Japan’s 2022 National Security Strategy concludes with a dramatic pronouncement:
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan, prov. translation National Security Strategy of Japan (Tokyo, 16 December 2022), 1.
At this time of an inflection point in history, Japan is finding itself in the midst of the most severe and complex security environment since the end of WWII. In no way can we be optimistic about what the future of the international community will hold.1
I find myself strangely affected by this document. There was once a dream that globalization might save the world. As the fortunes and culture of the great human hive grew ever more intertwined, we dreamed that we could be one with all the globe. We would no longer just be citizens of soil or state, but citizens of the species! With hearts knit in unity, love, and enlightened self interest, old hatreds would melt away. Many millennia of chaos and strife might end. America would form the living kernel of this new commercial order. Her enterprise would provide the connecting tissue that wrapped together the prosperity and liberty of the entire human race.
This is not a caricature. I recently attended a conference where a historian claimed it was. I recommended he read Thomas P.M. Barnett’s The Pentagon’s New Road Map for a steel-manned version of this thesis. At the height of the Bush era Barnett divided humanity into two great swathes: those who lived in the “Functioning Core” and those who lived in the “Non-integrated Gap.” (The image at the head of this post shows one of his maps). The Core included America, of course, but also Europe, Japan, Australia, Brazil, China, and India–anywhere, basically, that had been smoothly integrated into the grooves of the world’s smoothest supply chains. Barnett’s Core was a realm of peace, prosperity, and technological advance; the Gap was the realm of deprivation, violence, and ideological extremism. The Core’s most pressing challenge was finding ways to elevate the peoples of the Gap into the networked whole.2
Thomas P.M. barnett, The Pentagon’s New Road Map (New York: Putnam, 2004).
That was an era when big ideas paid well, and the Pentagon paid Barnett amply for his briefings. But while these briefings were usually laser focused on the problems America’s imperial grunts were experiencing off in the Gap, I often thought the true avatar of Barnett’s worldview was Japan. From the prime ministership of Shigeru Yoshida forward, the priorities and policies put forward at Nagatachō seemed to embody the world-historical spirit Barnett so eagerly tried to summon. If any country had learned to succeed in a world conceptualized as Core and Gap, if any people understood how to ride markets to international success, if any nation was ready to quietly bury fear and heroism for the favor of the genteel pleasures of peace, if any state had a stake in integration as such–well, it would be the county, people, nation, and state of Japan.
Let us return to the present. Here is how the 2022 National Security Strategy of Japan begins:
The international community is facing changes defining an era. We are reminded once again that globalization and interdependence alone cannot serve as a guarantor for peace and development across the globe. The free, open, and stable international order, which expanded worldwide in the post-Cold War era, is now at stake with serious challenges amidst historical changes in power balances and intensifying geopolitical competition… Today, we are in an era where confrontation and cooperation are intricately intertwined in international relations.3
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan, prov. translation National Security Strategy of Japan (Tokyo, 16 December 2022), 35.
So much for the theory of the Core and the Gaps.
I spend far less time reading Japanese documents than I do their Chinese and American counterparts. Reading judgements like these serves as a useful reminder that the transition away from the globalization paradigm of decades past is not purely a byproduct of Sino-American competition, and that China is hardly the only nation now injecting security concerns into the economic realm. Some of the passages of the Japanese’s National Security Strategy could have been lifted straight from a CPC report:
the scope of national security has expanded to include those fields previously considered non-military such as economic, technological and others, and thus the boundary between military and non-military fields is no longer clear-cut either…. [we must] address those issues not necessarily deemed as security targets in the past, such as supply chain vulnerabilities, increasing threats to critical infrastructures, and leadership struggles over advanced technologies, has also become a major security challenge. As a result, the scope of security has expanded to include the economic sector, making economic measures even more necessary to ensure security.4
There is more in this document. For the first time since the 1940s we see Japanese leaders dictating “autonomous economic prosperity” as the purpose of their policy.5 This drive for autonomy is driven by a new theory of the relationship between economics and security. The Strategy explains:
Japan will work to achieve a virtuous cycle of security and economic growth, in which economic growth promotes the improvement of the security environment surrounding Japan. Concurrently, Japan will ensure the self-reliance of its economic structure, as well as advantages over other countries and ultimately the indispensability of its technologies.6
ibid., 30. On the history of autonomy as an economic goal, see Michael Barnhart, Japan Prepares for Total War: The Search For Economic Security, 1919-1941 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991).
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan, prov. translation National Security Strategy of Japan (Tokyo, 16 December 2022), 11.
Note that this is essentially the opposite of the old “virtuous cycle” of Barnett’s day. In the globalizer’s world, security allows economic trade and commercial ties to flourish. These ties, in turn, make otherwise hostile parties more secure than they were before, as each hostile power now has a natural interest in the prosperity of the other. In this document both security and prosperity play a very different role. Here the power to secure protects domestic industry from harm and subversion; growing industry, in turn, provides greater resources and a technological advantage to the securing power.
At several points the National Security Strategy explains why this new paradigm is needed. It is
largely due to the fact that nations, not sharing universal values, or political and economic systems based on such values in common, are expanding their influences, thereby manifesting risks around the globe. Specifically, some states, which do not exclude the policy of increasing their own national interests at the expense of others, are expanding their influence through both military and non-military means, attempting to uninilaterally change the status quo, and accelerating actions to challenge the international order. Such moves have sharpened competition and confrontation among states in wide-ranging areas, including military, diplomatic, economic, and technological fields, and have shaken the foundation of the international order.7
The nations in question are clearly Russia and China. The focus on “universal values” surprised me. I did not anticipate a Japanese declaration that “strong leadership is being lost in the global governance structure at large” because of “diversifying values around the world.” 8This rubs against common potrayals of the Japanese as ideological pragmatists. It also reminds me somewhat of Kenneth Pyle’s survey of Japan’s diplomatic history, Japan Rising: The Resurgence of Japanese Power and Purpose, which concludes that since the Meiji era Japanese policy elites have tried to align their polity with the values and norms they believed were governing the world order. The explosive violence of the 1930s, in this view, occurred in part because in Japanese eyes there was no longer any set of hegemonic values for the Japanese state to anchor itself on. 9
Kenneth Pyle, Japan Rising: The Resurgence of Japanese Power and Purpose (New York: Public Affairs, 2008). See especially pp. 170-210.
It also calls to mind a set of CST translations published in November. There translated was a roundtable discussion where several prominent Chinese academics described their view of the “great changes unseen in a century” now racking the international order. They too attributed at least part of the cracking up of the American-led order to a “diversifcation” of values. 10
Center for Strategic Translation, “Introduction to ‘How to Understand and Recognize Great Changes of the Century.’” San Francisco: Center for Strategic Translation, 2022.
I read the National Security Strategy of Japan with the same trepidation I read the Jake Sullivan’s speech on chip export controls.11 I believe the Japanese have judged correctly; I support the Biden administration’s attempt to blunt China’s technological edge. But it is difficult to see these things play out in real life and feel any sense of victory. We are sliding into a darker world order. The Chinese got there first; we should have followed long ago. There is little sense in keeping to old forms that do not match present realities. But the old forms will not go unmourned. It is always sad to watch a dream die.
Jake Sullivan, Remarks at the Special Competitive Studies Project Global Emerging Technologies Summit, Washington DC, 16 September, 2022.