Political Culture Under the Realist PerspectiveWith References to The Nipo-Brazilian
Comments on The Japan
of The 1970s
16, 1974, the
Japanese prime minister Tanaka Kakuei landed foot in Brazil.
In his meeting with the president Ernesto Geisel, he brought promises of Japanese aid in
various areas: infrastructure, industry, agriculture and transfer of technology.
Nevertheless, the Japanese governments intention was far more complex than
benevolence: at the same time Tanaka demonstrated interests in developing the Brazilian
economy, there was also the subjective intent of Japan
becoming the primary beneficiary in such endeavour.
Put in a
larger picture, Tanakas visit to Brazil
was part of a series of trips of Japanese envoys with proposals of development -- which
East Asia, Oceania,
East and Africa.
Among several topics discussed in these visits, Tanakas administration objective was
to foster international ties outside the American influence, establishing further
international trade, liberate Japan
from its natural-resource constraints, and to relocate the over-rated pollution-generating
plants to overseas lands (kigyo iju).
1970s the Japanese industry was challenged by a couple of problems, which included
shortage of labour and numerous types of pollution in urban centres. First of all, Kougai (environmental disruption) reached
unbearable levels; ranging from photochemical smog, cadmium, oil to noise and an overall
impoverishment of the quality of life in the Japanese urban centres.
Secondly, the fast development of Japanese industry in the 1960s and high
competitiveness with the neighbouring Asian countries, drove Japan
in the need for a larger labour force.
As Tanaka assumed power, the Japanese government intentions to solve such problems were
by: (1) using of the Corporation for the Relocation of Industry, headed by Kenichiro
Hirata (2) to move as many industrial plants as possible to countries or places where
environmental laws were basically inexistent at that time (3) move the industry to
countries where labour force was abundant and cheap (4) move the industry to countries
where the natural resources were readily available.
issue that troubled Japan
was the oil crisis of 1973. In short terms, the crisis represented the OAPEC announcement
that they would cut off oil to unfriendly nations, which nonetheless included Japan
due to its support of US
pro-Israeli resolutions. At the time of the oil embargo Japan
was the world biggest oil importer, with an estimate of 85% of its domestic consumption
originated in the Middle East.
Hence, the OAPEC announcement took Eij Yamagata (Head of Natural resources Agency)
together with Kakuei and Nakasone (at that time Minister of International Trade and
Industry) to believe that Japan would run into an economic collapse.
estimate of four days until the Japanese oil reserve runs out, the Japanese government had
to think about their alternatives its supply, and engage on building alliances to
establish the continuation of oil accessibility. Hence, a key actor that was to influence
the outcome of this Japanese impasse was the United
States. The King
Faisal of Saudi Arabia,
among others, had warned the Japanese following the American lead in supporting
pro-Israeli resolutions. This took Japanese leaders on serious debates revolving the
US-Japan relationship; which was backed up by a general concern on how the US
would react if Japan
suddenly stepped way from its lead. Tanaka responded with much strength, issuing a
communiqué urging Israel
to withdraw from the territories it had occupied as result of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war
and, stressing the right of the Palestine
people to self determination. Moreover, partially due to the fear of Japanese companies
losing their assets in the Middle East, the
Japanese government started a development aid program geared towards Arab countries.
At the same time that the oil embargo troubled the
Japanese economy, the US
had declared an embargo on soy exports in 1973. Once again, Japan
depended overwhelmingly on the supply of the essential foodstuff, which mistakenly came
strictly from one source. Japan
depended and still does, heavily on the import of food materials, and with the soy
embargo, it feared of a further world shortage of grain supply. Like the oil shock, the
soy embargo lead Japan
to move away from its compromises with the US
and to look for alternate suppliers of soy. This case is particularly interesting for
igniting a strong cooperation with the Brazilian government in the development of
agroindustry, specifically the production of soy.
