Far Eastern Governments and Politics: China and Japan

By Paul M. A. Linebarger; Djang Chu et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TEN
The Cultural and Physical Background of Japanese Government

CHINA, Japan, and the United States can, in many ways, be thought of as a political triangle. America and Japan share many characteristics--modernity, constitutionality, patriotism, stability-which are not characteristic of China. America and China share many characteristics which are not characteristic of Japan: disrespect toward government, democracy in everyday social affairs, the secular spirit, and economic stratification combined with loose social equality are among the most prominent of these. Japan and China, in their turn, share features not enjoyed by the United States--such as the Confucian morality, the Buddhist heritage, doctrines of nonrational common sense, and the systematization of prestige factors in everyday life.

Such a triangular concept leads to a more wholesome appreciation of Japanese features than does the popular attempt to lump China and Japan together as Orientals or the equally popular identification of America and Japan as up-to-date countries in contrast with backward China. Even in the language structure the position is in many respects triangular. The movement of the English language itself is away from complicated inflection toward the simple, uninflected forms used in Chinese. In this respect the Chinese and English languages can be called very loosely similar. English and Japanese are closer to each other than to Chinese in their capacity to conjugate verbs. Chinese and Japanese are more like each other than English in their use of ideographs.

What does this signify in terms of American understanding of Japan?

Most simply it means that the stereotypes which Americans have learned to apply to China cannot be applied to Japan, and the Japanese national character and politics will be best understood if Americans attempt to obtain a direct, calm, reasonable, first-hand sense of the fitness of things

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