The Rise and Fall of Japan’s Empire in Maps

Japan's imperial ambitions as depicted in the 1945 American propaganda film Why We Fight: War Comes to America
Japan’s imperial ambitions as depicted in the 1945 American propaganda film Why We Fight: War Comes to America

It is debatable when the history of the Japanese Empire began. One can go back to the Meiji Restoration of 1868, but wasn’t the 1894-95 Sino-Japanese War, fought over influence in Korea, really the starting point of Japanese imperialism?

Or the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War? Fought for influence in Korea as well as Manchuria.

Or 1910, when Japan annexed Korea?

A watershed moment came in 1931, when Japan occupied Manchuria. There was no doubt at that point the island nation had become a colonial and an expansionist power. Read more

Europe and Japan Finalize Trade Deal

The skyline of Tokyo, Japan
The skyline of Tokyo, Japan (Unsplash/Louie Martinez)

The European Union and Japan have finalized a trade agreement that would create the world’s largest open economic zone when it comes into effect in 2019.

The deal cuts tariffs, harmonizes product regulations and liberalizes public procurement for a market of 600 million people.

The EU and Japan account for 28 percent of the world’s economic output.

In a joint statement, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Japanese prime minister Shinzō Abe said the deal demonstrates their commitment “to keeping the world economy working on the basis of free, open and fair markets with clear and transparent rules.” Read more

Allies Hope for the Best from Trump, Must Plan for the Worst

Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Donald Trump of the United States listen to Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg of NATO making a speech in Brussels, May 25
Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Donald Trump of the United States listen to Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg of NATO making a speech in Brussels, May 25 (NATO)

American allies are coping with Donald Trump’s disruptive presidency in similar ways, a collection of essays in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs magazine reveals:

  • All feel they need to step up and defend the liberal world order as Trump is determined to put “America first”.
  • They worry that a new era of American isolationism could make the world poorer and less safe.
  • Leaders are doing their best to rein in Trump’s worst impulses and most of their voters understand the need for pragmatism, although they have little faith in this president. Read more

Europe, Japan Send “Strong Signal” with Trade Deal

Japanese prime minister Shinzō Abe, European Council president Donald Tusk and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker pose for photos in Brussels, March 21, 2017
Japanese prime minister Shinzō Abe, European Council president Donald Tusk and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker pose for photos in Brussels, March 21, 2017 (European Commission)

European and Japanese leaders have announced a landmark trade agreement on the eve of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, where America’s president, Donald Trump, is expected to press his case for protectionism.

The treaty has yet to be finalized. A summit in Brussels was hastily arranged to “send a strong signal,” as the EU’s trade commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, put it earlier this week.

“We believe we should not build walls or raise protectionism,” she said. Read more

Time Looks Ripe for Japan-NATO Cooperation

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg welcomes the Japanese defense minister, Tomomi Inada, in Brussels, January 5
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg welcomes the Japanese defense minister, Tomomi Inada, in Brussels, January 5 (NATO)

Strategic thinkers have proposed closer cooperation between Japan and NATO for more than a decade. The circumstances are now such that this could become a reality. Read more

Japan’s Abe Once Again Puts Off Difficult Reforms

Prime Ministers Matteo Renzi of Italy and Shinzō Abe of Japan attend a ceremony in Tokyo, August 3, 2015
Prime Ministers Matteo Renzi of Italy and Shinzō Abe of Japan attend a ceremony in Tokyo, August 3, 2015 (Palazzo Chigi)

Japanese prime minister Shinzō Abe once again backed away from reform on Wednesday when he delayed a planned sales tax increase that was meant to shrink a huge deficit.

At this point, it seems we would be deluding ourselves if we still take “Abenomics” seriously as a program of economic reform.

When he returned to power in 2012, Abe promised to tackle sclerotic growth in three ways: short-term monetary and fiscal stimulus, long-term fiscal consolidation and structural economic reform.

He only managed the first and has constantly found excuses to put off the second and third — which are the more important if Japan is to find its way back to growth. Read more

2015 in Geopolitical Review

World leaders speak at a G7 summit in Bavaria, Germany, June 11
World leaders speak at a G7 summit in Bavaria, Germany, June 11 (Bundesregierung)

Geopolitics is about trends. Individual events add up to patterns; patterns melt into inertia; inertia gains social gravity; inevitably, maps are redrawn, regimes fall and through the litany of news reports we wonder how it all came about.

So while it is beyond cliché to do a yearly review, for geopolitics, it’s also extremely useful. What were the trends in 2015 and where might they go in 2016 and beyond? Let’s get super. Read more