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Japan as a 'normal country'? : A Nation in Search of Its Place in the World : [book review] Midford, Paul Mar 1, 2013

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Pacific Affairs: Volume 86, No. 1 – March 2013 154 officially recognized during the 1950s (due in part to vocal advocacy from Zhou Enlai), many remained unwilling to publicly project Manchu identity. Political reality caught up much later: the first Manchu autonomous region was only formed in 1985. The final section presents two examples of mixed identity. It begins with the story of Aisin Goro Xianyu, known also as Jin Bihui and Kawashima Yoshiko. The daughter of a Manchu prince, Xianyu was raised in Japan, became an active supporter of Manchoukuo, and was later captured and executed by the ROC. Her story is one of how identities and influences mixed in her own mind, in literary and cinematic portrayals, and in the legal realm, due to her unsuccessful attempt to claim Japanese citizenship. The section ends with a further discussion of how literary and historical narratives presented Manchuria alternately as victim and hero of history. This book is extremely well researched, introducing a wide variety of official, scholarly, literary and popular representations in both Chinese and Japanese, in addition to the author’s own fieldwork. It competently covers an intimidating sweep of history, spanning three separate Chinese regimes, as well as intellectual and political change in Japan. But what makes the book particularly unique as a work of history is its parallel analysis of Manchuria as territory and the Manchus as a people. This dual approach allows Shao to integrate the policies, laws and official histories of a succession of regimes, and the affective sense of identity that is expressed in poems, novels and conversations. More importantly, it allows her to individually examine the internal logic of geobody (territory) and of an evolving national discourse of self (ethnicity) without conflating or confusing the two. That said, the many narratives raised in the book do not always connect, and the author’s desire to present the sheer complexity of images and influences more than once led her to repeat herself, or to veer off into side conversations that I did not always see as relevant. Nevertheless, Shao is to be commended for producing a book of such conceptual and empirical sophistication. It is the most significant book to have come out on Manchuria for some time, as well as a uniquely comprehensive statement on race, ethnicity and territory in twentieth-century China. Australian National University, Canberra, Australia      Thomas David DuBois JAPAN AS A ‘NORMAL COUNTRY’?: A Nation in Search of Its Place in the World. Japan and Global Society. Edited by Yoshihide Soeya, Masayuki Tadokoro, and David A. Welch. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011. viii, 211 pp. (Figures.) C$24.95, paper.  ISBN 978-1-4426-1140-5. This volume tackles head-on the key contemporary debate about Japanese foreign policy:  Is Japan emerging as a “normal country?” In the context of 155 Book Reviews this debate the term “normal” usually means a “normal military great power” on the scale of the UK or France. Indeed, the UK has been explicitly held up as the model by a number of US Japan-hands who advocate Japan becoming the “Britain of Asia.” This volume has impressive breadth, with chapters by leading experts addressing whether Japan has any strategy, the influence of public opinion (a variable that has recently been making a comeback in the study of Japanese foreign policy), Japan as a middle power, conservative ideas about “normalcy,” and “normalcy” in the context of relations with China, Korea and Southeast Asia. Despite these strengths, this book has a significant blind spot: it largely overlooks the distinction between defensive uses of military power for territorial defense versus offensive uses involving power projection for promoting national interests abroad. When this distinction is employed many issues that this book grapples with become far clearer.  Japan is a normal power in the sense that it provides for its own territorial defense except for a nuclear umbrella, which it borrows from the US. Where Japan can be said to possibly be “abnormal” is in comparison with great powers historically, including Japan itself up to 1945, who have also projected military power offensively abroad as a tool of state policy.  As the authors rightly note, however, this historical tradition is under threat outside as well as inside Japan: “in many countries, and arguably around the globe as a whole, norms governing the use of force are tightening … In this respect the rest of the world is catching up to Japanese anti-militarism, and Japan is anything but ‘abnormal’” (5). Moreover, as Yoshihide Soeya points out in his chapter, Japan’s “security profile has developed into that of a de facto middle power, rather than a great power” (91), thereby raising further doubts about the relevance of historical great power comparisons. While the defense-offense distinction produces borderline cases (e.g., tactically offensive operations in response to an attack should probably fit into the rubric of defensive use of military power for territorial defense, but there is obviously room for debate), it nonetheless usefully helps us to locate possible “abnormality” regarding Japan’s place in the world. The key area of contention concerns deploying Japan’s military overseas, not for the sake of achieving unilateral policy goals, but in the context of United Nations peace-keeping, and even more so to support US military operations overseas. One definition of “normalcy” that Lam Peng Er introduces in his excellent chapter on the question of normalcy as viewed from Southeast Asia raises another important angle to this question: “Japan’s ‘normalcy’ in the region hinged on its ability to disagree with the United States” (203).  I have often heard a similar refrain from observers in Southeast Asia, who do not take Japan seriously as an independent power because it is too close to the US: “If you want to know what Japan’s policy is, don’t waste your time going to Tokyo, go to Washington instead.” Lam himself appears to endorse this view when he notes that “the new DPJ government’s desire for greater Pacific Affairs: Volume 86, No. 1 – March 2013 156 autonomy from the United States and for the development of an East Asian Community will be viewed by many Southeast Asians as further evidence of Japan’s becoming a ‘normal country’” (204). Given the apparent recent failure of both these policies one can only presume that Southeast Asians continue to see Japan as “abnormal.” Prominent Japanese academic experts on foreign policy sometimes state similar views, with one once telling me that as long as Japan lacks the ability to say “no” to the US it needs to maintain Article 9 as a substitute. The chapter by David Welch usefully addresses the question of whether Japan has a foreign policy strategy, but sets such a high standard that one is left wondering whether any country, including the US, has a strategy. Although Welch rightly notes that a strategy has to be more than mere reaction to the environment, a strategy that does not take the environment into account is by definition a failure, and no convincing discussion is provided of how a strategy navigates between these two extremes. The author also should have more seriously addressed Japan’s self-proclaimed “comprehensive” security concept, or what others refer to as Japan’s mercantile realist or dual-hedge strategy. In his chapter, Jianwei Wang makes an important contribution by showing that there is a real Chinese debate about whether, and under what conditions, China should accept a militarily more “normal” Japan. The chapter by Masayuki Tadokoro offers a refreshingly rare perspective by taking public opinion seriously as a factor for Japanese foreign policy: “in a democracy it is neither a small number of political leaders, nor media elites, but ultimately the general public that determines the direction and destiny of a country” (39). He also credibly counters the claim that “economic stagnation … has led to a ‘rightward drift’” in public opinion (58). Rather, he argues “that ‘normalization’ represents an outgrowth of postwar values and institutions” (40). Although Tadokoro offers a careful and detailed look at Japanese public opinion on security issues, he unfortunately uses a Yomiuri Shimbun question about how the constitution should be reformed (Fig. 25., 54) that is so contorted in its wording that it is doubtful that one can derive any valid inferences about public opinion from it.  Additionally, for this and other questions he should have provided the reader with the full text of the question. There are a few factual errors that mar the volume, such as the suggestion that Japan dispatched troops to Bosnia (46). Nonetheless, overall, this is a superb volume that anyone interested in today’s key debate about Japanese foreign policy must read. Norwegian University of Science and Technology,  Paul Midford Trondheim, Norway


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