Japan and Greater China: Political Economy and Military Power in the Asian Century Review

Japan and Greater China: Political Economy and Military Power in the Asian Century
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Japan and Greater China: Political Economy and Military Power in the Asian Century ReviewGreg Austin and Stuart Harris's _Japan and Greater China: Political Economy and Military Power in the Asian Century_ serves a useful purpose in reminding the book reading public that there are many other threats and problems in international affairs outside of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Austin and Harris have a wealth of experience in international affairs as both scholars and practitioners. Austin was an analyst with the Australian Defence Intelligence Organisation, defense and foreign affairs correspondent for _The Sydney Morning Herald_ and Secretary of the Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Committee of the Australian Senate. Harris was Deputy Secretary of the Australian Department of Trade and then Secretary of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (subsequently Foreign Affairs and Trade)--a position roughly equal to being the chief of staff to the Foreign Minister. Austin and Harris currently hold positions at The Australian National University in Canberra. Both have written previous books on China and world affairs.
The authors contend that China and Japan are status quo powers unwilling and/or unable to provide much regional leadership in Asia and the Pacific. "Overall, what has been important is that despite ...substantial differences, both governments have sustained a business-like approach to the other. It is likely that this will become more difficult, given the greater concern of public opinion in both countries about the relationship, but both governments will not abandon this approach except under extreme duress. We have noted that whatever the public feelings towards each other, there is no domestic constituency in either country for a belligerent military posture" (p. 336).
As the title of this study indicates, the two authors focus on areas of traditional interest to people interested in international affairs, but there is a bit more to this study. Austin and Harris examine social and economic factors and this is a strength of the book and it is well made. Military actions, after all, are the efforts of a society to project and protect its political values, and it is worthwhile to get an idea of the forces at work in these two societies.
In their first two chapters, the authors examine some unconventional topics for their field. The two explore the place of cultural diplomacy and exchanges in the bilateral relationship of these Asian powers. An important component in perceptions of the other are the historiographical disputes about World War II. An issue that continues to roil the waters between the two nations is the issue of Japan issuing an apology for starting the conflict. That Japan should express its regrets in some way for initiating this war might seem obvious to most citizens of its former foes. It is a testimony to their fairness as scholars that Austin and Harris provide a good and reasonable explanation of why Japanese officials have been less than eager to express regret to the Chinese. While many Japanese nationalists continue to deny that events like the "Rape of Nanking" ever took place, influential officials and bureaucrats believe that Japan has already expressed its remorse officially. Others worry that the type of statement China desires would open up Japan to financial liability. Some see the issue as part of the Chinese Communist Party's efforts to use history as domestic propaganda and are reluctant to give this authoritarian institution tools to maintain its hold on power.
The next two chapters then move into more conventional territory with looks at security and territorial issues. The leadership in both capitals sees the other nation as a security threat, but, according to Austin and Harris, the major characteristic defining this element of their relationship is non-aggression. Each nation is confident that there is no interest in the other of using military force to resolve their differences. Trust, however, is largely absent from their relationship. The foreign policy objective of China over the past half-century has been the unification of the nation. Japan understands this objective, and has been quite consistent in maintaining a one-China policy.

The book then moves into the economic aspects of the Japanese-Chinese relationship with an examination of foreign aid and direct investment. In both cases, the capital travels west across the Sea of Japan. Aid has had little political or economic impact on China, but many Chinese see it as their due or as reparations. Japanese investment in China, on the other hand, has had more influence, at least in certain sectors and regions. Foreign investment from Japan has contributed to the growth of Chinese exports and most Japanese capital has found its way into the Dalian region in the northeast corner of the country. Japanese investment in China is a sign of a healthy relationship.

The transfer of technology and bilateral trade is the subject of the next chapter. The leadership in Beijing sees Japan as both a role model and as a ready source of advanced technology. The authors point out that in many cases China with few trained managers, technicians, and repair facilities has a limited ability to absorb the most modern technologies. When it comes to exports and imports, Austin and Harris argue that the amount of trade is large enough that both nations have elements in their society with an interest in keeping political relations between their governments from deteriorating.

As with most books, there are some blemishes. Like many works in international relations and political science, the text is littered with acronyms. While the authors are quite good about putting the abbreviations in parentheses immediately after the first use of the term it represents, a glossary would have proven quite useful for someone not wanting to hunt through two chapters of text to try and figure out what ODA, FIE, or SEZ represent.
In balance, the strengths of this study vastly outweigh its shortcomings. Austin and Harris have produced a useful, innovative study that many, including policymakers can profit from reading if they wish to understand the recent past in East Asia.
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