a greater understanding of the inter-relationship between Japan's strategic aims and the shifting coalition of forces that shape them. This study of its China policy will also contribute the our understanding of Japan's debate over its national identity and the extent to which that debate informs and motivates Japan's international behavior.