Brzezinski, Zbigniew
January 1972
Foreign Affairs;Jan1972, Vol. 50 Issue 2, p270
This article examines the foreign economic relations between Japan and the United States. The sudden emergence of Japan as an economic power enjoying a massive surplus in trade with the United States, the success of Japanese industry in competing with American products, and the simultaneous difficulties confronting America as it shouldered alone, for better or for worse, the various cold-war legacies, all shook American complacency and have caused Americans to reassess their relations with Japan. As a result, on both sides of the Pacific, new attention is now focused on the American-Japanese relationship. On the American side, highly exaggerated estimates of Japanese economic and military power have provided the backdrop for more specific grievances. The image of a Japanese giant threatening America has been as erroneous as it has been harmful to balanced American-Japanese relations. Americans have simply been insensitive to the weaknesses and fragility of today's Japan. The psychological dimension in the relationship between the United States and Japan is extremely important, especially on the Japanese side, and both sides have been insensitive to it. The American side has not been fully responsive to the Japanese quest for higher status and to the need to appeal to the more honorable and magnanimous side of the Japanese character when confronted with difficulties. Instead, the United States has alternated between a highly paternalistic attitude and blustering threats. The result has been to undermine the credibility of the argument that the Japanese must make concessions for the sake of good American-Japanese relations, and to stimulate Japanese resentments.


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