The Global Zeitenwende
How to Avoid a New Cold War in a Multipolar Era
The rioting crowds that clamored at the gates of the Japanese Diet building in May and June and the throngs of Zengakuren students who snake-danced wildly down the streets of Tokyo and swarmed over Hagerty's car at Haneda Airport have given pause to many persons in both the United States and Japan. . . . Never since the end of the war has the gap in understanding between Americans and Japanese been wider than over this incident. . . .
All this reveals a weakness of communication between the Western democracies and opposition elements in Japan. Though the latter include the most fervent supporters of peace and democracy, their thinking is so far removed from that of their counterparts in the West that sometimes no real dialogue is possible. On top of the ever-present language barrier stands an even higher barrier of unspoken assumptions that make true understanding difficult.
THESE quotations are from "The Broken Dialogue with Japan," an article which I wrote for the October 1960 issue of this review. There I pointed out that the disturbances might be seen by some as "a sign of the growing gap between the party in power and its opponents, of rising tension and violence that can only end in leftist revolution or a Fascistic suppression of the opposition." I also noted that "an unfriendly Japan or even a strictly neutralist Japan might well mean the inevitable withdrawal of the American defense line to the mid-Pacific." My own conclusions, however, were more optimistic. I did not foresee a break in the defense relationship between the two countries and predicted that "Japan's practical politics will probably continue on its remarkably level course." I am glad to say that this hopeful prognosis seems fully justified today. The present article will report on what has happened in our "dialogue" in the interval, during which time I served as Ambassador to Japan.
Prime Minister Hayato Ikeda, who succeeded Kishi in July 1960, was a statesman of rare wisdom. He realized that the Japanese people were still spiritually confused by the terrible war experiences they had been through and were divided by deep political fissures. They needed time to find their bearings and develop a national consensus on the problems they faced. He therefore adopted a go-slow policy, which he dubbed the "low posture." He did not push issues, as had some of his predecessors, but waited patiently for consensus to emerge from unhurried discussion and compromise.
At the same time, Ikeda drew attention away from the controversial areas of defense and international alignment toward the safer field of economic growth. He called for a "ten-year income doubling plan," which was not a plan so much as an estimate that Japan's economic productivity would double over a ten-year period. Under his leadership Japan continued on its breakneck rate of economic growth, averaging about 10 percent in real terms per year, thus getting well ahead of the announced "plan." The economy boomed, burgeoning visibly in every direction. Tokyo became a nightmare of new construction-multi-storied buildings, elevated highways and new subways. Workers became accustomed to seeing their pay checks increased by around 10 percent each year. There was a continuing consumers' revolution, as television sets, fine cameras, washing machines, refrigerators, room coolers, motorcycles and private cars spread ever more widely throughout the households of the nation. People spoke of the "leisure boom" and devoted themselves with enthusiasm to holiday activities.
Ikeda was aided by the international situation in his effort to calm political tensions and seek a broader consensus. For one thing, once the new Security Treaty had gone into effect, the interest of the opposition forces shifted from the immediate effort to block its ratification to the long-range objective of preparing for its cancellation in 1970, when, according to the terms of the Treaty, either side could denounce it. Another factor was the tremendous popularity in Japan of President Kennedy. His image of youthful hope and idealism made association with the United States seem less hazardous and more attractive even to many of the opposition elements. Despite recurring Cuban crises, there appeared to be a growing détente between the Soviet Union and the United States that gave promise of a more peaceful future.
At the same time, the widening split between the Chinese and Russians threw the leftists into confusion and began to undermine many Marxist premises. China's first nuclear explosion in October 1964 heightened the confusion. It split wide open the popular anti-nuclear bomb movement, which had been used previously as a means of stirring up anti-American sentiment. On the one side, the Communists were forced to distinguish henceforth between "good" and "bad" nuclear explosions, while the more idealistic supporters of the movement remained opposed to all.
