The Increasing International Connectivity in Japan’s Diplomatic Strategy
By Yang Bojiang

The Increasing International Connectivity in Japan’s Diplomatic Strategy

Jan. 15, 2024  |     |  0 comments

After World War II, Japan took lessons from history and shifted its focus to upholding international order, moving away from confrontations with Western countries. Under the leadership of the Yoshida Doctrine, Japan implemented an overall strategy oriented around economic centrality, following a path of peaceful development. However, after the end of the Cold War, Japan experienced a comprehensive revival of its strategic and geopolitical consciousness. The first Gulf War in 1991 highlighted the importance of military power for Japan. With more than five years of Koizumi in office and the second Abe administration beginning in 2012, Japan rapidly changed its strategic approach. With this in mind, there is a concern that Japan might revive certain harmful aspects of its traditional military strategies, potentially altering its post-war commitment to peaceful development. In this article, I will explain the phased evolution of Japan's national strategy after World War II, the basic characteristics of strategic transformation, and its spillover effects.

"Food, Soldiers, Trust": The comprehensive revival of Japan's national strategy

Over the past two decades, Japan has rapidly revised its national strategy, significantly redefining its national interests. The former Vice Director of Japan's National Security Bureau,  Nobukatsu Kanahara, cited the Confucian classic "The Analects · Yan Yuan" which mentions "sufficient food, sufficient military, and the trust of the people" to describe the core parts of Japan's national interests. In this analysis, I expand upon this framework attributing the evolution of Japan's definition of national interests to - the continuity of traditional emphasis on economy as "food," the gradual strengthening of military power as "soldiers," and the addition of ideology and values as "trust."

The unstable global environment has significantly pressured Japan. Regarding its internal dynamics, the increasing mix of politics with economic efforts has escalated Japan's demands. Especially after the end of the Cold War during the phase of strategic adjustment, Japan has shown signs of a "comprehensive revival" in strategic consciousness, particularly in terms of geopolitical strategy.

Attention must be paid to Japan's continuously strengthening international connectivity

What are the characteristics of Japan's national strategy in its current transformation? In Japan's foreign strategy, both security elements and the focus on China have shown an unprecedented rise. Japan's security strategy is increasingly reflected in the integration and coordinated promotion of maritime strategy, and the growing application of technological industrial elements. Additionally, Japan aims to boost its global political and economic influence independently through "broad cooperation.” This approach moves beyond the traditional path of its alliance system and has steadily increased its international connections.

Japan's series of strategic transformations will have widespread, profound, and long-term spillover effects. As Asia's first developed country, Japan's values and impact have both positive and negative aspects. Broad international connectivity is one of its strategic characteristics, and its influence on the surrounding geopolitical and international economic environment is comprehensive. This to a large extent determines Japan's China policy. Relations between China and Japan are becoming more tense and complicated, and strategic competition is on the rise.