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New Left Review I/77, January-February 1973


Jon Halliday and Gavan McCormack

Japan and America: Antagonistic Alliance

The ‘Nixon Shocks’ of 1971, which announced the opening of relations between the us and China and initiated a series of measures to protect the us economy, had an immense combined impact in Japan. [1] This article has been adapted from the final chapter of our forthcoming (April 1973) book: Japanese Imperialism Today (Penguin in uk; Monthly Review Press in usa). It was originally written in March 1972 and many of the trends indicated have since accelerated quite sharply. The bulk of the book concerns Japan’s expansion in South-East Asia. The book also deals in detail with Japan’s relationship to the us: certain key aspects of this latter relationship, both economic (e.g. oil, cars, and computers), as well as military and political, are discussed elsewhere in the work and are therefore mentioned here only en passant. As America’s main economic rival, Japan was the most threatened of all the major capitalist economies by Nixon’s protectionism. The immediate result of the ‘Nixon shocks’ has been a considerable increase in Japanese diplomatic and political moves in East and South-East Asia; these had lagged strikingly far behind its economic advances in the area. The development of Japan’s international role will be one of the central features of imperialism, and of inter-imperialist contradictions, in the last quarter of the 20th century. Japan has already had one period of notable expansion in the East and South-East Asia area this century. This new expansion is not a simple re-run of the previous episode. Post-1945 Japan has been to a considerable extent remoulded by us imperialism and integrated into the American empire. As a consequence Japan has so far been able to advance in Asia almost entirely by economic means: neither political nor military measures have been in the front line. Contemporary expansion contrasts strongly with the pre-1945 experience, where military power was, to a very large extent, in the vanguard.

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