In This Review

Peak Japan: The End of Great Ambitions
Peak Japan: The End of Great Ambitions
By Brad Glosserman
Georgetown University Press, 2019, 272 pp

Glosserman explores Japan’s inability to adopt much-needed reforms during four recent political and economic shocks: the 2008 global financial crisis, the 2009 electoral defeat of the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party by its rival the Democratic Party of Japan, the 2010 crisis with China over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, and the 2011 triple disaster of an earthquake, a tsunami, and a nuclear power plant meltdown. The country faces intractable problems: a falling population, excessive government debt, the decline of its most important ally (the United States), and the rise of its main rival (China). But weak leadership and political gridlock have made Japan’s situation worse. Glosserman puts the ultimate blame on Japan’s culture of collectivism, harmony, and fatalism. The Japanese are too comfortable to strike out on a new path, he says. Although Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aims to revitalize his country, Glosserman regretfully concludes that Japan “can no longer harbor grand ambitions.”