Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Mark Safranski

Here is the seventh installment in Beacon’s series on the best episode of public diplomacy and the most important element of soft power, and it’s unique in that Mark Safranski chose to examine an element of soft power—religion—that created a hard-power backlash, showing that soft power does have hard consequences.

Mark is a teacher and educational consultant to secondary schools and serves as an adviser to Connecting in Conversation. An occasional contributor to The History News Network, his blog Zenpundit is devoted to questions of foreign policy, intelligence and military affairs.--PK


Soft Power: Christianity Arrives in Japan and Provokes a Backlash

Paul Kennedy, author of The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, some years ago made the case for the limitations inherent in “hard power.” To Kennedy, the very success experienced by great powers in using hard power led them into hubris and a crisis condition he termed “imperial overstretch.” Though less frequently experienced, soft power too can produce a triumphal success of public diplomacy that leads to excess and reaction.

As Japan entered the 16th century, it was torn between the warring armies of feudal lords and Buddhist monasteries. The Emperor in Kyoto was a mere figurehead and three remarkable military men, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Ieyasu Tokugawa would spend the better part of sixty years forcibly unifying Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate. It was at this time, in 1549, that Francis Xavier, the Spanish Jesuit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesuit missionary, arrived at Satsuma. Xavier’s mission as Apostolic Nuncio would meet, in the words of historian Edwin O. Reischauer, “with considerable success.”

Xavier came to Japan having memorized the catechism in Japanese but managed to pick up enough of the language to become an effective, if not elegant, preacher. Having converted many minor lords of Kyushu to Christianity, Xavier established the religion throughout Western Japan. A proselytizing effort was buttressed by the indirect economic rewards flowing from the preference of Portuguese merchant ships for Japanese ports where Jesuits were resident, Nagasaki being built for that very purpose.

The success of Xavier’s mission and the very popularity of Christianity among Japanese of all classes proved to be its undoing. Perceiving the squabbling between Portuguese Jesuits, Spanish Franciscans, Dutch Protestants and their respective Japanese followers as a security threat to Shogunal rule, Ieyasu began a program of reaction and persecution that ultimately ended with Japan’s utter seclusion from the outside world. When restrictive laws failed to suppress Christianity, the Tokugawa regime began mass executions in 1622, followed by the expulsion of the Spanish, the Portuguese and the drastic restriction of foreign trade. After 1650, any European or Japanese returning from abroad, or entering Japan for any reason, was put to death.

[Here is a brief look at Nagasaki’s Portuguese-driven rise. Also, James Clavell’s novel Shogun is a fictionalization of Ieyasu Tokugawa’s rise to the Shogunate.--PK]

1 comment:

Larry Dunbar said...

Ah yes, Shogun, may you die a very young man. As the book says, if you surround yourself with the ones you love, this will probably happen; at least that is what I am hoping for.

It just seems to me, nations who don’t flow with God think they are God (December 7, 1941) or is this just my western mentality showing through? The Japanese didn’t think it was their Devine right, only a misunderstanding?

Very nice post Zenpundit.

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