Another important factor was the growing Japanese knowledge of the outside world. Most occidental observers had been shocked by the lack of information among Japanese, and particularly intellectuals, about what had actually been happening in the world since 1945. Japan's relative isolation from world affairs under the Occupation and its continuing absorption with its own problems explained this situation, but it left the political debate in Japan a matter of rarefied theories curiously divorced from world realities. By the early 1960s this situation was beginning to be corrected. The cumulative effect of programs of cultural and intellectual exchange and the widening flow of Japanese abroad in connection with Japan's rapidly expanding foreign trade were resulting in a slowly deepening knowledge of what was really going on in the outside world.
Under these conditions Japan moved a long way toward the consensus Ikeda desired. When he relinquished the helm on November 9, 1964, stricken by the cancer that was to take his life nine months later, he left behind a very different Japan from the one he had taken over a little more than four years earlier. Not only was it vastly more prosperous, but the Japanese people were fully aware of this. As a result they were much more relaxed and self-confident. Japan was clearly rushing ahead. Already it was pushing into sixth place in the world in terms of economic productivity. At the rate it was going it would within a few years pass the United Kingdom and France and might in time even pass West Germany, to become the third largest economic unit in the world, ranking next to the two great superstates-the United States and the Soviet Union.
General elections in November 1960 and November 1963 had shown the continuing stability of Japanese politics. There had been a slow rise in opposition votes, but the Liberal Democratic majority was still secure at close to 60 percent. Prosperity and a growing understanding of the realities in the world had brought many opposition groups closer to the center of the political spectrum, making eventual consensus with them seem more possible. An opposition take-over seemed more remote than before, because the split between the extremists and moderates in the Left was widening faster than their votes were increasing. There had also been a steady drop in the size and intensity of political demonstrations in the streets. The more radical leftist leaders still called regularly for mass actions of this sort, but the members of the labor unions and university students simply did not respond as before. Many of the unions showed a marked shift in emphasis from political action to more narrowly focused activities in behalf of their own economic welfare.
Most important, the great mass media-the newspapers, magazines, television and radio-had shown a growing tendency toward moderation and balance, both in reporting and in comment. The riots of 1960 had made them realize that they were not dealing with an all-powerful government, as had once been the case, but that it was the mass media themselves that exercised vast powers of influence over the Japanese public. The obvious conclusion was that the mass media must use their power with caution and responsibility.
The self-confident spirit of the new Japan was epitomized by the Tokyo Olympic Games held in October 1964 just before Ikeda's resignation. The Japanese people had thrown themselves into organizing the Olympics with their characteristic enthusiasm and efficiency, and the results were superb. Everyone agreed that the Tokyo Games were in every way the best ever held. A sense of euphoria swept the nation. Ikeda, who had assumed the Prime Ministership in the dark aftermath of the 1960 riots, left in the warm glow of the Olympics. During his period, the "low posture" tortoise had covered a lot of ground, outpacing the more erratic hare-like progress of some of his predecessors.
Ikeda's successor, Eisaku Sato, has faced a more difficult period. The helpful Kennedy image was already tragically gone, and President Johnson simply lacked the appeal that his eloquent young predecessor had had for Japanese young people, intellectuals and the more moderate elements in the opposition. Moreover, before Sato had fully found his political footing, the international situation worsened greatly-at least as seen from Japan. The escalation of the war in Viet Nam in February 1965, through the extension of American bombing to the North, threw the Japanese public into virtual panic. It seemed to them that United States policy was in the hands of blind military adventurers, who, like those of Japan three decades earlier, were leading their country into a hopeless conflict with the forces of Asian nationalism. They feared that the United States would soon be involved in a war with Communist China, which would in turn engulf Japan because of the American bases in Japan and Okinawa. As themselves the victims of American bombing only two decades earlier, they naturally identified themselves with the North Vietnamese rather than with us or Saigon.
The result was a sharp rise in criticism of the United States and in fears of the defense relationship with us. Since the debate between neutralism and alignment with the United States was the most central and hottest issue in Japanese politics, this situation heightened old political tensions and widened the basic cleavage in Japanese politics. It also sharply reduced Japanese self-confidence. The outside world seemed more menacing again, and there seemed to be less hope that Japan could remain at peace and play a constructive international role.
