Whither an internationalist Japan : global activism and democratic deficit in Japanese foreign policy

Xiangfeng YANG*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


Japanese foreign policy since the late 1980s has exhibited many signs of liberal internationalism: a generous development assistance package despite its economic malaise, an expanded presence in international peacekeeping and peace-building missions, and a multi-faceted, people-centered approach to international security. This article, however, draws attention to the (non) liberal character of Japanese activism by shedding light on Japan 's entanglement in democracy assistance, a trademark liberal internationalist project. Two features stand out in this juxtaposition. First, democracy assistance has been seen as supplementaryrather than parallel-to the peace and development initiatives in Japan's diplomatic repertoire. Second, when democracy was indeed played up, the act nonetheless exposed the myriad innate contradictions between the liberal paradigm and Japan 's nationalist impulses that transpired in its diplomatic offensives. Humanistic as it can be at times, Japan 's global outreach is non-liberal at best because it is intellectually informed and motivated by a confluence of nationalist resurgence and realist power considerations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-140
Number of pages36
JournalIssues and Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Democracy promotion
  • Development assistance
  • Human security
  • Liberal internationalism
  • Peacekeeping


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