The Origins of Japanese Trade Supremacy: Trade and Technology in Asia from 1540 to the Pacific War

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by : Christopher Howe

Japan's emergence as an economic superpower - one whose trade surplus with the rest of the world stood in 1993 at $140 billion - has been neither sudden nor entirely economically driven. Rather it is the result of a centuries-old process. Japan's understanding of the wider world, of trade and of other relationships has expanded in stages, each determined by both internal and external factors. Christopher Howe's principal theme is the way in which Japan overcame the barriers to modem economic growth - institutional, ideological and technological which it did partly through changes in economic organisation and training. This enabled it to resist, then overcome, trade competition from the West. The author argues that the driving force in all this was not national (let alone individual) enrichment as such but rather the desire for an economic and technological base to help maintain Japanese nationhood and independence.