In the Dragon’s Midst: Korean and Japanese Domestic Responses to China’s Rise
China’s rise to the world stage is not unprecedented and comes with ancient precedents of being the predominant power in the East Asian region. Its continued economic acceleration, although stagnating, has nonetheless propelled Beijing and its leaders to take on a more active leadership role in the region. Meanwhile, Japan has been in economic stagnation for the last twenty years or so, most recently marked by the tragedy of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and subsequent incident at the Fukushima Power Plant Complex. More recently, it has overseen the acquisition of the Senkaku islands after the government purchased them from their private owner. South Korea, on the other hand, has seen its musical talent soar to new heights, with Psy’s hit “Gangnam Style” becoming a worldwide sensation by being the most watched video on Youtube and currently 5th on the US Billboard Top 100, but as high as 2nd as recently as October 27th. In a way, these two drastically different views of life in East Asia are microcosms of the choices both countries have taken in response to China’s ascent. Japan has chosen to take on a more active role in its foreign and domestic policy while the Republic of Korea has chosen to strengthen its civic society, choosing soft power over hard power. This paper will discuss the implications of each country’s decisions on its domestic policies, stressing the historical themes that have dominated strategy in the East Asian region.
Historical Context: Japanese Case
The Meiji Restoration was the defining moment of Japan’s history in the last 100 years.
When Commodore Matthew Perry arrived in Japan in 1853 with a fleet of ships equipped with firepower eclipsing anything Edo could muster, it was clear that the real threat to the future of Japan and its sovereignty were foreign powers that sought to advance their respective interests in the East Asian region. The Meiji...