Courtesy Reuters
Foreign Affairs From The Anthology: The Essays of Zbigniew Brzezinski
Explore the Anthology

Japan's Global Engagement

It is now customary for both Americans and Japanese to reiterate on every major occasion the overriding importance of the ties binding America and Japan. There is much talk of partnership, of close consultations, of common interests and of friendship. Yet for a close relationship between two major powers-which the American-Japanese relationship undoubtedly is-there are disturbing imbalances in it which portend some difficult years ahead. In essence, politically, and even more psychologically, American-Japanese ties are more important to the Japanese than to the Americans, and this the Japanese sense and resent; economically, the relationship now favors the Japanese, and this the Americans increasingly begrudge. The interaction of the two makes for trouble, unless each side accepts major adjustments.

For many years, America has been both Japan's roof against rain and its window on the world. The present Japanese élite has become accustomed to relating itself to the world via America, and to taking foreign events into account by first calculating their impact on America and on American- Japanese relations. Symptomatic of this was the enormous emphasis placed in the Japanese Foreign Ministry (and also in leading businesses) on training an élite attuned to American ways of doing things. For a diplomat, the pinnacle of his career, after attaining the post of Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, was to be accredited Ambassador to Washington. All this has stood in sharp contrast to the American attitude which, while respecting Japan, has put higher emphasis on European and Soviet matters. Japan, on the American side, has been a matter of concern for Asian specialists, but not for generalists broadly concerned with international affairs (who, typically, were actually European specialists).

The sudden emergence of Japan as an economic power enjoying a massive surplus in trade with the United States, the success of Japanese industry in competing with American products, and the simultaneous difficulties confronting America as it shouldered alone, for better or for worse, the various cold-war legacies, all shook American complacency and have caused

Loading, please wait...

Related Articles

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.

Continue