ABSTRACT: Many commentators and scholars declare that Tokyo is shedding its postwar pacifism, and the Japanese nationalism is on the rise. To assess these claims, we analyze Japan’s military assertiveness and nationalism. Using public opinion and other data, we measure and compare these to two baselines both over time and across space (relative to seven other countries). We find that (1) Japan’s military assertiveness remains very low in some ways, but has grown in others. The cross-national comparison shows that Japan remains the least assertive of the comparison countries. As for Japan’s national identity, (2) we distinguish theoretically between “nationalism” and a more benign “patriotism.” Patriotism is strong and stable over time. Public opinion shows some evidence of nationalistic sentiment. Other data reflect growing self-criticism and empathy. Evidence thus contradicts the claim of Japanese resurgence. These findings have important theoretical implications for the nationalism literature and for scholarly debates about Japan, and they shed light on policy questions related to the nascent U.S. balancing effort in East Asia. To the extent that the Japanese could be convinced to be a more active regional partner, it would be a responsible one.
PROFILE: Jennifer Lind is Associate Professor in the Department of Government at Dartmouth, a Faculty Associate at the Reischauer Institute for Japanese Studies at Harvard University, and a Research Associate at Chatham House, London. Professor Lind is an expert on East Asian international relations and US foreign policy toward the region. She is the author of Sorry States: Apologies in International Politics, which examines the effect of war memory on international reconciliation (Cornell University Press, 2008). She has also written numerous scholarly articles in journals such as International Security and International Studies Quarterly, and often writes for wider audiences in Foreign Affairs and National Interest. Her commentary is regularly quoted in The New York Times, Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and National Public Radio.