Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has overseen important changes in Japan's national security policies. Japan still struggles to keep pace with changes in the national security environment, however. One powerful obstacle is an outdated approach to national security among the public and in the private sector. They must update their thinking about the nature of international competition, about security threats and challenges to their country, and about the workings of the national security economy. A new mindset will allow them to better navigate the emerging landscape of this new economy, both to protect themselves and the country.
The most important feature of the new national security environment is the re-emergence of great power competition. Today, however, that competition is fundamentally economic. While the possibility of armed conflict persists, there is little appetite for military confrontation. Governments recognize the foundational importance of national economic power and are harnessing all possible means to maximize their strength. This includes "tipping" the playing field to privilege domestic competitors and using accumulated wealth to extend influence beyond national borders. This new approach is often called "geoeconomics."
Traditionally, friends and allies have been "bought" with favorable loans or credit: China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is the most recent in a long history of such endeavors. Increasingly, however, states are resorting to economic measures to punish countries that defy or displease them. Beijing's suspension of rare earths exports to Japan in the wake of the 2012 dispute over the Senkaku Islands or its cutoff of tourist groups to South Korea following Seoul's decision to deploy a missile defense system in contravention of Chinese wishes are two examples of the use of economic statecraft for political purposes.