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Islands of Isolation

PARIS – The Japanese and the British may seem very different, but a closer look reveals something akin to a parallel destiny for these two island peoples. With their old imperial ambitions and widespread distaste for the great continents from which the narrowest of seas divide them, both the British and the Japanese are vulnerable to the siren song of isolationism. Unfortunately, both now appear to be succumbing to that dangerous temptation.

Perhaps geography is destiny. As islanders, Britons and Japanese have had wary relations with – and often a superiority complex toward – their great continental neighbors, Europe and China, respectively. Both historically compensated for their isolation with strong central governments, powerful navies, dynamic entrepreneurship, vibrant culture, and imperial ambition.