Even the economy now gave reason for concern. The unbridled economic growth of the Ikeda period had left some undesirable legacies. Inflationary trends had been set in motion that were proving hard to curb. The rapid rise in consumer prices was threatening to eat up wage increases, and the average citizen as a result felt that his economic position might be worsening. Swift but uneven growth had also produced serious economic imbalances which made 1965 a year of difficult readjustments. Gross National Product grew in real terms only around 3 percent, which was so much lower than the accustomed rate that the Japanese felt they were going through a serious "recession."
Rapid growth had also produced difficult social problems. The concentration of labor in industry and the cities sharply reduced rural population-the percentage of the labor force in agriculture is now probably less than 25 percent-leaving villages without young people and many families without fathers. The sprawling cities were increasingly plagued by traffic congestion, air and water pollution, juvenile delinquency and a sense of alienation on the part of the individual lost in the complexities of city life.
The first year of Sato's Prime Ministership thus witnessed an apparent reversal of the current that had flowed slowly but steadily under Ikeda. But this proved only a temporary eddy in the stream. When the Viet Nam War did not escalate further into a Sino-American conflict, when the United States showed its ability to use its great military power with restraint, still more when the United States, by its bombing pause and diplomatic efforts in the early weeks of 1966, demonstrated its eagerness for a negotiated rather than a military settlement, the fears of the Japanese began to subside. They swung back to the hopeful currents of the Ikeda period, which now flowed more strongly than ever before. It became clear in 1966 that Japan had indeed come a long way since 1960.
If the Japanese had had serious fears about their economic future, these were dispelled by a rapid resurgence of the economy after the 1965 doldrums. The government has decided that a growth of 7½ percent in G.N.P. in real terms would be socially more healthy than the old 10 percent average. It is significant that the problem it faces is to hold growth down, rather than to push it up, to 7½ percent.
More significant has been the rebounding of Japanese self-confidence and optimism. Despite the increased political tensions of 1965, Sato pushed through the normalization of relations with South Korea, capping more than a decade of efforts to achieve this difficult but obviously desirable goal. He matched the American contribution to the new Asian Development Bank with an equal commitment of $200,000,000. And in 1966 the Japanese government boldly joined in efforts to develop a stronger sense of regional coöperation in East Asia, calling together a conference of Southeast Asian economic ministers in Tokyo and participating in other regional conferences. Japan this past summer also took the lead among the creditor nations in seeking ways to help Indonesia meet its current needs for aid and to reschedule its crushing debt burden.
Most remarkable has been the development in 1966 of a broad but calm and reasoned debate over the problems that Japan faces. Led by a group of outstanding younger scholars, the Japanese have for the first time since the war begun to look at the problems of defense and their relations with neighboring countries, not in terms of how Japan should react to American or Communist contentions, but in terms of Japan's own interests and goals. The mass media have redoubled their efforts to present a broad and balanced picture of world problems, and some of the major newspapers have organized special groups to study national defense and other controversial issues. The result has been a much more realistic and far less politically heated debate than before. No subjects have been automatically taboo-not even nuclear problems. Much attention has been given to what Japan itself can do to help lessen world tensions and contribute to the growth of stability in the less developed countries.
It has been in this general context that we have tried since 1961 to deepen our dialogue with the Japanese and lessen the type of misunderstanding that lay behind the unhappy events of 1960. In this attempt I, for one, took a cue from Ikeda in adopting the "low posture," trying not so much to persuade the Japanese to agree to American points of view as to broaden the area of discourse in order to find points of common understanding and to seek out the differences in underlying assumptions that brought us to contrasting conclusions. I sought to shift the emphasis from the Japanese assumption that our relationship is one of leader-follower, in which Japan is only free to choose its degree of "alignment" with American policy, to a sense of "partnership," in which Japan and the United States, as the two great industrialized nations of the Pacific, face together the problems of that area on the basis of our respective but actually closely parallel interests and ideals.
Since the leaders of the ruling Liberal-Democratic Party, the higher bureaucrats and the top businessmen of Japan are persons who tend to share many of the same premises with us, there has been no particular difficulty in achieving mutual understanding with them, but even here we have made efforts to broaden the dialogue. Prime Minister Ikeda and President Kennedy in 1961 started an annual economic conference between members of the two cabinets and also created joint scientific and cultural committees. These have all met regularly since then with most useful results. Japanese businessmen have led in convening a number of excellent conferences with their counterparts in America, and official and unofficial organs of contact of this sort are continuing to proliferate. Meanwhile the exchange of information and opinion has become a routine operation at every level between the two governments.
