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Japan is undergoing profound changes that are empowering its political leadership at the expense of its bureaucracy. But rather than bringing about a clean transfer of institutional authority, the reforms have created gridlock. The U.S.-Japanese alliance isn’t dead, but it is getting more complicated.
Even as Chinese society is growing more robust, its authoritarian state remains committed to social and political control. Emerging tensions between the two could push forward social and political reform.
After September 11, Tokyo was quick to declare its support for the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Much of the promised military assistance quickly evaporated, however, because Japan covets its business ties around the world, even those wth U.S. enemies, and is loath to jeopardize these lucrative links. Tokyo defines security in economic, not just military, terms--even when this means parting company with Washington.
Over the past decade, China's leaders have pursued rapid economic reform while stifling political change. The result today is a rigid state that is unable to cope with an increasingly organized, complex, and robust society. China's next generation of leaders, set to take office in 2002-3, will likely respond to this dilemma by accelerating political reform -- unless a new cold war with the United States intervenes.