Modern air forces require significant capital investments (surpassed only by naval capital investment requirements) and also require significant technological capability. Both of these aspects of modern military power require a strong economic foundation for support. Japan has a long history of investing in its own military industrial capability.
During the Meiji era (1868 to 1912), Japan economic doctrine was summed up in a motto: fukoku kyōhei, meaning “Enrich the Country, Strengthen the Armed Forces.” This phrase actually comes from an ancient Chinese book named Zhan Guo Ce (“Strategies of the Warring States”), from the 5th – 3rd century B.C. period of the same name in Chinese history. This is an excellent example of how for both Japan and China reference their own historical experiences to inform current decision-making.
The post-World War II Japanese body politic had lived through the devastation of war and became focused on economic recovery. The original motto was thus shortened to eliminate kyōhei (“strong army”), leaving only fukoku (“enrich the country”). The resulting single-minded focus paid dividends as the Japanese “economic miracle” enabled it to become the first Asian nation to “catch” the West (see image above). This policy is sometimes referred to as the “Yoshida Doctrine.” Coined in 1977 by Masashi Nishihara and summarized by Professor Sugita of Osaka University, the main elements of the doctrine are:
- Japan ensures its national security through an alliance with the United States;
- Japan maintains a low capacity for self-defense;
- Japan spends resources conserved by the first and second policies on economic activities to develop the country as a trading nation.
In December 2012, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced “Abenomics”, a multi-faceted approach to revive Japan’s sluggish economy and to restore Japan’s geopolitical influence as a counterbalance to China’s rise. Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) have re-invoked the term fukoku kyōhei, acknowledging that a strong economy and a strong military will be needed in this endeavor.