A Perspective for The Japanese Political Culture
will deal with the Japanese political culture, focused on its foreign relations during the
1970s. Hence, it is not my intention to discuss a wide range of characteristics that
may involve the formation Japanese political culture towards foreign countries. Instead,
by looking at the slight shift away form a US-lead to a more independent and influential
international position, I wish to highlight on this essay that the realist theoretical
view hold some truth in defining the Japanese political culture at that time.
in order to fully grasp the character of Japanese political culture towards international
relations, one must first analyse a vast number of cases, giving them the appropriate
weight of significance in the composition of the whole. As much as the study of
international relations reveals multi-facet aspects of interactions in the global system,
it is possible to reveal several different levels in which a subject interacts with
another. In spite of that, none of the individual revelations that we may encounter can
solely characterize the essence of the subject in study.
knowing such limitations of the work, I chose to highlight the realist aspect of the
Japanese political culture towards foreign relations for the following reasons: (1)
self-interest of a state is a key factor that aids on perpetuating its sovereignty: when
Kissinger asked Tanaka to hold on to the US lead after the oil shock, the Japanese self
interests prevailed and a shift away from the US occurred;
(2) In the 1970s Japan reached a first-world-country status, and with that,
questions such as its relationship with the US as an equal partner were raised: within the
realist framework Japan engaged in balance of power with eth US by extending an
independent influence throughout the world;
(3) The case of Japanese aid to third world countries can be illustrated under the aspect
of self-interested: Japanese aid is argued to be a form of extending economic control, and
a substitute or supplement to military security efforts.
speaking, realists argue that dependence of a state onto another is a form of being
controlled and having its sovereignty vulnerable.
For instance, in the oil shock of 1973, Japans
dependency on middle eastern oil made the country vulnerable to
price rise engineered by the states exporting the commodity. Under the realist terms of
power and security, Japan
would have to find alternatives for minimizing the impact of the oil shock in its economy
as a matter of power; and so it did by establishing contracts, such as with Indonesia,
for alternative sources of the commodity.
the economic factor is important to realists to the extent that it affects national power
and capabilities. Industrial countries that effectively combine technology with
capital, skilled labour, and raw materials, not only enjoy a higher standard of living but
also tend to have more leverage in their relations with other states.
realists argue that it is desirable for a state to establish a system of dependency than
to be dependent on other states. When Japan
established the contract of oil drilling in Indonesia,
it was intentionally establishing a system of Indonesian dependency on Japanese
investments on that country. Another example for the above argument is the case of Brazil
and soy production in the Cerrado region: Japan
had intentionally heavily invested in massive agricultural production to supply its
demands and secure low grain prices after the US
embargo of 1973. This intentionally boosted the Brazilian soy production towards
dependency on the Japanese market.
Tanakas intention in Brazil
was to offer Japanese aid in projects such as hydroelectric power for aluminium smelter in
forest and pulp development, plus agricultural and fishery projects.
And so, by analysing the motivations behind such projects, we find that in fact Japan
was in search for lower prices of raw materials and further expansion of its international
By using the
case of Brazil,
this essay will discuss Japans
strategy of securing international markets, search for cheaper raw materials, and
strengthening its diplomatic relations during the cold war -- which did not necessarily
followed the American prescriptions. In a sense, just like in the Meiji restoration Japan
competed with western powers and established its sphere of influence in Asia, in a much
milder degree we saw Japan in the cold war challenging the US in the creation of its own
sphere of influence through the world.
Foreign Aid in the 1970s
In order to
illustrate the above realist framework of analysis, I will bring to light the case of
Nipo-Brazilian relationship. By looking at the numbers, we find that in the 1970s
and 1980s Brazil
has received much investment form Japan
-- both from the ODA funds and private sector. In a study made by Takao Saeki, it is shown
that the Foreign Direct Investment from Japan
doubled between the decade of 1960 to 1970.
Hasegawa shows in another study that by 1973 Brazil
had the fourth worlds largest cumulative face value of Japans aid loans.
Thirdly, according to the Central Bank of Brazil,
the Japanese total investments and reinvestments in the decade of 1960 was of US$ 110,242
thousand, and by the 1970s the figure multiplied to US$ 1,503,290 thousand.
Putting these numbers
against a larger picture, we find out that actually the increase of Japanese investments
in the 1970s is observed throughout Latin
America. A study
done by Yasutomo shows that in 1972, the Japanese ODA to Latin America was of US$ 2,72
million, hence multiplying to US$ 35,24 million in 1973, and continuing to grow to US$
131,79 in 1978.
Therefore the increased aid to Brazil
during that period doesnt represent an abnormality but in fact a general trend that
was going on through South
Furthermore, by looking at the numbers in a global scale, we find that the Japanese aid
was also significantly increased in African and Middle Eastern countries.
The Japanese foreign aid
to the above regions, in the specified period, reflects a grand strategy carried out under
the terns of resource diplomacy and later on as pat of a comprehensive security program.
