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The Crisis of Liberal Internationalism

Japan and the World Order

Edited by Yoichi Funabashi and G. John Ikenberry
Cover: The Crisis of Liberal Internationalism

Japan’s challenges and opportunities in a new era of uncertainty

Henry Kissinger wrote a few years ago that Japan has been for seven decades “an important anchor of Asian stability and global peace and prosperity.” However, Japan has only played this anchoring role within an American-led liberal international order built from the ashes of World War II. Now that order itself is under siege, not just from illiberal forces such as China and Russia but from its very core, the United States under Donald Trump. The already evident damage to that order, and even its possible collapse, pose particular challenges for Japan, as explored in this book.

Noted experts survey the difficult position that Japan finds itself in, both abroad and at home. The weakening of the rules-based order threatens the very basis of Japan’s trade-based prosperity, with the unreliability of U.S. protection leaving Japan vulnerable to an economic and technological superpower in China and at heightened risk from a nuclear North Korea. Japan’s response to such challenges are complicated by controversies over constitutional revision and the dark aspects of its history that remain a source of tension with its neighbors.

The absence of virulent strains of populism have helped to provide Japan with a stable platform from which to pursue its international agenda. Yet with a rapidly aging population, widening intergenerational inequality, and high levels of public debt, the sources of Japan’s stability—its welfare state and immigration policies—are becoming increasingly difficult to sustain.

Each of the book’s chapters is written by a specialist in the field, and the book benefits from interviews with more than 40 Japanese policymakers and experts, as well as a public opinion survey. The book outlines today’s challenges to the liberal international order, proposes a role for Japan to uphold, reform and shape the order, and examines Japan’s assets as well as constraints as it seeks to play the role of a proactive stabilizer in the Asia-Pacific.

Praise for The Crisis of Liberal Internationalism

“This well-conceived and elegantly written volume effectively captures both international and domestic components of Japan’s place in the liberal world order. Steeped in history, its authors illuminate how Japan has benefited from and contributed to the liberal order, and indeed served as one of its staunchest pillars since the disaster of militarism in World War II. The book is a significant contribution to the literature on a subject often neglected in scholarly and popular writing: the distinctive and also constrained role that Japan has played in the post-1945 order.”
—Stewart Patrick, James H. Binger Senior Fellow in Global Governance and director of the International Institutions and Global Governance Program, Council on Foreign Relations

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