Japan is one of the most dynamic political economies in the world. Japan was an isolationist country for more than two centuries before establishing relations with Western countries. This comprised a defining moment in Japan’s history because this determined the direction of its political and economic policies towards globalization. Now, Japan plays a significant role in influencing international relations. The country also remains one of the strongest economies in the world. Japan’s globalization policy aligns more with realism more than the other approaches to international relations.
There are two major principles of realism that explains Japan’s globalization policy. The first principle is objective reason in scrutinizing political acts and determining impending and possible consequences (Morgenthau 8). Japan’s isolationism supported its intention to develop its own capabilities and harness its own resources (Tojo 3). By rejecting dependence, Japan was able to achieve a high degree of modernization in both its political and economic structures relative to its other Asian neighbors and even comparable to western countries (Green 16).
However, there came a point when its economic growth was already too big to contain within the country. It was through objective reason that Japan decided to engage in deeper and widespread international relations. The second principle is interest underpinning power relations (Morgenthau 11). Interests, whether common or conflicting, comprise the bases of understanding political conditions or situations and the rationale for political actions. Japan fostered the goal of becoming a powerful state in both military and economic power.
However, its defeat in the Second World War meant that its strength would likely come from boosting its economy. To do this, Japan learned western systems and built its technological capabilities before eventually adopting capitalism to fuel further industrialization (Tojo 6). Japan’s shifts in alliances and post-World War II (Green 11-12) foreign relations are due to its underlying interest to become an economic superpower, which the country continues to build upon even today.
Based on the perspective adhered to by Japan, its globalization policy is transformationalist. The basic idea of transformationalism is the recognition of the continuously changing political environment and the important role of political agents in influencing these changes (Held 154). This means that political power lies in the ability to perceive the types, direction and extent of changes likely to occur as well as become active players in managing the aspects of change susceptible to control. Technology is a means of managing change (Tojo 6).
Since the involvement of Japan in international relations and trade, it has always taken a frontline position in international issues affecting its interests. At present, Japan is considering a possible major change in its constitution, particularly the provision on Japanese pacifism. If the legislature revises this provision, this could propel Japan to participate not only in economic affairs but also in becoming an influential member of the Security Council of the United Nations (Moses and Iwami 69).
Global integration refers to the interconnections between national economies and the amalgamation of national economies with the international economy (Sachs and Warner 2). This reflects in a number of outcomes. One is heightened trade (2) with market conditions determining the inflow and outflow of goods and services. Another is the dynamism of financial flows (2) or foreign exchange indicating the intensity of interconnections with other economies via the money market. Last is harmonization of policies (2) on key aspects such as trade, taxation, corporate ownership and other business policies, and regulations.
Japan’s trade relations is vibrant with the country exporting products that it produces in surplus and importing products that it lacks or scarcely produces. The major export products of Japan are transportation equipment, electrical and non-electrical goods, other manufactured products and chemicals (Economist). Japan’s primary imports are fuel or oil, electrical and non-electrical machinery as well as manufactured goods that it does not produce, and food because of its small agriculture sector (Economist). Japan also established strong trade relations with a limited number of countries.
Majority of its exports go to the United States and other East Asian countries while its imports come from China and Australia in the Pacific region, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates in the Middle East, and the United States in North America (Economist). Based on the commodities traded and the primary trading partners, it appears that Japan has a weak integration into the world economy. However, if considered relative to Japan’s interests, it has selected its traded goods and trading partners to meet its economic interests of meeting its needs and earning trade surplus.
Japan would widen its trade relations with other regions such as the European Union according to its interests. Tokyo has become and continuous to be a financial hub in Asia. The role of a financial center is to intermediate between parties involved in investment and trade by assisting in transferring funds or payments from one party to another. This requires a strong banking sector and the appropriate regulatory policies (Cipriani and Kaminsky 157). Japan’s banking sector is stable but this is not one of the economies major sectors because of its focus on technology and manufacturing.
While the country holds the second highest volume of gold and foreign currency reserves (CIA World Factbook), banks mostly service domestic clients. Moreover, Japan learned of the limitation of its banking policies in adjusting to major financial problems such during the 1990s (Nakaso 1). Hong Kong remains the strongest competitor because of its flexible banking system and Shanghai and Singapore are growing financial centers. Nevertheless, Japan integrates with other economies through foreign investments making the country ninth in terms of direct investments in other countries.
These investments mean earnings for Japan and other benefits from international relations. Japan depends on other countries for some of its needs especially oil and food but it holds technology and manufacturing expertise as its bargaining chips in negotiating for resource exchanges. This defined the relations of Japan with developed and developing countries. Japan established foreign relations with developed countries to seek a market for its products, exchange knowledge and expertise, and build investment relations (Flath 164).
The country seeks foreign relations with developing countries to gain access to natural and labor resources as well as markets for its products in exchange for technology transfer (165). Japan is a source of foreign aid to developing countries, especially in Southeast and South Asia. Japan’s relations with developed and developing countries have benefits as previously mentioned but there are also issues. The primary issue in dealing with developed countries is the enforcement of barriers to import commodities or tariff protection as well as other protectionist policies (UNESCAP 40-41).
This limits Japan’s exports to developed economies but which the country addresses by looking at developing countries as markets. The major issue in dealing with developing countries is the instability of political and economic infrastructures that could complicate and increase the cost of enforcing economic agreements (41). Nevertheless, with international law, Japan is able to relate with developing countries on this common ground. Japan continuously engages in bilateral and multilateral agreements with various developed and developing countries to pursue its interests by balancing its strengths and weaknesses.
Division in the domestic politics in Japan rests on differences over the policies on foreign relations and security as well as its position towards regional strength or alliance with the most powerful countries in the world. These fuelled debates on globalization. The dominant political party in Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party, supports engagement in foreign relations and involvement in security issues to ensure its national security given that it does not have a strong military power (Hook and Hasegawa 34).
The opposition parties with socialist foundations are not so keen towards reliance on foreign relations or agree to a limited extent and believe in the re-establishment of Japan’s military strength (34). Concurrently, the dominant political party is at a loss over its prioritization of regional leadership or international alliance while the opposition parties favor regional strength (34). Party politics in Japan affects its globalization by influencing the key policies determining the extent of integration of Japan into international relations.
Based on the globalizing process models, Japan aligns with the third model. Japan already had the potential for industrialization but its isolationist policy limited its growth. After the Second World War, Japan realized the disparity between its capabilities and the technological prowess of western countries. The decision of Japan’s government to send people to learn from the industrialized countries paved the way for the renewal of its capabilities and the actualization of its technological potential (Tojo 6).
Japan used shared knowledge and its experiences to build upon its capabilities, which it then utilizes as strength in trade and international relations. Japan has strong involvement in international relations. Its technological strength furthers trade and supports economic growth. Its participation in international politics remains within the limits of constitutional and party politics. While Japan has strong global connections, there remain areas for further global integration, which it can open in pursuing its interests. Works Cited CIA World Factbook.
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