Book review: Yoichi Funabashi and G John Ikenberry. 2020. The Crisis of Liberal Internationalism: Japan and the World Order

AuthorAakriti Sethi
Published date01 April 2022
Date01 April 2022
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews
Yoichi Funabashi and G John Ikenberry. 2020. The Crisis of Liberal
Internationalism: Japan and the World Order. Brookings Institution
Press. 415 pp. (Paperback). ISBN: 9780815737674.
In 2019, when tensions between the USA and China had spilt over into virtually
every geopolitical and geo-economic interaction, Japan presided over a challenging
G20 summit at Osaka. Nevertheless, Japan not only managed to produce a joint
communiqué reflecting the spirit of the summit but also successfully avoided
possible breakdown of negotiations amid a divisive global political climate. This
has been one of the many recent developments signalling towards nuanced
leadership of Tokyo at the time when the future of liberalism is posed with grave
uncertainties. Yoichi Funabashi and G. John Ikenberry edited book The Crisis of
Liberal Internationalism: Japan and the World Order brings together 10 other
experts to capture Japan’s efforts to navigate the increasingly fraying ‘Liberal
World Order’.
Funabashi and Ikenberry’s book present the case for Japan’s enhanced role in
maintaining a stable order. In the quest to assess the feasibility for Japan to
contribute further at various capacities, the book attempts to study the set of
benefits and hindrances Japan faces, both externally and internally. The book’s
big achievement is its ability to identify ‘elite’ and ‘Japanese public’ views on
policy issues, primarily derived from the authors’ extensive surveying of 3,380
respondents in 2018.
The book is divided into two thematic parts: foreign policy and statecraft. Before
exploring the bigger themes of the book, an introduction chapter by Funabashi and
Ikenberry set the scene for the discussion throughout the book by laying out the four
core areas of debate around postwar liberal order. First is extent that the liberal order
is ‘living’ in the sense it adapts and integrates newer countries/global governance
institutions. Second is the veracity of the liberal order that is often viewed as an
ideology that protects Western interests and the extent to which China challenges it.
Third is the extent of the interlinkages between the security, economic and human
right pillars of the liberal order. Finally, there is an apparent paradox in the fact that
fostering healthy domestic liberal politics might occur at the cost of limiting the
state’s liberal international agenda (pp. 2–3). Funabashi and Ikenberry also introduce
the argument that the key rationale for Japan to take a lead role in midst of ongoing
crisis comes from the fact that Japan’s national interests are intimately intertwined
Journal of Asian Security
and International Affairs
9(1) 166–173, 2022
© The Author(s) 2022
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/23477970221076763

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