In This Review

Line of Advantage: Japan’s Grand Strategy in the Era of Abe Shinzo
Line of Advantage: Japan’s Grand Strategy in the Era of Abe Shinzo
By Michael J. Green
Columbia University Press, 2022, 328 pp.

Green knows Japanese foreign policy like few others. He argues that Shinzo Abe, who served as Japan’s prime minister from 2006 to 2007 and again from 2012 to 2020, reoriented Tokyo’s strategy in a way that will persist, despite his tragic assassination in July 2022. Proactive rather than reactive, he created the concept of a “free and open Indo-Pacific” that became part of American thinking; strengthened military cooperation between the two allies; consolidated the quasi-alliance of Australia, India Japan, and the United States known as the Quad; and resuscitated Washington’s abandoned trans-Pacific trade pact in the form of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (which the United States has yet to rejoin). These initiatives reflected a “maritime and cosmopolitan” approach that aims to secure Japan’s access to the surrounding oceans on the basis of rule of law and free commercial transit. In Southeast Asia, Abe advanced a “values-oriented diplomacy” and positioned Japan as a trusted partner of countries seeking to hedge against China. At home, he embedded his vision in a strengthened security establishment. Despite its failure to bridge intractable differences with South Korea, Japan today “arguably has the clearest conceptualization, consensus, and implementation of a grand strategy of any of the democracies confronting Chinese hegemonic ambitions in the Indo-Pacific.”