The purpose of these aid programs can be seen from the following perspectives: (1)
economic: increased degree of interdependent relationships and economic cooperation was
seen as an effective measure for Japans economic security; (2) diplomatic: using the
oil embargo as an example, Japan increased its aid to Arab states with the objective to
lift the imposed restrictions; (3) strategic: aid as a support to Asian as well as global
security objectives called by Japans western alliances.
interests in South
America can be
summarized under the above economic term. As it is discussed by Anderson,
Japanese aid in South
predominately geared towards natural resources.
This means that Japanese aid in South
especially designed to secure supplies of natural resources and agricultural products to
Japan. This was done as part of a strategy of diversification of natural resources
suppliers, and to guarantee lower and stable prices among international competitors for
the Japanese market.
a secondary aspect of Japanese interests in South
America ties to
the above strategic aid term. This form of aid has a strong relationship with
range of influence in the region. Although Japan
was a US
competitor at many levels, it still maintained a carefully planned policy when it came to
security concern. Anderson
discusses that Japanese aid in South
carefully planned to not contradict Washingtons
interests. For example Japanese aid was more extent in countries farther away from the US
borders than to countries near the US
This is to say that, US has maintained stronger interests in countries near its border
than to those located in South America perhaps with a few exceptions, such as
Colombia and Bolivia due to their heavy narcotraffic activities.
At last, we
observe that during the oil shock there was a clear challenge from he
Japanese to the US
interests in the Middle
East. So, why
ready to challenge the US
in the Middle
East, and not so
much willing to challenge the US
In order to
find the answer to this question we must look carefully at the differences of these two
regions: the Middle
East and Latin
America with a
focus on Mexico
America. Here we
observe different necessities and degrees of strategic, economic and diplomatic importance
as compared to the US.
Certainly the pursuit of lifting the embargo was far more important and feasible to Japan
than to the US,
was almost entirely dependent on Middle Eastern oil and had no serious conflicts or
history of colonialization in the region. But comparatively looking at Mexico
America as opposed
America, we find a
far larger availability of resources and potentiality, especially in Brazil
against to the countries neighbouring the US.
its interest in the countries near its borders, and Japan
not having much reason to interfere in the area, it naturally chose to invest in the South
Cone. Hence, by taking in account the above analysis, we can say that Japan
would challenge the US
only when it comes down to the question of natural resources availability. Fortunately,
after the oil shock Japan
looked into diversifying its sources of natural resources in order to prevent future
conflicts with the US
or any other opposing threat.
that realists havent discussed is that desire to avoid conflicts may as well be part
of the pool of self-interested actions of a state. To a country that has no standing army
and is constitutionally prohibited to engage in war, it may be natural that the pursuit of
peace and avoidance of conflict are primary interests. Nevertheless, we cannot discard
being a capitalist state, it may as well engage in competition for international markets
and at some instances go against the interest of its long lasting alliance partner the US.
Relations: The Immigration Factor
The next question I wish
to look into is why Japan
in the 1970s as the primary beneficiary of its investments in South
Hollerman explains that Japans
interest in Brazil
is linked to the large community of Japanese immigrants and descendents living in that
country -- In fact Brazil
has the largest expatriate group of ethnic Japanese in the world.
justification for Hollermans argument lies on following rational: (1) because of the
diligent character of the members of the Japanese immigrant community and is descendents,
most of them have become respected individuals in the Brazilian society; (2) and so the
Japanese-Brazilian could provide a strong base of operations for the Japanese interests in
Brazil; (3) this enabled Japans approach to business in Brazil to be readily
This explains just a fraction of the Nipo-Brazilian
relations. Hence he next question I propose is: what brought
the Japanese at such large quantity to Brazil?
The answer lies on the history of Nipo-Brazilian relations. Hence, at the same time we
look at that, it is possible to find the gradual construction of Japanese interests of Japan
With the fall of Tokugawa Shognate in 1867, the
Meiji administration quickly signed a series of treaties with western countries,
that together, represented the opening of Japan
to foreign trade. Such movement did not only confine itself to relationship with western
powers such as the US, England, and also Spain and Russia, but it also extended to minor
countries such as Brazil, Mexico and Peru. Henceforth, the Japanese government launched
missions, such as the Iwakura, with
the specific purposes of signing and ratifying treaties of commerce, educate Japanese
scholars in western sciences, technologies and foreign languages and establish embassies
throughout the world.
