September 2, 2008

English summary

This issue of Diplomaatia focuses on Japan. Rein Raud, the Rector of Tallinn University, analyses the factors that have helped Japan to become the first country that does not speak an Indo-European language or use the Latin script to modernise: “Japan’s success is made more remarkable by the fact that according to Max Weber’s criticism of a Confucian society, many factors of Japan’s culture and society – such as the domination of the group over the individual and the strict hierarchies and ritualism in decision making processes – should not be compatible with the principles of a modernised society. Nevertheless, in the Japanese context, these have paradoxically turned out to support rather than obstruct its development.”

This issue of Diplomaatia focuses on Japan. Rein Raud, the Rector of Tallinn University, analyses the factors that have helped Japan to become the first country that does not speak an Indo-European language or use the Latin script to modernise: “Japan’s success is made more remarkable by the fact that according to Max Weber’s criticism of a Confucian society, many factors of Japan’s culture and society – such as the domination of the group over the individual and the strict hierarchies and ritualism in decision making processes – should not be compatible with the principles of a modernised society. Nevertheless, in the Japanese context, these have paradoxically turned out to support rather than obstruct its development.”

English summary

This issue of Diplomaatia focuses on Japan.
Rein Raud, the Rector of Tallinn University, analyses the factors that have helped Japan to become the first country that does not speak an Indo-European language or use the Latin script to modernise: “Japan’s success is made more remarkable by the fact that according to Max Weber’s criticism of a Confucian society, many factors of Japan’s culture and society – such as the domination of the group over the individual and the strict hierarchies and ritualism in decision making processes – should not be compatible with the principles of a modernised society. Nevertheless, in the Japanese context, these have paradoxically turned out to support rather than obstruct its development.”
Examining Japanese society and its habits more closely, Raud concludes that “it may be possible that a “right” and obligatory model of modernisation does not exist at all and that the Hegelian-Marxist vision of history, according to which all countries have to go through more or less similar processes in a similar order, is no longer adequate for analysing the world as a whole.”
Monika Reinem, a doctoral student at Tsukuba University, writes about defence questions in Japanese politics. “Differently from the Western world, where the Right-Left divide is most visible in economic politics – the dilemma being between the high taxes and high social expenditure of a welfare state and the liberal low taxes that give more freedom to the stronger – in Japan, the basic divide concerns defence policy. “Now, with the world becoming ever more turbulent, Japan’s main military ally, the US, bogged down in Iraq and South-East Asia and having to deal with a new nuclear country in the face of North Korea, the government of the new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has to tackle the question of Japan’s pacifist stance. Reinem predicts that the views of society will exclude any major changes: the debate about possible reforms of military policy inspired by North Korea’s nuclear tests died before it could even properly start.
Raul Allikivi, a scholar at Tallinn University, analyses Japan’s domestic politics and its election system, looking also at the personalities of many recent prime ministers and the main competitors of the incumbent, Shinzo Abe. “When evaluating Abe’s first months in office, it must be admitted that his first steps have been very successful and he has managed to surprise the sceptics,” Allikivi concludes. “At the same time, a profound reform plan seems to absent; instead Abe uses patriotic rhetoric and opposition to North Korea to fortify his domestic position.”
Christian Caryl, Newsweek’s bureau chief in Tokyo, examines the relationship between the US and Japan. He describes the personal chemistry between President Bush and Japan’s former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, but warns: “Make no mistake – the rationale for the two countries’ close relationship is based not on personalities, however impressive they might be, but on dovetailing and enduring vital interests . As North Korea’s first nuclear test in October vividly demonstrated, Japanese-American cooperation in the realm of security has every reason to get closer in the years to come. Koizumi’s successor as prime minister, Shinzo Abe, shows every indication of preparing to push ahead.”
Describing the trade and cultural relations between the two countries, Caryl concludes that “the main question about the Japanese-American alliance these days is not whether it will endure, but how far it can continue to grow.”
Finally, Lauri Mälksoo, a researcher at Tokyo University, analyses the decades-long border dispute between Japan and Russia centred on the ownership of the so-called Northern Territories or Southern Kuril Islands. “Japan’s stubborn position seems to be based on the understanding that the Soviet Union acquired the islands of Habomai, Shikotan, Kunashiri and Etorofu by breaking a treaty,” writes Mälksoo. “But imperial Japan behaved the same way when it felt the need or opportunity – as against the US in Pearl Harbor in 1941 or against Czarist Russia in Port Arthur in 1904. However, this contradiction perhaps also offers an explanation: . if the attack against Pearl Harbor was “traitorous” and “incompatible with the habits of civilised nations and international law”, then why should another international treaty that was violated against Japan’s interests, “not count”? If treaties are sacred and aggressive territorial expansions are to be condemned then what moral arguments could justify the abandonment of the treaty by Soviet Union?”
Mälksoo also asks whether the border dispute between Japan and Russia might include some valuable lessons for Estonia. In its own border debates with Russia, Estonia has proceeded differently. In 1994 it gave up all territorial demands, so the remaining problem is one of status, not border: what does Estonia’s independence mean for Russia? “If Russia refuses to unequivocally condemn the crimes committed by the Soviet Union and to draw conclusions from those, if Russia continues to make bitter remarks regarding its neighbours’ wish to be part of the West, then that may indicate that, sadly, Russia is not interested in the territorial integrity of the Petseri district – but that Russia is interested in Estonia itself.”

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