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Japan's Kissinger? Yachi Shotaro: the State Behind the Curtain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-251
Number of pages21
JournalPacific Affairs: an international review of Asia and the Pacific
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017


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This article reassesses the 2006 and, tentatively, the 2014 reset in Sino-Japanese relations to argue in favour of an increasingly state-centric understanding of Japanese diplomacy. By making use of a narrative account and of a variety of primary sources—including personal memoirs, elite interviews, participatory observation, and leaked State Department cables—this article finds that Abe Shinzō’s foreign policy confidante, Yachi Shōtarō, embodied the unmatched influence of government actors in Japan’s political landscape. This article provides a close-up portrait of Yachi, with an accent on his preference for geopolitics, strategy, and secret diplomacy. While pushing for geopolitical overtures aimed at China, Yachi and the institutional apparatus he represented sought detente with Japan’s main strategic adversary. The article concludes by arguing that the Abe administration’s insistence and institutionalization of conducting public affairs in secret will likely further strengthen the role of the nation-state and of government actors in Japan, also in light of growing geopolitical tensions in East Asia.

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