- Paperback: 544 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 8/18/98 edition (September 17, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393318370
- ISBN-13: 978-0393318371
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.3 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #908,012 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Clash: U.S.-Japanese Relations Throughout History 8/18/98 Edition
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Broad and deeply researched.... The Clash is beautifully written, with clear arguments and no irrelevancies. -- Gaddis Smith, Boston Globe
[LaFeber] succeeds brilliantly. . . . [W]ell-researched, meticulously sourced and highly readable. -- Don Oberdorfer, Washington Post Book World
[This] work will easily become the best history of U.S.-Japanese relations in any language. -- Akira Iriye, professor of history, Harvard University
About the Author
Walter LaFeber is professor of history at Cornell University and the author of The Clash and Inevitable Revolutions.
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LaFeber shows that both Japan and America were very interested in the resources and the potential market of China. This rivalry was more serious for Japan, since Japan had almost no resources of her own. As America and Japan became stronger they jockeyed for access to the markets of China and the resources of Manchuria while Russia and China declined. This eventually led to the attack on Pearl Harbor and the war in the Pacific.
After the war America tried and failed to change Japans views of capitalism and democracy or persuade Japan to ignore the China markets and develop her military strength against the now rising Russia and China.
LaFeber describes the different political and economy backgrounds of America and Japan to explain the actions, and different views of capitalism and democracy of Japan and America. LaFeber also points out the racism of America and Japan that damaged the relations between them.
This book has an excellent bibliography and footnotes so the reader can go beyond the excellent research of LaFeber. There are also a series of maps that make the text easier to understand.
LaFeber, who appears to have a slight bias in favor of the Japanese, especially during the American imperialistic era, structures his work by examining U.S.-Japanese relations in three themes, which he continually revisits in his description of the relationship between the two nations since 1850. The first theme is that, despite the apparent cooperation between the U.S. and Japan during the past century and a half, the relationship has been (and presumably will be) punctuated by a series of crises that severely stress association between the two. Next, LaFeber contends that the economic systems of the U.S. (capitalistic, free-market economy) and Japan (non-capitalistic, government and large corporation controlled economy) are incompatible, and have led to clashes on respective trade and economic policies. Finally, the focal point of all clashes and economic strife between the two revolve around the question of China, regarding both policies of its political disposition and the potential opening of its markets.
While addressing these three themes, LaFeber does not ignore the effects on U.S.-Japanese relations of Western imperialism and racism, nuclear proliferation, exploitation of Asia through the use of international law, and power of U.S. business interests in Asia (and how those interests drove diplomacy).
Despite the excellent research and structure of this work, it left some room for improvement. Some examples of possible improvements include: (1) LaFeber chose to shift between Pinyin and Wade-Giles for his romanization of Mandarin. This use of two different systems was confusing in a work already overloaded with names of actors from many different nationalities. (2) LaFeber's relation of WWII in the Pacific was fairly amateur. I understand that hundreds of books have been written solely describing that war, and that he was likely attempting to limit overall length, but he could have had a much better description of the war in the space that he used.
LaFeber's style is not pretentious and is very readable, somewhat unusual for such a scholarly work. It is also relevant and contributes to an elevated understanding of East Asian affairs. I recommend this work as an entry point for anyone who desires to view Japan or greater East Asia from the standpoint of national security or economics.
LaFeber identifies 3 major themes of the continually contentious and periodically violent Japanese-American relationship. One is a consistent American interest in commercial expansion across the Pacific and access to Asian markets, notably the vast market potential of China. Attempting to sidestep European imperial powers, and trying to take advantage of geography and American commerical dynamism, the basic American approach was to pursue an open economic and diplomatic Asian order. The Japanese, with well justified fears of Western dominance, consistently pursued policies aimed at establishing national autonomy, both on the international stage and domestically. Despite widely varying Japanese governments and rather different circumstances, for example, the situations of Japan before and after WWII, this is the second major theme identified by LaFeber. The third major theme is consistent American and Japanese preoccupation with China, both as a potential economic and political actor. Lefeber's narrative nicely lays out the interactions between these basic features of the Japanese-American relationship and specific historical circumstances. Despite starting in a highly disadvantageous situation in the mid-19th century and after suffering a devastating defeat in WWII, it appears that the Japanese have overall been relatively more successful in achieving their basic objectives.
LaFeber identifies a number of ironic aspects of this story. In the 1920s, for example, American capital considerably assisted the Japanese industrialization of their Manchurian colony, despite official US policy to discourage Japanese Imperialism. In the post-WWII era, the exigencies of the Cold War led American policy makers to participate in what amounted to the realization of the economic aspects of the imperial dreams of pre-WWII Japanese policy makers. Japanese aggression in the 1930s, despite apparent success, only increased Japanese economic dependence on the USA.
The weakest part of the book, not surprisingly, is the part dealing with the 1990s. Another problematic area is his discussion of Truman's decision to use nuclear weapons. He anticipates Tsunyoshi Hasegawa's recent arguments but like Hasegawa, tends to downplay the purely military aspects of the decision. LaFeber also never mentions the considerale demographic challenges faced by modern Japan, even though this phenomenon was clearly apparent in the early 2000s when LaFeber was finishing this book. Written very well and with an excellent bibliography, this is an excellent and very readable book.