Most people looking at the rise of Asian power focus on China and India. They often forget that Japan’s $5 trillion economy is the second largest in the world – more than China and India combined – with a per capita income that is ten times that of China. In addition, Japan spends $40 billion annually on defense, and has one of the top five military forces in the world. China’s economy is growing more rapidly, and its total size will probably overtake Japan’s in a decade or two, but any serious analysis of power in East Asia must include Japan as a major factor.
Japan has played a unique role in world history. It was the first Asian country to encounter the forces of globalization, master them, and then make them serve its own interests.