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Re-rising Japan

Its Strategic Power in International Relations


Edited By Hidekazu Sakai and Yoichiro Sato

"The lost two decades" of Japan’s economic power since the early 1990s have generated the image among scholars in the discipline of international relations (IR) that Japan is no longer a significant player. Hence, today’s IR literature focuses on the rise of China. Re-rising Japan: Its Strategic Power in International Relations challenges this trend by showing up-to-date evidence that Japan is still a major power in today’s international relations where the interests and power of the United States and China have increasingly clashed over many issues.

Indeed, since the Abe cabinet re-emerged in December 2012, there has been growing academic interest in Japan’s bold monetary/financial/social policies (Abenomics) and relatively assertive security policy. Where is Japan heading, and what path has it taken since the 2000s? This book responds to these questions.

Re-rising Japan assembles the latest studies on Japan written by today’s young and energetic scholars. It consists of three parts: (1) Geopolitics, (2) Domestic Political-Social Norms and Values, and (3) Asian Regional Integration and Institutionalizations. The individual chapters reveal what power assets Japan has and their strength and weakness in today’s international relations. Readers will attain a complete picture of Japan and its evolving new strategy in the decaying U.S. unipolar system where China has been behaving as a revisionist state.

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Chapter Two: Japan’s New Grand Strategy: “Proactive Realism” in the Face of an “Increasingly Severe” Security Environment (Thomas S. Wilkins)


chapter two

Japan’s New Grand Strategy

“Proactive Realism” in the Face of an “Increasingly Severe” Security Environment1

Thomas S. Wilkins


In recent years, and particularly under the auspices of Prime Minster Shinzo Abe, Japan has embarked upon what amounts to a “more assertive, high-profile, and high-risk foreign and security policy.”2 This process has been driven by government perceptions that the country is “surrounded by an increasingly severe security environment and confronted by complex and grave national security challenges,” and therefore “it has become indispensable for Japan to make more proactive efforts.”3 Naturally, such fundamental changes in Japan’s traditional strategic posture have attracted the attention of scholars and policy-analysts alike, both of whom have sought to interpret the significance and implications for Japan itself, and for the Asia-Pacific region as a whole. Yūichi Hosoya for one alerts us to the “need to look at the fact that Japan is now trying to build a new diplomatic strategy considerably different from the older one.”4

This chapter proceeds to build upon the existing literature to offer a structured overview and appraisal of Japan’s new grand strategy using a (primarily) Realist-based framework for analysis. The value of such an exercise is testified to by Akiko Fukushima when she notes that: “Foreign scholars and policymakers have long criticized Japan for lacking a security strategy and, for that matter, strategic thinking in its security and foreign policy, making Japanese...

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