The gap in understanding in 1960, however, was not with the government and its backers but with the opposition elements-the parties of the Left, organized labor, intellectuals and students. Many of the people in these groups accepted the Marxist concepts that "capitalism" was the reason for "imperialism," and "imperialism" the source of world tensions: therefore the United States, as the leading "capitalist" country, was the chief threat to peace, while the "socialist" countries, that is Communist China and the Soviet Union, were the "peace camp." Such thinking naturally led to a desire to break the defense relationship with us and achieve a strictly neutral position for Japan, if not one of outright alignment with the Communist nations.
In so far as the Japanese stuck to this outmoded nineteenth-century analysis of world problems, no very useful dialogue could be developed. In fact, there still is none with Communists or with those Socialists who, while rejecting the Communist label, accept the Communist view of the world situation. A large part of the opposition groups, however, never fully accepted this Marxist analysis, and their growing knowledge of the twentieth-century world has further diluted their Marxism. These more moderate elements have responded to our efforts to achieve a better understanding of each other.
Even before 1960 the United States government was engaged in a broad program of cultural and intellectual exchange with Japan through the Fulbright Program and other similar agencies. Professors, students, leaders in the mass media and in many other fields and, perhaps most significantly of all, leaders in the labor unions, went back and forth in large numbers. All these activities have, of course, been continued and, where possible, expanded. Cultural and intellectual exchanges under private auspices have increased even more rapidly. All this, as I have noted, has had a growing cumulative influence on Japanese understanding of us and of world problems and has contributed greatly to mutual understanding.
Exchange activities of this sort are not easy to summarize because each individual case is unique, depending on the person involved and the circumstances surrounding him. Instead of characterizing the effort as a whole, I might briefly describe my own activities as an example, since the Japanese public accepted me not only as the American Ambassador but also as a sort of permanent exchange professor.
The dialogue I engaged in with Japanese scholars, political leaders, writers and the general public, through private discussions, public lectures and numerous magazine articles, was largely dictated by their interests. Much of it naturally concerned Japanese-American relations-trade disputes, problems concerning American bases and their use, our future defense relationship, our respective attitudes toward the China problem and, most of all in recent years, the Viet Nam War.
At the same time my dialogue with the Japanese embraced certain more basic problems. We started with a consideration of recent Japanese history and the process of modernization in Japan. Many Japanese historians have tried to force the story into a Marxist historical pattern. "Modernization" is defined as progress toward a better society, which in turn is assumed to be complete "socialism." Since Japan is not a fully "socialist" society and modern Japan has experienced totalitarian tendencies and imperialistic ventures, these scholars assume that Japan has proved a miserable failure at "modernization." The inevitable conclusion is that it must now seek a new pattern for "modernization" in the Soviet Union or China. This interpretation entirely misses the main point in modern Japanese history, which is that Japan, despite some terrible mistakes, has modernized far more successfully than any other major Asian country.
The "modernization" debate naturally led to a discussion of just how important Japan was as a nation that had been reasonably successful in modernization, what it might have to offer in this regard to the less modernized countries of the world, and finally, what Japan's role in world affairs might be. Thus it paralleled the general trends of Japanese thinking and perhaps contributed in a small peripheral way to these trends. In any case, it did lead to some better understanding on both sides of the differences in our points of view, and definitely contributed to the habit of discussing these differences fully and frankly.
In all these ways, a broader and deeper dialogue, both official and private, has been developed over the past several years between Japanese and Americans. It might be appropriate, therefore, to assess where we stand today in this dialogue and in our relations with Japan. The progress we have made in these respects is of course largely the product of broad developments in Japan and in Japanese attitudes toward the outside world, as described earlier in this article. At the same time, I believe it is safe to conclude that the deepening of the dialogue has had at least some small reciprocal influence on these more basic developments.
