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Please note: This archive page is related to a former project of the Stanley Foundation. Therefore, some of the material may be outdated and many of the links may no longer work. This page was last updated in late 2009. Information about current Stanley Foundation efforts can be found here.


Power in the international system is no longer defined strictly by military might. Economic strength has become a means of achieving international clout, as proven by the small, but determined, Japan.


Japan dedicates less than 1 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) to military spending, yet is one of the most powerful and influential states in the Asian region and around the globe. Japan has created its position of power by utilizing its most valuable resource—an industrious and inventive population—to become one of the world’s most important economies and a primary producer of technology, automobiles, and electronics. Despite its relatively small size, Japan proudly boasts the world’s third-largest economy.

Traditionally, Japan has enjoyed a close relationship with the United States since World War II, but recently Japan has embraced a more regional approach to foreign policy, striving to deepen ties economically and politically with its fellow Asian neighbors. Much of this shift has to do with a seeming lack of interest in the region on the part of the United States and an increasing prominence of China in economic and political affairs. While Japan does not show any indication of abandoning its US ties, it is clear that in the years to come Japan will be a key player in shaping a new, closer Asia.

Recently, Japan has encountered several obstacles that have challenged its economy and influence. An aging population has cast a shadow over the prospects for continued prosperity, as social welfare costs are expected to rise dramatically in coming years. Domestically, Japan’s economy has slowed and the government has yet to devise a successful strategy for reinvigoration, contributing to fears of an uncertain future. Also, the rise of China has added new dynamic considerations to both Japan’s domestic and foreign policies, forcing a change in Japan’s approach to international affairs.

Please send us your thoughts on the changing global order and the materials offered here. All comments may be reprinted on this Web site and in related materials.

Sources: Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Japan’s Nuclear Power Program, BBC, CNN, and others.

This page is part of Rising Powers: The New Global Reality, a project from the Stanley Foundation.

The Stanley Foundation is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

The global order is changing. The 21st Century will be marked by many competing sources of global power. Across politics, economics, culture, military strength and more, a new group of countries have growing influence over the future of the world:



South Africa
European Union

South Korea


Other Countries

Big issues are also playing a cross-cutting role in this changing global order:


Nuclear Nonproliferation
Nonstate Actors

Global/Regional Systems

And this changing global order has implications for the United States.

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