Reconstruction of Japan’s diplomacy and adjustments of its China policy in the reform of international order


(1.Institute of Japanese Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences)

【Abstract】Japan’s diplomacy is in a critical transformation period, and its relationship logic and behavioral patterns are complex and changeable, but they are not without rules. The reform of international order has put forward requirements of the times for the reconstruction of Japan’s diplomacy, and as exits of diplomatic reconstruction, foreign policy and foreign behavior will inject new impetus into the reform of order. In the process of diplomatic reconstruction, strategic transformation calls for the reform of the diplomatic system, and system reform provides institutional guarantee for diplomatic transformation. In Japan’s current diplomacy, the “Yoshida route” has not yet ended, but it is challenged by the emerging “Abe route.” Compared with options and rankings of the core national interests in the “Yoshida route” that embraces defeat, those of the “Abe route” are significantly different, and the “Abe route” belongs to brand-new strategic thinking and planning. It aims at getting rid of the post-war system and making Japan a fully normalized big power. Although it attaches importance to economy, it attaches more importance to security and value. In the process of sparing no effort to promote the “Abe route,” Japan begins to actively seek adjustments of its China policy, which in essence is still a hedging behavior based on comprehensive considerations about “power” and “principle.” In the long run, although Japan’s adjustments of its China policy have strategic implications, they are still tactical in the short term and remains at the stage of cooperation of an individual case.

【Keywords】 reform of international order; reconstruction of Japan’s diplomacy; Abe route; Yoshida route; Sino-Japanese relations; hedging theory;


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(Translated by LI Chunmei)


    [1]. (1) The so-called “double transformations” refer to “strategic transformation” and “institutional transformation” that Japan is experiencing. Breaking through the existing framework of thinking, legal system and practice on major issues involving foreign strategy, the decision-making system is undergoing major adjustments accordingly. It should be said that this issue consciousness runs through the research that the author has done in recent years. [^Back]

    [2]. (2) By tentatively explaining the above-mentioned deep structure behind the issue, the author also hopes to further stimulate the academic community to pay more attention to Japanese diplomatic research as an important part of regional research, and to enhance the exchange and mutual understanding between theoretical research and regional research. [^Back]

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    [5]. (5) Although the terms of international order, world order, and international system are not identical in meaning, this paper does not specifically distinguish between them. According to the vocabulary commonly used by Japanese scholars, they are collectively referred to as international order by the author. [^Back]

    [6]. (6) The “values” used here have similar meanings to “正しい” in Japanese. [^Back]

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    [11]. (11) Members are comprised of Hideshi Tokuchi (德地秀士), Akimoto Shigeo (秋本茂雄), Koichi Isobe (磯部晃一), Ohara Bonji (小原凡司), Kamiya Matake (神谷万丈), Kotani Tetsuo (小谷哲男), Sahashi Ryo (佐橋亮), Shimohira Koji (下平幸二), Jimbo Ken (神保謙), Takahashi Sugio (高橋杉雄), Funada Eiichi (鮒田英一), Murano Masashi (村野将) and Mori Satoru (森聡). The uutcome is as follows: 日本国際問題研究所「揺れる国際秩序に立ち向かう新たな安全保障戦略—日本を守るための11の提言—」、October 2018。 [^Back]

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    [15]. (15) As far as Japan’s diplomacy is concerned, there are “vertical” and “horizontal” analytical perspectives of the relationship between Japan and international order. The “vertical” perspective is mainly based on the historical dimension, placing the relationship between the two in the evolution of the relationship between the state of Japan and international order in modern times. While the “horizontal” perspective is to look at the reform of international order combining the “dot,” the “line” and the “plane,” among which, the country is the “dot” and bilateral relationship is the “line.” The most important are Japan’s relationships with the United States and China. While the “plane” transcends national and bilateral relationships, and refers to “giant vision” and strategic manipulation of the trajectory and trend of international order. From the perspective of the “plane,” reform is coming to international order. In the Japanese view, this reform is mainly composed of four parts: (1) shake of international order; (2) return of geopolitics; (3) acceleration of military competition; and (4) the free trade system being challenged. From the point of view of the “dot” and the “line,” the mainstream of Japan tends to think that the greatest uncertainty of the reform of international order comes from China and the United States, and one is its largest neighbor and the other is its only ally. The content related to China from a “horizontal” perspective will be elaborated in conjunction with the third section of this paper. [^Back]

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    [28]. (28) Drawn according to graphical representations in the book by Yoshihide Soeya. 添谷芳秀『日本の外交 戦後を読みとく』、筑摩書房、2017年、第15頁。 [^Back]

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    [37]. (37) [ROK] Moon, C. & Seo, S. 일본은 지금 무엇을 생각하는가?—일본 최고 전략가들이 말하는 일본의 본심. Li, C. & Li, C. (trans.) Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press (China), 9 (2017). [^Back]

    [38]. (38) See 田久保忠衛『日本外交の再点検:検証「吉田ドクトリン」』、時事通信社、2000年。 In fact, in the 1980s, he published articles in the Shokun! (諸君!) magazine, criticizing the the “Yoshida route.” [^Back]

    [39]. (39) See 高坂正堯『国際政治——恐怖と希望』、中央公論新社、1966年、第21頁。 [^Back]

    [40]. (40) 入江昭『日本の外交——明治維新から現代まで』、中央公論新社、1966年、第169–170頁。 [^Back]

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    [42]. (42) 神余隆博『多極化世界の日本外交戦略』、朝日新聞出版、2010年、第68頁。 [^Back]

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    [44]. (44) 「国家安全保障戦略について」」、2013年12月17日、日本内閣官房、 [^Back]

