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Nationalism in Japan’s contemporary foreign policy: a consideration of the cases of China, North Korea, and India

Kuroki, Maiko (2013) Nationalism in Japan’s contemporary foreign policy: a consideration of the cases of China, North Korea, and India. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Under the Koizumi and Abe administrations, the deterioration of the Japan-China relationship and growing tension between Japan and North Korea were often interpreted as being caused by the rise of nationalism. This thesis aims to explore this question by looking at Japan’s foreign policy in the region and uncovering how political actors manipulated the concept of nationalism in foreign policy discourse. The methodology employs discourse analysis on five case studies. It will be explored how the two administrations both used nationalism but in the pursuit of contrasting policies: an uncompromising stance to China and a conciliatory approach toward North Korea under the Koizumi administration, a hard-line attitude against North Korea and the rapprochement with China by Abe, accompanied by a friendship-policy toward India. These case studies show how the nationalism is used in the competition between political leaders by articulating national identity in foreign policy. Whereas this often appears as a kind of assertiveness from outside China, in the domestic context leaders use nationalism to reconstruct Japan’s identity as a ‘peaceful nation’ through foreign policy by highlighting differences from ‘other’s or by achieving historic reconciliation. Such identity constructions are used to legitimize policy choices that are in themselves used to marginalize other policy options and political actors. In this way, nationalism is utilized as a kind of political capital in a domestic power relationship, as can be seen by Abe’s use of foreign policy to set an agenda of ‘departure from the postwar regime’. In a similar way, Koizumi’s unyielding stance against China was used to calm discontents among right-wing traditionalists who were opposed to his reconciliatory approach to Pyongyang. On the other hand, Abe also utilized a hard-line policy to the DPRK to offset his rapprochement with China whilst he sought to prevent the improved relationship from becoming a source of political capital for his rivals. The major insights of this thesis is thus to explain how Japan’s foreign policy is shaped by the attempts of its political leaders to manipulate nationalism so as articulating particular forms of national identity that enable them to achieve legitimacy for their policy agendas, boost domestic credentials and marginalize their political rivals.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2013 Maiko Kuroki
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > International Relations

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