During the past decade, Japan has been at the center of global trade tensions because of its huge and sustained trade and current account surpluses, which make it the world's largest creditor nation. Despite foreign, especially U.S., pressures to reduce its surpluses and articulate a new global role for Japan, the Japanese government has yet to rise to the challenge.
In this timely volume, one of America's foremost students of Japans economy argues that overcoming the strong insularity and passivism of the years since 1945 will not be easy. He proposes specific policies that would lead Japan to become more open economically and more firmly enmeshed in international organizations and to contribute more to humanitarian ventures around the globe. He says that the 1993 elections and the new coalition government increase the possibility of domestic change in this direction and provide the United States with greater opportunity to engage Japan in a productive dialogue.
In a particularly important chapter on Japan's focus on the Asia-Pacific region, Lincoln shows how the rough equality in the economic presence of Japan and the United States that existed for several decades is now being transformed into what he calls a soft economic regionalism centered on Japan. In Asia, says Lincoln, despite some continuing diplomatic deference to the United States, Japan is increasingly becoming more independent and pursuing its own agenda. Unfortunately, the author does not develop this point sufficiently. But the potential for future tension between the United States and Japan over Asia-Pacific policy is made clear.