Reading reviews on "Japan Rising"

Kenneth Pyle published last march the book Japan Rising, that has been very welcome for a wide range of the achademy. In Asia Times we can read a good review written by Sreeram Chaulia:

Pyle deduces six persistent traits of Japan’s national style from its history. First is its attentiveness to maximizing power as a condition of survival in the world. Japan always allies itself with the dominant ascendant power, be it Britain, Germany or the US. Second, Japan is a pragmatic state with no great universal ideals or utopian visions. The conservative upper crust of Japanese leaders invariably rejects doctrinal approaches. Third, and most important, is Japan’s propensity to adapt to international conditions to offset its vulnerability. Its rulers always read the global “trend of the times” (jisei), not to change it but to move alongside it to their own national advantage.

Fourth, modern Japan always pursues regional autonomy or hegemony through differing means. Policies such as diversifying energy suppliers and limiting foreign direct investment are designed to shield the economy from foreign dependence. Fifth, Japan best exemplifies the logic of swiftly copying the successful practices of the great powers such as China in pre-modern times and the West thereafter.

The Japanese lack “barriers of cultural and religious self-absorption that impede learning from other civilizations” (…) What this implies is that Japan can never be a true hegemon that can spread its values and institutions to other states or multilateral organizations. It looks destined to remain a cautious adaptive power that receives more from the international system but gives less

The Economist also reviewed it and highlighted that:

By virtually any measure—trade, tourism, foreign students, immigration, cultural interchange—Japan is the least globalised of all the rich, industrialised democracies.

And Michael Green in Foreign Affairs also reviews it:

Pyle’s rich history offers an important corrective for those who believe that the future of Asian security can be assured through a bipolar U.S.-Chinese concert of power. Although increasingly aligned with the United States because of growing uncertainty about its external environment, Japan is an independent variable, and the Japanese elite will come to its own conclusions about how to safeguard Japan’s interests. A positive U.S.-Chinese relationship is in Japan’s national interest, but excessive U.S. accommodation of Chinese power at Japan’s expense will lead to increased hedging by Tokyo and a less predictable Asian security environment. (…) Despite Singaporean elder statesman Lee Kuan Yew’s famous warning to Washington that encouraging Japan to play a larger security role is like giving a former alcoholic a rum bonbon, Singapore is now at the forefront of efforts to expand Japan’s political and security role in Southeast Asia; Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand have followed suit. None of these nations — including Japan — is interested in “containing” China’s rise, but all are engaged in a curious mix of balancing and bandwagoning, and Tokyo is beginning to take advantage of that game.

Joseph Nye also cites Pyle’s work in his last article in Project Syndicate, and it concludes:

Japan has become more willing to use its power, and more aware of changes in the external balance of power. It is rising, but how? As one Japanese liberal commented to me, “this is our third response to globalization. What can we contribute this time?”

After reading all these reviews I bought the book and I recived it today… I can’t hardly wait to start reading it. I promise to make my own review afterwards.


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