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A National Identity Approach to Japan’s Late 2013 Foreign Policy Thinking

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Asia’s Alliance Triangle

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Abstract

Japanese national identity drew more attention in 2013 than at any time since the collapse of the bubble economy accompanied by the discrediting of Nihonjinron (the theory of the inherent superiority of Japanese culture) in the early 1990s. For the first time since 1945 Japan had a prime minister, Abe Shinzo, both unabashed in his commitment to transform national identity and optimistic that recent elections and public opinion polls give him a mandate to achieve this goal. More than at any time since they had normalized relations with Japan in 1965 and 1972, respectively, South Korea and China were obsessed with the negative nature of Japanese national identity. While taking satisfaction in what is viewed as Japan’s unprecedented embrace of realism, loosening the grip of the pacifist streak in national identity more than six decades old, US officials were unavoidably drawn into the disputes over Abe’s rhetoric and symbolic gestures, nervous about their impact on ties to neighbors beyond anything seen in recent East Asian history. At a time when advocates of realist theory might have been claiming vindication that rising tensions over territorial disputes and arms buildups confirmed their predictions and liberal theorists might have been salivating about accelerating tendencies to establish the TPP and a China-South Korea FTA, constructivist theorists pointing to the potency of elements of national identity were taking center stage in the analysis of international relations in East Asia linked to Japan.

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Notes

  1. Gilbert Rozman, ed., East Asian National Identities: Common Roots and Chinese Exceptionalism; Gilbert Rozman, ed., National Identities and Bilateral Relations: Widening Gaps in East Asia and Chinese Demonization of the United States; and Gilbert Rozman, The Sino-Russian Challenge to the World Order: National Identities, Bilateral Relations, and East vs. West in the 2010s. All are published in Washington, DC and Stanford, CA by the Woodrow Wilson International Press and Stanford University Press in 2012, 2013, and 2014, respectively.

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  2. Kitaoka Shinichi, Gurobaru pureiya toshite no Nihon (Tokyo: NTT shuppan, 2010).

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  3. Suzuki Nobuhiro, “TPP de idenshi kumikae shokuhin ga tairyoni ryunyusuru,” in Nihon no ronten 2014 (Tokyo: Bungei shunju, 2013), 42–43.

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  4. Abe Shinzo, Atarashii kuni e, utsukushii kuni e kanzenban (Tokyo: Bunshun shinsho, 2013).

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  5. Murotani Katsumi, Bokanron (Tokyo: Sankei shimbun shuppan, 2013).

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Gilbert Rozman

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© 2015 The Asan Institute

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Rozman, G. (2015). A National Identity Approach to Japan’s Late 2013 Foreign Policy Thinking. In: Rozman, G. (eds) Asia’s Alliance Triangle. Asan-Palgrave Macmillan Series. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137541710_18

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