Japan's great economic growth has been the main reason for a sharp decline in the number and intensity of our bilateral economic problems. In 1961 these still loomed large. The Japanese, apprehensive about their economic future and obsessed with the feeling of dependence on American markets, viewed with grave alarm every disagreement or fluctuation in our economic relationship.
Now with Japanese-American trade nearing $5 billion and the Japanese economy one of the strongest in the world, our bilateral trade problems seem to have shriveled in relative importance. They are seen to occupy only a small fringe of an otherwise vastly successful economic relationship. Some American industrialists worry about Japanese imports in certain specific fields-such as wool textiles-and their Japanese counterparts worry about American efforts to restrict Japanese exports in these fields. American businessmen remain dissatisfied with stiff Japanese restrictions on the import of certain American commodities and the sharp limitation placed on the inflow of American investment. Disputes over North Pacific fisheries-most notably over salmon in Bristol Bay in Alaska-are hot issues for the small groups directly involved on both sides. On the whole, however, bilateral economic problems today generate only a fraction of the concern and political excitement they produced a mere five years ago.
The Japanese-American defense relationship has all along been the focus of major political debate within Japan and our most serious bilateral problem, but even in this area there has been a sharp reduction of friction. The inevitable local irritants resulting from the presence of foreign bases are no longer blown up into major political issues but are seen as the essentially minor matters that they are. In recent years the only "base" problem which has received major public attention and caused relatively large, though only localized, street demonstrations was the decision by the Japanese government to allow the United States to exercise its treaty prerogative of bringing nuclear-propelled naval vessels into our bases in Japan.
At a more basic level, there seems to be a growing realization that the defense relationship with us is not just a convenience for the United States, forced on Japan in behalf of a dubious American Far Eastern policy, but is very much in Japan's own interests. Even certain elements of the opposition are beginning to talk about the modification, rather than the abolition, of the defense ties with the United States. The government and its supporters, who once simply tried to dodge leftist attacks on the Security Treaty, are now publicly discussing how best to continue the Treaty after 1970-whether by a specific extension for ten years or by simply letting it go on automatically, as was no doubt the original intention. There is growing general interest in the problem of whether Japan should take on a larger share of its own defense and a rising assumption that, whatever the Left may try to do in 1970 to break the defense relationship, common sense dictates that it must go on.
The Viet Nam War has, of course, lent some new strength to the argument that military association with the United States may be dangerous for Japan, but it has also helped to develop an awareness of Japan's own interests in peace and stability in Southeast Asia. As a trading area, Southeast Asia is far more important to the Japanese economy than to ours, and Japan's dependence for close to half of its energy resources on the Middle Eastern and Soviet oil that passes through the Straits of Malacca has made some Japanese realize the great strategic stake Japan has in the narrow sea-lanes of Southeast Asia.
While the first general emotional reaction in Japan in 1965 to the escalation of the war and its risks was a strong desire that the United States would simply withdraw from Viet Nam, the Japanese public has increasingly come to appreciate the complexities of the situation and to hope for a negotiated settlement that might give more promise of stability in the region than would an American withdrawal. Thus, while the pervasive pacificism that has dominated Japan ever since the end of the war precludes any overseas military role for Japan, the public has become much more conscious than before of the need for political stability and military security for the less developed countries of Asia.
There is one problem in our defense relationship with Japan, however, that has become more serious over the last few years. This is the problem of Okinawa, or the Ryukyus. The more that Japanese self-confidence has recovered, the greater has become the problem of American military administration over the million Japanese inhabitants of these islands. This situation, 21 years after the end of the war, is clearly an historical anomaly, to be explained only by the necessity for having in that area American bases that are free of the restrictions on weapons and movement imposed by the Security Treaty on the American bases in Japan proper. The Japanese government recognizes this need in Japan's own interests. It is for this reason that it has tolerated the situation and coöperated closely with us in programs of economic betterment designed to help the Okinawans catch up to the other Japanese.