In 1897 the Japanese
embassy was first established in Brazil
with Sutemi Chinda as the main figure. Furthermore, by 1892 the Brazilian government had
already issued the law that permitted Japanese immigration. And by 1894 the Japanese
immigration company Kishisa Imin had set the contract with the Brazilian partner Prado
& João to start the Japanese immigration to Brazil.
Ninomiya, during that period Japan
was experiencing great social tension in its cities, which was caused by a high
Grilli explains that the stable condition that Japan
lived in Tokugawa period had permitted significant population growth and
urbanization, agricultural innovation and high degree of commercial activity.
With the Meiji restoration, the Japanese government adopted an immigration policy that
partially envisioned the alleviation of such social matters in the urban centres by
sending specialized workers to foreign countries.
at the Brazilian coffee industry, we can find the explanation for the initial Japanese
attraction to Brazil.
At the turn of the twentieth century, Brazil
was one of the top coffee producers in the world, and due to a shortage of labour, the
plantations were welcoming foreign immigrants for work in the fields.
In fact the first attempt of establishing immigration between Japan
was done in 1984, less than one year before the Treaty of Friendship and Commerce and
Navigation was signed among the countries. In this respect, the Japanese government was
interested alleviating the high population density in its cities, giving opportunity for
work and enrichment to his population, by issuing temporary immigration contracts at
overseas lands, and further contributing to the internationalisation of Japan.
it is true that until the end of WWI, the preferred destination of Japanese immigrants was
States. After the
war, several immigration regulations were imposed culminating in the 1924 law that
prohibited Japanese immigration to the US.
Meanwhile working contracts were signed with Brazilian coffee farms to bring more Japanese
immigrants to work in the fields. Hence, due to plenty of opportunity for work, and a
peaceful condition (taking in consideration the war-devasted regions of the world and the
animosity of the North Americans), Brazil
gradually became the most popular destination of Japanese immigrants. Today Brazil
has the largest population of Japanese decedents outside Japan
a community of roughly 1.5 million people.
Relations in the 1970s
relationship between the Japanese presence in Brazil
and agroindustry has never faded since the early coffee plantation workers, up to
todays large scale soy production, rice and vegetable plantations. Nevertheless we
cannot ignore the presence of numerous Japanese kogaisha
a good number of sogo shosha operating in the
trade between Japan
and several joint ventures totalizing more than 500 in the 1970s.
Among such companies was Fishiba textile industry (US$
23,235 thousand in 1975); NEC communication equipments (US$ 9,060 thousand), but virtually
holding a monopoly on steel production and ship building was Ishikawajima-Harima in
partnership with the Brazilian Usiminas (respectively steel and shipbuilding: US$ 44,863
and US$ 241,561).
When Tanaka Kakuei visited
Brazil, he promised aid and investments on several projects, which included the
development of hydroelectric power for aluminum smelter projects in eth Amazon, forest and
pulp development projects, plus agricultural and fishery projects. Consequently, the
Brazilian president Geisel visited Japan in 1976 to negotiate with Takeo Miki about the
Japanese cooperation in the construction of an aluminum complex in Belém; the support for
the construction of the Tubarão steel mill; the Cenibra and Flonibra forestry and pulp;
help the expansion of Usiminas steel mill; development of iron mines; joint ventures for
export of iron pellets, and the agricultural development program of the Cerrado.
These massive investments
were topped off with the agreement that the two nations would cooperate in science
and technology, that Japan
would provide export credits for the financing of Brazilian purchases of equipment and
capital goods from Japan,
and that long-term commercial contracts would be arranged for the export Brazilian raw
materials and food to Japan.
From the projects mentioned
above, I feel the necessity to highlight a couple of them to exemplify the Japanese
self-interested investment in Brazil:
Cerrado and Carajás. The Cerrado region, which corresponds to almost the size of the
was envisioned together by the Brazilian and Japanese governments as potentially the
worlds largest agricultural frontier. It took four years of planning between the
initial propose of Tanaka Kakuei to Geisel, and the begging of soy production destine to
Japanese and other international markets. As a matter of figures, by 1976 Brazil
was the eighth largest soy producer in the world, which after Japanese investments, Brazil
became second only after the United
Furthermore, as of 1997, Japan
is the third largest consumer of Brazilian soy in the world.
