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Japan: The Rise and Decline of an “Aid Superpower”

Japan: The Rise and Decline of an “Aid Superpower”

(p.110) Chapter 4 Japan: The Rise and Decline of an “Aid Superpower”
Foreign Aid
University of Chicago Press

This chapter discusses the history and evolution of Japanese foreign aid, which has long been viewed as driven by commercial motives: expanding exports and ensuring access to needed raw materials imports. Commerce certainly played a major role in the country allocation and use of Japan's economic assistance, but this purpose was always embedded in the government's fundamental goals of prosperity, autonomy, and international respect. By the late 1970s, once Japan made significant progress on its economic goals, the orientation of its aid began to shift. Diplomatic concerns (especially managing relations with the United States) became more prominent, playing a direct role in both the amount and country allocation of Japanese aid. By 1989, after doubling its aid several times over during the 1980s, Japan became the “aid superpower”—the largest single donor in the world—and remained so during much of the 1990s. But it proved unable to hold to its position as the largest aid donor in the face of domestic economic crises and several major scandals involving its assistance. Japanese aid was cut sharply at the end of the 1990s, and the government was never able fully to align its development aid policies with those of other governments. Japanese bilateral aid remained heavily focused on funding infrastructure, especially in East Asia, leaving Japan more of a niche player in development aid than a world leader.

Keywords:   Japanese foreign aid, diplomacy, East Asia, infrastructure, economic crisis, development aid policies, bilateral aid

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