The demand for full reversion of Okinawa to Japanese administration, however, will inevitably keep growing. Formerly only the leftists paid much attention to this issue, motivated largely by a desire to break the Japanese-American defense relationship. Now conservatives too are equally concerned about the return of Okinawa to the homeland. Today this constitutes perhaps the gravest single problem in Japanese-American relations. A happy solution probably depends on one of three developments: a decline in the need for the Okinawan bases because of reduced dangers in the area, a decline in their necessity because of progress in technology that makes them no longer essential, or a change in popular Japanese attitudes toward defense that would permit the Japanese government to agree to the existence of bases of this kind on Okinawa even after it had reverted to Japan.
Perhaps the greatest change in Japanese-American relations over the past few years has not been the decline in the number and intensity of specific problems so much as the shift in the whole mood. In 1960 most Japanese assumed that their country was a helpless follower of a more or less suspect American foreign policy. The Japanese-American defense relationship was commonly considered to be a disagreeably high price Japan paid for the close economic relations it had with the United States, on which it was pathetically dependent. It was widely assumed that the Japanese government did not dare speak up frankly to the United States, and, if it did, it would not be listened to.
No one can deny that many of these attitudes still persist in certain quarters in Japan. And the problem of disparity in size, which plagues us in all our international relationships, will no doubt continue. We are, after all, roughly twice Japan's size in population and ten times its size in productive power. This makes it hard for the Japanese (just like our European and Canadian friends) to feel fully equal. In addition, the Japanese have clear memories of the war, in which we defeated them so thoroughly, and of the Occupation, in which we controlled them completely.
There is, nonetheless, a great change in prevailing attitudes in Japan. The change is most marked in the younger generation, which is free from the psychological burden of the war and the Occupation. Now that the Japanese have come to have a better appreciation of the strength of Japan and its potential for exerting an influence on world affairs, they increasingly see Japan's foreign policy as a matter for Japanese choice on the basis of Japan's own interests. When viewed in this light, a close partnership with the United States, including a defense relationship, is seen to be greatly in Japan's interests, and not an undesirable situation forced on Japan by American might or historical accident. As some young scholars have put it, nothing is more important to Japan than American friendship.
This change in viewpoint also puts a new light on Japan's relations with its neighbors. It becomes clear that Japan has a strong interest in playing a positive role in furthering the stability and economic growth of the countries of Southeast Asia. Formerly the Japanese tended to look at the problems of that area as American concerns and sat back in critical judgment on our apparent ineptness in handling them. Now that the Japanese see the future of Southeast Asia as of vital concern to their own country, they think more about what they themselves can usefully do. In grappling with the problems in this way, they become more sympathetic with the difficulties we have encountered and more appreciative of the value of the American partnership in facing the situation in Southeast Asia.
The Japanese are beginning to see even the key issue of relations with China in a new light. One of the most serious and long-standing strains in the Japanese-American relationship has resulted from the popular feeling in Japan that, because of geographic propinquity to China, long and close cultural association, and economic interests, Japanese have much more reason than Americans to seek fuller and friendlier ties with Communist China, but are prevented from doing so by their close association with a stubborn and shortsighted America.
Recently, however, Japanese have begun to realize that it is their own strong economic, political and emotional bonds with Taiwan that stand as the major obstacle to the rapprochement they hope for with Peking. Beyond that, the Chinese nuclear explosions, the growing intransigence of the statements of the Peking leaders, and, most of all, the distressing excesses of the Cultural Purge and Red Guard movement have led to increasing disenchantment with Communist China. Japanese are beginning to see that the China problem they face stems more from Peking, Taiwan and Southeast Asia than from Washington.
Perhaps the greatest change in the tone of Japanese-American relations has been the growing feeling that the Japanese can and do speak fully and frankly to Americans and that their voices are heard. At the time that my impending resignation was announced last July, every major newspaper, remembering the earlier talk of our "broken dialogue with Japan," took the occasion to comment editorially that the dialogue between the United States and Japan was now a frank and equal one. This attitude, together with the fact that, as two modernized, industrialized and democratic countries, we do share basic interests and ideals, makes me confident that our bilateral problems will continue to decline and our partnership in facing other problems will continue to grow. In fact, I feel that, despite the admittedly high barriers between us of sharply different languages, differing cultural traditions and contrasting historical experiences, we shall move steadily forward toward the kind of easy and full partnership that the United States already has with the United Kingdom.