    [45]. (45) Diplomacy toward Russia is a subject that Abe Shintaro actively deals with in his later years. As a political secretary, Shinzo Abe had witnessed his father’s efforts. See 安倍晋三『美しい国へ』、文藝春秋、2006年、第37頁。 [^Back]

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    [48]. (48) See details in Zhang, Y. Foreign Affairs Review (外交评论), (3) (2014); Zhang, Y. Foreign Affairs Review (外交评论), (6) (2015); Zhang, Y. Foreign Affairs Review (外交评论), (6) (2016). [^Back]

    [49]. (49) 「第166回国会衆議院予算委員会会議録」、第一類第14号 (予算委員会会議録第14号) 、2007年2月23日、第2頁。 [^Back]

    [50]. (50) See related content in 東郷和彦「トランプ政権の登場と日本の外交戦略ー北朝鮮·中国·ロシアー」、『問題と研究』第47卷1号 (2018年1.2.3月号) 、第10–11頁。 And Zhang, Y. Foreign Affairs Review (外交评论), (6) (2017). [^Back]

    [51]. (51) We will discuss this issue in a special paper. [^Back]

    [52]. (52) See Liu, F. Foreign Affairs Review (外交评论), (1): 24 (2017). [^Back]

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    [55]. (55) This is similar to the definition of “hedging” by Liu Feng and Chen Zhirui, namely, risk aversion by a state to deal with uncertainty, trying to capture possible gains while preventing potential dangers, also known as “two-sided betting.” See Liu, F. & Chen, Z. Journal of Contemporary Asia-Pacific Studies (当代亚太), (4): 8 (2015). [^Back]

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    [58]. (58) Lin, H. Issues & Studies (問題と研究), 43(2): 60 (2014). [^Back]

    [59]. (59) 「参—本会議-2号」、平成26年10月1日。 [^Back]

    [60]. (60) 「国際秩序動揺期における米中の動勢と米中関係」、平成28年度外務省外交·安全保障調査研究事業、第301頁。 [^Back]

    [61]. (61) On November 6, 2018, during a meeting with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir, Abe switched to “vision” for the first time in public. At the joint press conference, Abe mentioned the expansion of investment and technology transfer to Malaysia. On this basis, he declared in Japanese that these cooperative projects also constituted an important measure in realizing the free and open Indo-Pacific strategy. After the translator translated the Prime Minister’s speech into “Indo-Pacific strategy,” the Prime Minister’s bureaucrats said that the words needed to correct in English, so that the translator stated that wording was inaccurate, and “strategy” should be “vision.” See: 「インド太平洋、消えた戦略 政府が構想に修正」、『日本経済新聞』、2018年11月13日。 [^Back]

    [62]. (62) It is worth mentioning that at the beginning of 2016, the Sasakawa Peace Foundation and the U.S. Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) issued the report The U.S.-Japan Alliance to 2030: Power and Principle. [^Back]

    [63]. (63) 北岡伸一など「安倍外交への15の視点~ナショナリズムよりもリアリズムの追求を~」、2013年8月、 [^Back]

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    [66]. (66) 東郷和彦など編『日本発の「世界」思想 哲学/公共/外交』、藤原書店、2018年、第287頁。 It should be said that this is the mainstream perception of Japan’s strategic circles on China. There is another view on China’s development, especially military growth. That is, China was invaded by a large number of European and American powers, so China’s need to strengthen security is understandable. In addition, China does not have an ally as Japan, so it must defend the country independently. Therefore, it is necessary to maintain huge military forces. This is not difficult to understand from a realist perspective. See Hosoya Yuichi’s speech at an international symposium on promoting the spirit of the treaty and deepening friendly cooperation that commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Friendship held by the Institute of Japanese Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences on August 11, 2018. [^Back]

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    [69]. (69) Of course, we have also noticed that Abe administration’s adjustments of China policy have more specific reasons, such as the comprehensive judgment of Japan’s political and economic agendas in Abe’s new term, the continued active interactions between China and Japan, the reform of international order, and Abe’s personal decision-making style, which have contributed to the new adjustments of Japan’s China policy. [^Back]

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    [71]. (71) Iida Keisuke (飯田敬輔) also holds the same view. He believes that in the anger of erosion of the powers, enriching the nation and strengthening the military are the most important issues. Only by fully absorbing the material and spiritual civilizations of the West can Japan truly joined the league of the Western nations. See 飯田敬輔など編「特集 主要国の国際秩序観と現代外交」、『レヴァイアサン』58号、木鐸社、2016年4月15日発行、第17頁。 [^Back]

    [72]. (72) See Zhang, Y. Foreign Affairs Review (外交评论), (6) (2015). [^Back]

    [73]. (73) Edward Mandell House (1858–1938), a think-tanker of U.S. President Wilson, served as the presidential representative to the United Kingdom, France, Germany and other countries, and assisted in the drafting of the Treaty of Versailles and the Covenant of the League of Nations. [^Back]

    [74]. (74) [Japan] Yoshida, S. 回想十年 (第二巻). Han, R. et al. (trans.) Beijing: World Affairs Press, 3 (1963). [^Back]

    [75]. (75) 高坂正堯『国際政治——恐怖と希望』、中央公論新社、1966年、第7頁。 [^Back]

This Article


CN: 11-5370/D

Vol 35, No. 06, Pages 72-98

November 2018


Article Outline


  • 1 Japan’s diplomacy in world politics: reform of order and reconstruction of diplomacy
  • 2 Reconstruction of Japan’s diplomacy: “double transformations” and their relationship
  • 3 Variations of “competition” and “coordination”: adjustment of China policy under the “Abe route”
  • Conclusion
  • Footnote