Altered States: The United States and Japan since the Occupation

Altered States: The United States and Japan since the Occupation

Altered States: The United States and Japan since the Occupation

Altered States: The United States and Japan since the Occupation

Synopsis

The relationship between the United States and Japan is torn by contrary impulses. We face each other across the Pacific as friends and allies, as the two most powerful economies in the world--and as suspicious rivals. Americans admire the industry of the Japanese, but we resent the huge trade deficit that has developed between us, due to what we consider to be unfair trade practices and "unlevel playing fields." Now, in Altered States, historian Michael Schaller strips away the stereotypes and misinformation clouding American perceptions of Japan, providing the historical background that helps us make sense of this important relationship. Here is an eye-opening history of U.S.-Japan relations from the end of World War II to the present, revealing its rich depths and startling complexities. Perhaps Schaller's most startling revelation is that modern Japan is what we made it--that most of what we criticize in Japan's behavior today stems directly from U.S. policy in the 1950s. Indeed, as the book shows, for seven years after the end of the war, our occupational forces exerted enormous influence over the shape and direction of Japan's economic future. Stunned by the Communist victory in China and the outbreak of war in Korea, and fearful that Japan might form ties with Mao's China, the U.S. encouraged the rapid development of the Japanese economy, protecting the huge industrial conglomerates and creating new bureaucracies to direct growth. Thus Japan's government-guided, export-driven economy was nurtured by our own policy. Moreover, the United States fretted about Japan's economic weakness--that they would become dependent on us--and sought to expand Tokyo's access to markets in the very areas it had just tried to conquer, the old Co Prosperity Sphere. Schaller documents how, as the Cold War deepened throughout the 1950s, Washington showered money on what it saw as the keystone of the eastern shore of Asia, working assiduously to expand the Japanese economy and, in fact, worrying intensely over the American trade surplus. Fear of Japanese instability ran so deep that Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson approved secret financial help to Japanese conservative politicians, some of whom had been accused of war crimes against Americans. Then came the 1960s, and the surplus faded into a deficit. The book reveals how Washington's involvement in Vietnam provided the Japanese government with political cover for quietly pursuing a more independent course. Even in the 1970s, however, with America's one time ward turned into an economic powerhouse, the Nixon administration failed to pay much attention to Tokyo. Schaller shows that Kissinger openly preferred the more charismatic company of Zhou Enlai to that of Japanese technocrats, while economics bored him. The United States almost missed the fact that Japan had developed into a country that could say no, and very loudly. Michael Schaller has won widespread acclaim for his earlier books on U. S. relations with Asia. His fearless judgments, his fluid pen, his depth of knowledge and research have all lifted him to the front rank of historians writing today. In Altered States, he illuminates the most important, and troubled, relationship in the world in a work certain to cement his reputation.

Excerpt

Alexander Portnoy, the narcissistic narrator of Philip Roth 1969 novel, Portnoy's Complaint, reveled in telling the story of Miltie, stationed with American forces in Japan. "Mamma," Miltie tells his mother excitedly in a phone call from Yokohama, "I have good news. I found a wonderful Japanese girl and we were married today. As soon as I get my discharge, I want to bring her home, Mamma, for you to meet each other." "So," Mamma replies, "bring her home." "Wonderful," shouts Miltie, "But Mamma, in such a little apartment, where will Ming Toy and I sleep?" "Where?", says mother, "Why in the bed. Where else would you sleep with your bride?" "But then where will you sleep, if we sleep in the bed? Are you sure there's room? Miltie, darling, please," says the mother, "everything is fine, don't you worry, there will be all the room you want: as soon as I hang up, I'm killing myself." To a considerable degree, this exchange mirrored the ambivalence many Americans felt toward Japan since the Occupation.

Since the United States restored Japan's sovereignty in 1952, relations between the two nations have evolved in mostly unforeseen ways. For more than a decade after the signing of the San Francisco peace treaty, American policymakers worried that Japan's feeble economy required massive foreign assistance to prevent Tokyo from reaching an accommodation with China or the Soviet Union. The underlying concern, as John Foster Dulles, peace treaty negotiator and, later, secretary of state, often remarked, was that "unless Japan worked for us . . . it will work for the other side." Unfortunately, Dulles believed, Japanese products had "little future . . . in the United States" since they were just "cheap imitations of our own goods." Survival as a member of the free world required that . . .

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