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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 Ten: Joining the New Great Game? Japan’s Quest for Region Building in Central Asia (Kuniko Ashizawa)


chapter ten

Joining the New Great Game? Japan’s Quest for Region Building in Central Asia1

Kuniko Ashizawa


Over the past two decades, Japan has slowly, but steadily, increased the weight of Central Asia in its foreign policy. The Japanese government designated this subregion of Asia as a “new horizon” for its pursuit of strategic, political, and economic interests, which culminated in a major diplomatic event in October 2015 when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe undertook a week-long visit to the region. It was the first time for a Japanese prime minister making a state visit to all the five Central Asian countries. Nevertheless, Japan’s growing engagement in Central Asia has by no means drawn significant attention from the international media, policymakers in major capitals, and experts on global and regional politics. In Central Asia, Japan’s actions have been, for the most part, overshadowed by Russia, China, and the United States, the key players in what many now call “the New Great Game in Central Asia.”2

Against this backdrop, this chapter sheds light on this hitherto understudied aspect of Japanese foreign policy by giving special attention to Tokyo’s decision in 2004 to pursue a distinctively multilateralist approach vis-à-vis Central Asian countries, officially termed “the Central Asia plus Japan” (CA+J) initiative.” It argues that while Japan’s growing activism in Central Asia has been driven by three motivational forces of “securing economic access,” “countering the rise of China,” and “contributing to...

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