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
All rights reserved. To request permission to distribute or reprint this article, please visit ForeignAffairs.com/Permissions.