Japan 2020 Initiative Student Papers

Summaries of student papers written as part of the Georgetown-Japan 2020 Initiative are now available.

The Politics and Strategy of Japanese Politicians' Sensitivity to South Korean Feelings

M. Erika Pollmann

The Korean peninsula has historically played an important role in Japanese elites’ calculations of their national security. Yet, in recent years, Japanese politicians have shown a remarkable degree of insensitivity to Korean feelings. This is particularly puzzling in regards to Japan’s relationship with South Korea because realist balance-of-power and balance-of-threat theories would predict greater Japan-South Korea cooperation due to China’s increasing military capabilities and North Korea’s development of missile and nuclear weapons. This study tries to determine what are the most important factors (international or domestic) that determine how sensitive Japanese politicians are to South Korean feelings. Independent variables considered are: Japan-U.S. relations, Japan-China relations, Japan-North Korea relations, Japan-South Korea relations, and Japanese domestic politics. These variables will be analzyed with an emphasis on how each of them change in such a way as to either increase or decrease the diplomatic and political costs (or benefits) of a shrine visit.

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Nationalism in the Japanese Print Media: A Case Study of the Dokdo-Takeshima Island Dispute

Hiromi Oka

Since 1905, when they were annexed by Japan’s Shimane prefecture, Liancourt Rocks—known as Dokdo by the Koreans and as Takeshima by the Japanese—have been a sticking point in relations between the two countries. More recently in the 2000s, several incidents have served to aggravate Japanese-Korean tension insofar as they relate to the island dispute, amidst a more general trend of Japanese nationalism. This paper examines contemporary events within the dispute and the way in which Japanese newspapers have portrayed the conflict through the lens of nationalism. Using Benedict Anderson’s definition of the nation as an “imagined community” as well as Michael Billig’s “banal nationalism”—wherein seemingly insignificant actions such as the words used in an article can help foster a sense of nationalism—this paper looks at articles from 2005, when the dispute was reignited through the Shimane prefecture establishment of Takeshima Day, to 2012, when ROK President Lee Myung-bak visited the islets. This paper concludes that all of the newspapers examined, which range from left-leaning to right, exhibit some sense of nationalism in this subliminal “banal nationalism” sense that can further increase hostility between Japan and South Korea.

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The State and Impact of East Asia's Arms Industries: A Comparative Study of Japan and China

Ben Brown

As political tensions simmer in East Asia, recent military expansion initiatives by Japan and China attract considerable scrutiny. However, developments within each nation’s arms industry receive relatively little attention, despite their importance. Understanding the East Asian arms industries is crucial for building deeper comprehension of security issues, crafting effective responses, and predicting future challenges for the region. This paper intends to fill the research gap by undertaking a comparative study of the Japanese and Chinese arms industries. The state and direction of each industry is assessed via a framework of three broad categories: Background, Role of the State, and Extent of Globalization. The Chinese and Japanese arms industries are assessed criterion by criterion, allowing their similarities and differences to emerge.

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China's Foreign Policy Today vs. Japan's Foreign Policy in the 1930s: A Repeat of History in Asia?

Weston Takata

This paper explores whether China’s foreign policy objectives today are similar to Japan’s foreign policy objectives in the 1930s, mainly by looking at the public statements of the political leaders and comparing those statements with the actions each country took to execute its foreign policy. For China, this paper looks at the current Xi Jinping presidency, which started in March 2013 and continues to this day. For Japan, this paper examines Japan’s Early Showa Period between 1932 and 1936, including Japan’s military buildup between the establishment of Manchukuo and the invasion of China in 1931 and 1937, respectively. In both cases, the political leaders utilize rhetoric that gives the impression that their respective countries are peaceful, status quo powers in Asia. However, the execution of the foreign policy objectives at times gives the opposite impression, leading the other countries in the international community to develop sentiments of distrust and suspicion towards Japan in the 1930s and China today.

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Democratizing the Kitchen: The Women of SCAP, Home Demonstration Agents and the "Lifestyle Improvement Movement"  

Sarah Moore

The U.S. occupation of Japan under the command of General Douglas MacArthur after the end of World War II was a movement to “disarm, demilitarize, and democratize” the country. A vital part of the U.S. effort was to advance the status of women in Japan, and American women working for the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP) believed that American control of Occupied Japan provided a unique opportunity to overcome traditional Japanese biases against women. In line with MacArthur’s goals for a new Japan, a program aimed to improve the lives of women in rural areas was born: “Home Life Extension.” This paper analyzes the relationship and influence of SCAP women reformers from 1945 to 1952 on rural Japanese women through examining the occupation’s “Home Life Extension.”

Moore_Full Summary.pdf

Electricity Sector Reform in Japan

Brian Kato

The triple disaster of March 11, 2011 has had a lasting impact on Japan, particularly the alarming meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Although public opinion has rallied most strongly around the issue of nuclear safety, the disaster also revealed deeper, underlying structural weaknesses of Japan’s electricity industry as a whole. This paper addresses the following questions: Why did the disaster create the problems it did, and where did the structural weaknesses come from? To what extent do the reforms truly address the problems? And most importantly, what factors may determine whether these reforms actually succeed in stabilizing supply, lowering prices, and expanding consumer choice? 

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Walking a Fine Line? Coalition Politics and the Komeito's Influence on Security Policy

Andrew Chapman

Before the 2014 debate on Collective Self-Defense in the Japanese Diet, scholars wondered what position the Komeito would come down on in the debate. In April of 2014, Yakushiji Katsuyuki of the Tokyo Foundation wondered whether the Komeito would "stand up to Prime Minister Abe or put its relationship with the LDP ahead of its principles, as it has so often in the past." In the end, the Komeito did not outright block the Cabinet’s Decision on recognizing the right of Collective Self-Defense. Instead, they modified the wording to put limits on the reinterpretation of the constitution by the Cabinet. The behavior of the Komeito to simply modify the decision presents several puzzles. Why is the party that was founded by the pacifist Soka Gakkai content to modify defense policy instead of outright opposing it? At the same time, as the junior member of a coalition with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) that currently holds 55 seats in the Diet to the LDP’s 406, why is the Komeito able to have such a strong influence on defense policy? This paper argues that the Komeito is able and chooses to modify, but not outright opposes, LDP defense policy because both parties benefit from inter-party cooperation: pre-election cooperation agreements and cooperation on passing laws as coalition partners.

Chapman_Full Summary.pdf

Reading the Axis Mind: Social Science, Expert Discourse, and American Wartime Planning for the Occupations of Germany and Japan, 1941-1945

Alexander Macartney

During the Second World War, the U.S. government strove to “better know” their enemies—Germany and Japan—not only in an effort to win the war but also in an attempt to radically transform Axis society, and thereby destroy fascism and militarism while preventing their resurgence. To this end, the government collected and solicited expert analyses of two nations from some of the top social scientists of the era. These experts agreed that to subdue both Axis nations, the United States had to craft Germany and Japan into the liberal democrats they had failed to become in their short histories as modern nations. Few historians have compared U.S. occupation planning for Germany with that for Japan. When studies compared the two, they often assumed that the debate around the “German Question” was more dynamic, while the Japanese side was static and dominated by racial concerns. This paper, however, suggests that the debates about the Axis nations among experts involved in wartime planning actually shared many more similarities than traditionally acknowledged. 

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