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January 10, 2012

[SSJ: 7091] Re: 7024] IR Theory and the Japan's Alliance Choices

From: Paul Midford
Date: 2012/01/10

“if Japan really saw China as a threat, like it does North Korea or did with the Soviet Union in the past, it would not trade with them for fear of building up a military threat, not to mention the dangers of becoming dependent.”

"Far from Japan having not traded with the Soviet Union as a threat, Japan was actually the most important non-Communist trade partner of the Soviet Union only after West Germany and their overall trade had reached
$4.4 billion annually by 1979."

I am beginning to understand that Watanabe is reading my posts far too literally. Saying Japan "would not trade" with the Soviet Union did not mean there was literally no trade at all. Rather this was fairly common short-hand for they did not trade to any significant extent, and in particular that they did not become dependent on trade with the Soviet Union or trade to a degree that would have built up Soviet power.
The statistics Watanabe cites confirm that no significant trade was going on. Japan's trade with the Soviet Union was thus entirely different than its current trade with China in terms of dependence and willingness to accept Chinese national power expanding as a result. The key indicator in the Soviet relationship was when the Soviets tried to tempt Japan into large scale investment in Siberian energy resources to diversify its energy sources after the
1973 Arab oil embargo. Japan turned them down.
Regarding China before normalization, yes there was some trade, although that was even more trivial. More importantly, however, I never said that Japan saw China as a threat at that time (in fact I suggested they did not). The China threat argument is Watanabe's, not
mine.

I am also beginning to understand that Watanabe really wants to debate Kenneth Waltz. I am sorry to disappoint him but I'm no Kenneth Waltz. I never said, and certainly do not believe that domestic politics,
public opinion, etc., do not matter. Watanabe is
confusing forcasting a Sino-Japanese alliance, or advocating one, with analyzing the geo-strategic pluses and minuses of such an alliance. I am doing the later, he is confusing the later with the former.
Methodologically, I would point out that you cannot say that domestic politics trumps geo-strategic incentives unless you first figure out what these incentives are.
Finally, unless Watanabe has a structural realist like theory of Japanese domestic politics, one that predicts no or little change, ever, one cannot say that domestic politics, which hinders a Sino-Japanese alliance today (as I have noted repeatedly), will continue to do so in the future. Again, because my point might be misread again, let me be clear: saying domestic politics might not hinder a Sino-Japanese alliance in the future is entirely different from forecasting that this will actually happen. Again, none of us can forecast the future, and Japanese domestic politics is very changeable (as are, as I pointed out in another post, its perceptions of China), so that is especially difficult.

Paul Midford

Approved by ssjmod at January 10, 2012 01:59 PM