The Political Economy of Japanese Globalization

By Glenn D. Hook; Hasegawa Harukiyo | Go to book overview

3

Japan in Europe

Asian and European perspectives

Christopher W. Hughes


Introduction

Viewed from the perspective of trilateralism, so often used to illustrate the position of the US, Europe and Japan relative to each other in the global political economy, the weakest bilateral side of the triangle is undoubtedly Japan-Europe relations (Wilkinson 1986:31; Dent 1999:76-117). Moreover, it is apparent that there is a fundamental imbalance in bilateral Japan-Europe relations themselves. Generally it has been economic relations which have formed the focus of bilateral relations between the two, and when it comes to political relations, more deliberate energy has been devoted to efforts to establish a meaningful European political presence in Japan and Asia than vice versa. But despite the traditional fondness of academics and practitioners for pointing out the asymmetries of Japan-Europe relations in both the trilateral and bilateral contexts, it is apparent also that in recent years certain scholars have tried to extricate Japan-Europe relations from the confines of trilateralism in order to refocus attention on the growing importance of bilateral relations between the two in their own right, and that also there have been significant developments with regard to the theme of Japan's political meaning in Europe (Bridges 1992:230-1; Gilson 1998). For even though Japan's approach towards and meaning in Europe has often been primarily economic, it is clear that accompanying this also are a number of issues loaded with political meaning. The interrelated issues of Japan's rise as an economic superpower and as an economic partner or adversary vis-à-vis Europe in the global trading system, and the penetration of Europe's economy by Japanese transnational corporations (TNCs) with concomitant wrangling over investment levels and transplant locations between the Japanese government and TNCs on one side, and Europe's various regional, national and supranational government institutions on the other, are all inherently political in nature and impact upon Europe's political economy (Darby 1986:216). Hence, Japan's economic engagement in Europe has drawn it inevitably into a process of political engagement, and generated for Japan an ever-growing political presence and identity in Europe. Indeed, this chapter seeks to demonstrate how, since the 1970s, Japan can be perceived as having come to assume three identities which have a political and security meaning for individual European countries, the

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