Meiji Restoration Thesis

Chapter 4, on the transition from a maritime to a continental security paradigm, is the most important in the book and does an excellent job isolating factors such as the external environment and the loss of strategic cohesion caused by the death of the Meiji oligarchs.Yet this pivotal chapter also tosses in state Shintoism as an ideological driver without connecting it to the core theme of the demise of maritime strategy (Imperial Navy ships were also blessed by Shinto priests, for example).

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For if maritime powers risk destroying their domestic democracy and stability by engaging in protracted wars on the continent, continental powers have also created the conditions for their own demise when seeking to dominate at sea: think of Imperial Germany’s contest with Britain or the Soviet Union’s failed attempt to challenge the Pacific at the end of the Cold War.

In 1868 the Tokugawa shôgun ("great general"), who ruled Japan in the feudal period, lost his power and the emperor was restored to the supreme position.

Meanwhile, Xi has articulated and programmed for a maritime strategy that looks in the South China Sea like it could be the antithesis of a positive-sum and rules-based vision of a maritime order.

But then, Chinese strategists could learn from this book as well.

is on very strong footing when unpacking the structural and material drivers of Japanese grand strategy, but somewhat less so when trying to account for ideational factors.

I suspect, though, that Paine was not trying to write the definitive book on the domestic sources of Japanese strategic culture.Abe is evoking a strategy in which Japan defends its maritime approaches while upholding a maritime-based neoliberal order, which Paine rightly notes has always been “positive-sum,” and which, for all its many flaws, “is the only world order that benefits all who join because its laws and institutions are designed to promote economic growth in order to create wealth” (178).The maritime strategy relies on alliances, and the core of Japan’s modern approach is to deepen the alliance with the United States and like-minded maritime powers rather than break away in search of autarky again.For that reason, I will probably slot this in for my courses either as a supplement to, or in lieu of, W. Beasley’s authoritative 1987 volume on Japanese imperialism.In Paine’s account of Japan’s imperial wars certain themes recur.Each of the conflicts began with a surprise attack before a formal declaration of war (something planners at the Naval War College warned about in the decades before Pearl Harbor).Each of the conflicts aimed at overturning the regional balance of power by replacing China, then Russia, and then the United States as the dominant regional power.But in certain places Paine takes shortcuts to describe Japan’s strategic culture that do not do justice to the contents of the book.On the first page, for example, Japan’s objectives in the wars from 1894 to 1945 are defined as containing “the march of Russian imperialism into Asia that became the march of Communist Imperialism post-1917”—a description belied by the twists and turns that follow. Paine of the Naval War College builds on her well-regarded books on Imperial Russia and China to complete her tryptic on the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century grand strategies of Northeast Asia with this compelling short study of Imperial Japan.However, what Paine brings is a fresh comparative treatment at a time when echoes of past imperial rivalries are again shaping the international relations of East Asia.


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