Japan, China and the Meiji Model
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 War
By S.C.M. Paine Cambridge University Press, 2017, 218 pages, $24.99 (Paperback)