Glenn D. Hook
The role of Japan as a catch-up state seeking to draw level with if not overtake the early starters of the West has profoundly shaped the regional order and path of development charted by the late-comers of East Asia. While in the mid-nineteenth century Japan on the Eastern wing joined Germany and Italy on the Western wing of the emerging global order as late-comers to development, the path to modernization chosen by Japan involved imperial expansion into neighbouring countries, as with the formal colonization of Taiwan and Korea and the informal colonization of China. In the post-war era, Japan could not again traverse the same path to economic development pursued in the pre-war period, and instead instrumentalized policy through economic rather than military means. The capitalist developmental states of East Asia which emerged out of the decolonization process, although falling under the shadow of the US during the Cold War in terms of politics and security, were rather influenced by Japan economically. With the Cold War's ending, Japan has begun to play a greater political and emerging security role in the region, but its economic role in East Asia still predominates.
In order to elucidate Japan's role in East Asia, this chapter first introduces how it helped to reconstitute the East Asian political economy during the Cold War period, with a focus on the economic dimension of regional relations. East Asia is here understood in the broad geographic sense of both Northeast and Southeast Asia, and in essence refers to the ten members of the ASEAN as well as Japan, China and South Korea (ASEAN plus Three). The chapter next highlights Japan's role in the emergence and development of post-Cold War regionalism, and goes on to discuss the Japanese response to the East Asian financial and economic crises. It then examines Japan's role in emerging East Asian regional groupings, especially the ASEAN plus Three summits, and seeks in the concluding section to evaluate the global and regional meaning of Japan in a globalizing political economy.