David Leheny - Professor of East Asian Studies at Princeton University
As local debates raged about whether Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro’s foreign policy had tipped too much toward the United States, and whether it needed to be more “autonomous” or even “pro-Asian,” two of his successors had already started to stake out the case for a Japanese diplomacy that would embrace and promote free markets, liberal democracy, and the rule of law. Although both Abe Shinzo’s “Values Diplomacy” and Aso Taro’s “Arc of Freedom and Prosperity” were implicitly targeted at aligning Japan with the United States, Australia, and India against a rising China, these visions displayed the tensions inherent in any articulation of a country’s putative values and its international stance. This paper examines how these depictions of Japan’s diplomacy were exploitable both by American analysts arguing for the universalism of American values as well as by Japanese actors aiming to define their country’s role in an Asia that had, in some alarmist views, started to ignore Tokyo. In doing so, it traces discourses of culture and development, relating them to contemporary diplomatic themes, particularly that of “soft power,” a term associated most frequently with the Obama administration’s designated ambassador to Japan, Joseph Nye.