Ja­pan, China and the Meiji Model

Global Asia - - BOOK REVIEWS - Re­viewed by John Delury

This is an el­e­gant en­cap­su­la­tion of Ja­pan’s rise and fall from the promis­ing “Meiji mod­ern­iza­tion” in the 1860s to the Pa­cific War dis­as­ter in the 1940s. Paine, Univer­sity Pro­fes­sor of His­tory and Grand Strat­egy at the Na­tional War Col­lege, has writ­ten land­mark books on the three wars Ja­pan fought in its im­pe­rial phase: the first Sino-ja­panese war (for Korea), the Russo-ja­panese war (for Manchuria) and the Pa­cific War (for Asia). Hav­ing looked at those con­flicts from the per­spec­tive of Chi­nese, Rus­sians and Amer­i­cans, here she fo­cuses on the Ja­panese di­men­sion.

She deftly ex­plains the un­der­ly­ing causes of con­flict be­yond the prox­i­mate, and vic­tory or de­feat’s un­in­tended con­se­quences. A cen­tral ar­gu­ment is that early 20th-cen­tury Ja­panese lead­ers made a ba­sic cat­e­gory er­ror, self-defin­ing as a con­ti­nen­tal power, not a mar­itime power. From this mis­taken iden­tity, catas­tro­phe en­sued for Asia and even­tu­ally for Ja­pan.

Read­ers will in­evitably see Paine’s study in light of to­day, where China by ac­counts ap­pears in the Meiji model’s first phase (“a do­mes­tic phase of in­sti­tu­tion­build­ing”). Paine does not ask if China will move to phase two (“a for­eign-pol­icy phase of wars to win an em­pire”). But her au­thor­i­ta­tive study of­fers a use­ful his­tor­i­cal point of com­par­i­son and an im­plicit warn­ing to Chi­nese grand strate­gists, given the spec­tac­u­lar fail­ure of phase two.

She deftly ex­plains the un­der­ly­ing causes of con­flict be­yond the prox­i­mate.

The Ja­panese Em­pire: Grand Strat­egy from the Meiji Restora­tion to the Pa­cific WarBy S.C.M. Paine Cam­bridge Univer­sity Press, 2017, 218 pages, $24.99 (Pa­per­back)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Cambodia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.