Why has Japan emerged from the “lost decades” unscathed from the populist wave and a far more consequential actor in the geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific? In answering this question, Japan’s Quiet Leadership provides a sweeping look at Japan’s domestic economic and political evolution, its economic statecraft, and the array of geopolitical challenges that have triggered a gradual but substantial shift in the country’s security profile. This deep dive into Japan’s trajectory over the last three decades underscores Japan’s hidden strengths in its democratic resilience, social stability, and proactive diplomacy; while reckoning with the profound challenges the nation faces: depopulation, rising inequality, voter disengagement, and threats to Asia’s long peace. The book traces the profound currents of change coursing through the Japanese polity and its external environment; and the myriad ways in which Japan’s experience has become more relevant to countries coping with slow growth, adverse demographics, adjustment to economic globalization, and the emergence of a powerful and assertive China.
This is a story of Japan’s reinvention as a network power to overcome the harsh realities of diminishing relative capabilities. In reshaping the Indo-Pacific, Tokyo deployed a robust economic strategy of trade integration and infrastructure finance; and a proactive security diplomacy cultivating new partnerships with regional and extra-regional actors and deepening the alliance with the United States. Nevertheless, acute geopolitical rifts, Japan’s pandemic insularity, and the securitization of international economic relations are testing Japan’s statecraft of connectivity. The tasks at home are no less pressing: delivering on the green, digital, and human capital transformations, avoiding the return of the politics of indecision at the helm of the nation, and fostering democratic dynamism. This book illuminates where the Japanese polity, economy, and people are heading as we move past the Abe era, and well into the 2020s and beyond.
Mireya Solís is Director of the Center for Policy Studies and Knight Chair in Japan Studies at the Brookings Institution, where she specializes in Japanese foreign economic policy, regional integration in East Asia and U.S. economic strategy in Asia.
Introduction: Moving Past the Narrative of Stagnation
Section 1. Globalization
Chapter 1: Stability amid Economic Globalization
Chapter 2: Foreign Workers: Breaking Taboos, Closing Borders
Section 2. Economics
Chapter 3: What Went Wrong (and Right) in the Lost Decades?
Chapter 4: Enter Abenomics
Chapter 5: The Quest for Revitalization: How Fares the Middle-Class Society?
Section 3. Politics
Chapter 6: Change and Continuity in Japanese Politics
Chapter 7: Japan’s Democracy in the Populist Era
Section 4. Geoeconomics
Chapter 8: Champion of Connectivity in a Rules-Based Order
Chapter 9: The Hard Edge of Japanese Economic Statecraft
Section 5. Geopolitics
Chapter 10: Growing Pains of a Nascent Security Role
Chapter 11: A More Capable Japan: Assessing Abe’s Legacy
Chapter 12: Taming a Hobbesian World? Japan’s sharper security choices
Conclusion: A Network Power in a Divided World
For years many in the foreign policy community worshipped at the altar of China. China was to be the future. However, Dr. Solis saw clearly that our future rested on alliances, chief among them, with Japan. She masterfully dissects the statecraft, economic agility and political evolution which has allowed Japan to reshape the Indo-Pacific and her role in it. As Japan had to deal with demographic change, a different security atmosphere, and declining relative capabilities not to mention pandemic, Dr. Solis’ effort can provide the template for other nations facing similar challenges. This should be the text book for a new generation of foreign policy thinkers.
In Japan’s Quiet Leadership, Mireya Solis offers invaluable insights into the emergence of Japan from its “lost decades” to becoming a trend setter and rule maker on the international stage. She colorfully navigates this thirty- year transformation, leaving the reader with a deep appreciation of the complexities involved in Tokyo re-inventing itself. To better understand how Japan has managed to step up its game internationally at a time of global uncertainty and rising nationalism in many corners of the world, this book is a must read.
Japan's Quiet Leadership: Reshaping the Indo-Pacific acutely captures the geopolitical sea change that evolutionized Japan's politics and economy to its position in the region today. Demonstrating her intricate knowledge as a Japan hand and authority on trade with her keen eye of the country's domestic political dynamics, Solis depicts a compelling case of the late Prime Minister Abe's leadership in repositioning and reimagining Japan and its significance today - a testament to his legacy holding strong in years to come.
5/17/23, Lawfare: Author Mireya Solis penned an article about Japan’s ambitions emphasis on diplomatic networks. The book is included in her byline.