Sunday, April 08, 2007

A Radical Agenda for Japanese People

In view of post Cold War uncertainties, Japanese people are reconsidering post World War Ⅱ regime. Particularly, nationalists question post war values “imposed” by American New Dealers, and trying to restore traditional Japanese values in place. It is a legitimate desire that Japan shed postwar defeatism as the Cold War is over. However, few Japanese opinion leaders—including politicians, businessmen, academics, the media, and bloggers—understand the fundamental of Japan as a modern state.

As I mentioned in the previous entitled “The Legacy of Queen Victoria in East Asian History”, Japan joined the Victorian world order on its own decision, in order to disentangle itself from dormant and Dark Age Asia. Through this way, Japan started to go through a success road after the Opium War. Contrary to popularly believed, modern Japan is an Anglo-German state rather than Asian one. Japan imported political and economic models, primarily from Britain, the United States, and Germany, and the whole nation adapted themselves to Western systems and thoughts. How could it happen?

A Dutch historian Jeroen Lamers, who is the author of “Japonius Tyrannus” (a research on 16th century ruler, Oda Nobunaga), points out that modern business rules of conduct were invented only in North Western Europe and Japan. Furthermore, he argues that people can pursue both economic development and social stability at the same time in advanced economies like Japan, Europe, and the United States, where such rules are accepted as fundamental norms of the society. This is not the case with rising economies in Asia, and economic development could trigger social instability there (News Letter of the Nagano Chamber of Commerce and Industry, June 2006). No wonder Japan is the only nation in the Far East to succeed in “becoming the West.” Actually, the Japanese share common values with Anglo-German Protestants, which is making contributions to the society through hard work.

Currently, Japan is a member of “Western”, or more precisely, “White men” Chief Executive Club to manage global affairs. Japanese should take pride in this. Prior to the St Petersburg Summit last year, US senators John Mc Cain and Joseph Lieberman cast doubt on Russia’s membership of G8, because authoritarian rule by the Putin administration as being incompatible with liberal norms of the West. To the contrary, none of policymakers in America and Europe questioned Japan’s qualification for Summit membership from the beginning. To my regret, conservatives fail to understand this, and they associate Japanese national identity with ancient myth and wartime militarism, although Japan is a modern liberal state.

No one doubts that the US-Japanese alliance is the central pillar of Japanese foreign policy. But few people understand that this is more than a regional security deal. The US-Japanese alliance guarantees Japan’s qualification for the most prestigious club of Western industrialized democracies. This is the vital reason why I feel disappointed to hear Foreign Minister Taro Aso say, “We, Japanese are yellow faced. We are in a superior position to Americans and Europeans in dealing with the Middle East peace process.”

The most importantly, those who denounce postwar regime change, as being imposed by the Allied Forces, must understand the following. Since Japan was a latecomer of modernization, the government had to force coercive enlightenment to the citizen. When the public grew mature enough to talk politics rationally, coercive enlightenment transformed into bottom-up enlightenment. The Taisho Democracy during the 1920s was driven by Japanese grassroots entirely. Unfortunately, wartime fascism interrupted this natural evolution. It was a kind of political market failure, and US led regime change just made everything on the right track. Just as Keynesian policy by Franklin Roosevelt was an economic New Deal, Allied Force rule was a political New Deal to promote the manifest destiny of everlasting enlightenment. Land, Infrastructure, and Transport Minister, Kazuo Kitagawa is utterly wrong to admire fascist policies during the wartime.

It seems to me, none of policymakers and opinion leaders have clear understanding of three key words: Japanese Success Road, Natural Evolution, and Manifest Destiny. This is quite worrisome to discuss the post-Cold War regime of Japan.