The second example of
Japanese self-interest initiatives in Brazil
is the Carajás project. This project is based in the Amazon region and covers roughly an
area of 1,900 square miles. Carajás corresponds to a complex number of individual
projects that range from pulp production, mineral extraction (the worlds largest
reserve of iron ore), aluminum smelting and timber extraction.
While 51% of the shares of the project were owned by the Brazilian government, Japan
was the biggest outside investor.
In an interview with Mr. Batista (Carajás project coordinator, also award-winning of the
Grand Cross of the Order of the Sacred Treasure by the Emperor Hirohito) he mentioned
that: Carajás is the most important link between Japan
[it] can provide cheap mineral plus energy to
Carajás is the opposite of OPEC. It is designed to reduce, not to raise the price of raw
success in large-scale investment in Brazil,
as initially explained by Hollerman, was partially due the presence of a large Japanese
community that helped facilitating the Japanese business penetration. But certainly
that was not the only reason why Japan
cared to invest in Brazil
so heavily after the oil shock. Other factors also included: (1) the geographic features
of Brazil, with its immense size, and abundant natural resources; (2) the fact of Brazil
being the worlds eighth largest economy, and therefore playing a significant role in
the international market; (3) plus, the Brazilian governments willingness to engage
in pharaonic development projects financed by foreign capital closely matched the
interests of the Japanese.
the Japanese multinational companies and foreign aid advanced into Brazil,
one could follow a clear picture of interests: to guarantee the availability of natural
resources at lower cost to Japan,
and trade with Japan
(Japanese) products made at lower prices in Brazil.
As it was previously analyzed in this essay, Japanese self-interests of diversification of
natural resource suppliers was the main motivation for such
advancement. However, one cannot ignore that Brazil
also greatly benefited from the Japanese investments; and by no means Brazil
be considered a victim of power struggle between the worlds top economies.
benefited much from the development of infrastructure in its frontier areas, such as the
Amazon and Cerrado, with broad economical implications.
Also, the transfer of technology form Japan
rather done by the private sector or official organs such as JICA, has much benefited the
advancement of Brazilian industry until the present date.
But there is one aspect that
seriously harmed from the advancement of Japanese interests in the 1970s: the
environment. Much of the large-scale development projects sponsored by Japanese capital in
have left a trail of environmental depletion which might take generations to recover.
Today there is much discussion about the implementation of sustainable agriculture in the
Cerrado region, while lobby groups composed of agrobusiness lords, Brazilian governmental
officials and foreign market demands wont compromise with the necessary
environmental measures of preservation on the region.
Ozawa explains that because Japan
had a large domestic economic growth in the 1970s. Japans
dependence on overseas resources has risen enormously. Japanese industry must [have had
to] secure vital supplies of industrial resources abroad. At the same time it [was] quite
willing to transfer overseas resource-processing activities (such a
aluminum smelting, steelmaking, and oil refining) whose further growth in Japan
[was] no longer as strongly desired as in the past or simply impractical because of import
and environmental constraints.
Ironically, an environmental
report produced by the Japan International Cooperation Agency reveals that due to the
Carajás project, much forest was cleared out for the construction of roads and railways,
plus 2,400 km2 of rainforest was submerged for the construction of the very
hydroelectric power plant destined for aluminum smelting with vast Japanese investment.
Moreover, today Japans
ODA to Brazil
has as its number one concern the environmental causes. The Japanese government recognizes
that Brazilian environmental problems have global repercussion, and it emphasizes the
importance of the Amazon and urgent need for its protection.
Now, the question that
lingers in the air is that if environmental concern constitutes a Japanese interest in
realist terms. More likely so. By considering the environmental
international initiatives that Japan has started or joined (Kyoto Protocol, United Nations
Environmental Programme), and looking at the importance given to sustainable policies in
major corporations (Toyota, Sony, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, and so on) we might find the traces
that lead to self-interest and power play in contemporary Japanese politics.
Summarizing, it is a
difficult task to identify the essence of the political culture of Japan.
Moreover, it is easier to start with a biased concept, with a sound theoretical base, and
try to apply it to a number of consistent instances in order to test its validity. My bias
was the realist school of international relations, and because of that I could assume that
aid quest in the 1970 was a matter of extension of power. Nonetheless, a clear picture of
the political culture of Japan
is composed of several layers of analysis, rather then a collection of few poorly
elaborated points of view. Therefore the values that have permeated through this essay are
subject to reevaluation, and so the interpretation of the instances can be done
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