After the Meiji Restoration, Japan followed the European example, seeking to become a great power through expansion in East Asia.
The contemporary model of fukoku ky_ei is of course the United States. In the present day, however, economic power is no longer compatible with military strength. The two superpowers that emerged from World War II were the United States and the Soviet Union, but through the accumulation of military expenditure needed to maintain their supremacy, the Soviet Union collapsed completely and the United States became the world_s biggest debtor nation. Disaster has not only befallen great powers. A minor military power like Iraq has been ostracized by the international community, and mass starvation is reported in the military dictatorship of North Korea. China is trying to increase both its wealth and military power, but conflicts between military expenditure and economic development will inevitably arise. In short, the pursuit of wealth and military strength that Paul Kennedy rightly identified as the principle underlying the rise and fall of the great powers up to the present will not be applicable in the future. This is not an age, therefore, in which Japan can aim to replace the United States as the world_s greatest power by pursuing military as well as economic strength.
In the future military power will become something akin to a policing function both domestically and internationally. We are already entering an age in which this policing power will not be the sole property of the United States but shared through the operation of an international organization like the United Nations, and the participation of Japan Self-Defense forces in international peacekeeping operations should be considered in this context. However, the task of dismantling the massive amount of military equipment that has been constructed will be no less costly and dangerous than the expansion of armaments. If Russia were to suffer a complete economic breakdown, the problem of managing its nuclear facilities would give rise to a major international security crisis. Nor can we afford to overlook the possibility of the economic collapse of the United States, which would lead to a similar crisis. For the present, it is important to recognize that the disarmament process will result in as great an economic burden and military danger as military expansion.
Shonan_s High National Ideal
What should replace fukoku ky_ei as the chief requirements for a great power in the twenty-first century? Economic strength is of course essential, for poverty is a breeding ground of all kinds of social evil. But economic strength alone is not sufficient. What should be Japan_s next objective after it recovers from its present financial instability? We now need a vision for a new type of great power on the basis of economic strength.
As we have seen, the national policy formulated by the pioneering Japanese political thinker Yokoi Sh_an was based on the ethical principle of the samurai code as well as on national wealth and military strength. Sh_an was well aware of the limitations of the fukoku ky_ei policy. While he was in Numayamazu?? in Kumamoto in the late fall of 1865, he wrote: _The learning of the West is founded only on practical considerations, not upon ethics... Because Western learning is not based on ethical principles it does not touch upon human feelings. Trade negotiations are built only on material promises, and this leads finally to war. Even after war, peacemaking is based on material considerations. But if one understands human feelings, there is always a way to prevent war... If Western learning remains founded on practical rather than ethical principles, there will be no end to warfare between the Western powers._ (Numayama Kanwa) For Shonan, the ethical principles needed to prevent war were those of the samurai code. The Meiji government propelled Japan along the path of rapid military expansion without giving due consideration to the spirit of the samurai code and Japan ultimately paid the price in its defeat in World War II.