The day after the International Olympic Committee announced that Tokyo would host the 2020 Olympic Games, a headline in the South China Morning Postread, "China: Tokyo Olympics will only be success if Japan recognises war aggression."
Tokyo's successful hosting of the 1964 Olympics, less than 20 years after its defeat in World War II, was seen as a brilliant illustration of its reintegration into the international community - which at the time was synonymous with the West. A year later Japan joined the GATT, or General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and the OECD, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, an exclusive club of rich economies. Geopolitically secure in its military alliance with the United States - and protected by the American "nuclear umbrella" - Tokyo could focus on economic growth, which proved astonishing and was soon dubbed a "miracle." In 1967, Japan surpassed Germany in size of aggregate GDP.
In the meantime, the rest of Asia was still poor and chaotic. China was two years away from launching the devastating Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, Vietnam was at war and would remain so for more than another decade, South Korea was still at least 10 years away from achieving any noticeable economic ascent; indeed, in the late 1960s, the state of Asia could be encapsulated in the title and subtitle of a 1968 three-volume opus by Economics Laureate Gunnar Myrdal, Asian Drama: An Inquiry Into the Poverty of Nations. Once again, Japan was distancing itself from Asia and ensconcing itself in the Western camp. Henceforth, whether in Cold War parlance or in reference to the global economy, "the West" included Japan.
The narrative of the 19th and most of the 20th centuries is the rise of the West and the precipitate decline of the East. In 1820 Asia accounted for 60 percent of global GDP, with 33 percent from China. By 1913, Asia's share of global GDP had declined to 20 percent. By mid-century, the time of the 1949 Liberation, China's share of global GDP had fallen to less than 5 percent.
Japan bucked the Asian decline trend. In the space of one generation, the nation emerged from a feudal, isolated, peasant society to become a major industrial and imperial power. At the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 it sat with Great Britain, France, Italy and the United States. Rising phoenix-like from defeat in World War II, by the late 1960s it accounted for half of Asia's total GDP.
Japan showed a knack for adaptation. In the mid-19th century, fearing that it might suffer an ignominious fate at the hands of Western imperialists comparable to China's devastating humiliation in the Opium Wars, Japan underwent a radical political and cultural revolution. With the "restoration" of imperial rule, as the Emperor Meiji ascended the throne in April 1868, a "Charter Oath of Five Articles" was promulgated, the intention of which was to set the spirit and vision of the "new" Japan. The fifth article reads: "Knowledge shall be sought throughout the world so as to strengthen the foundation of imperial rule." The 1880s were dubbed the decade of "(western) civilisation and enlightenment" (bunmei kaika), culminating in 1885 with one of modern Japanese history's most seminal publications, written by the prominent Japanese thought-leader of the time, Fukuzawa Yukichi - his image can be found on the Yen 10,000 bank note - entitled Datsu-A/Nyû-O, or"exiting Asia/entering Europe."
In fact, Japan's roots and identity lie deeply in East Asian civilization, having borrowed a great deal of learning, culture, philosophy by way of Confucianism, religion by way of Buddhism, a system of writing and art from China and Korea. During the Asuka period, 6th and 7th centuries CE, major reforms were based on Chinese statecraft, while the imperial capitals, Nara and later Kyoto, were modeled on the Tang dynasty's Xi'an.