Altered States: The United States and Japan since the Occupation

By Michael Schaller | Go to book overview

4
IN THE SHADOW OF THE OCCUPATION: JAPAN AND THE UNITED STATES, 1952-55

THE Occupation ended in April 1952, but Japan remained a client state for many years after. The presence of 200,000 American troops on hundreds of bases as well as foreign control over Okinawa and other outlying islands left Japan less than fully independent. Japan's diplomacy, security, and trade remained tethered to priorities set by Washington. Subordination, however, did not require passivity. During the long twilight of the Yoshida era, political and business leaders managed to steer many American initiatives in directions favorable to Japan. While Washington promoted rearmament, the isolation of China, and containment in Southeast Asia, Japan sought to expand trade with China, penetrate Southeast Asia commercially, and utilize military assistance for economic development. For Yoshida and his successors, Japan's drive to increase exports was not only a formula for prosperity but a kind of proxy nationalism and foreign policy strategy.

In Japan after 1952, neither the foreign office nor Self-Defense Forces played as important a role as the Ministry of Finance, MITI, or big business. During the cold war, America's high level of defense spending and promotion of liberal trade allowed the "banks and the economic bureaucracy," in the view of Japanese economists, to "function as a general staff behind the battlefield in this second 'total war' [of] high economic growth." 1

Japan's leaders considered defense procurements and increased exports to the United States essential to growth. Although the Liberal Democrats were intensely divided along factional lines, and the Socialists and Communists denounced each other as well as the Conservatives, nearly all parties tacitly agreed on the need to insulate Japan from direct participation in the cold war and to promote economic growth.

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