2. JAPAN GROWTH and EXPANSION

The second phase of empirical analysis of lateral pressure consists of a detailed analysis of Japan over the span of more than one hundred years (Choucri et al. 19921). Focusing on growth, development, competition, warfare, and reconstruction, this case illustrated the ways in which Japan sought to manage its resource constraints, adopt internal and external policies to meet its core demands, and find itself engaged in competition with other states leading to conflict it viewed as essential for its survival. The concept of state profile, introduced in an earlier study (Choucri and North, 19892), was operationalized and put to the empirical test in the Japan case across three historical periods -- before World War I, during the Inter-War decades, and following the Second World War. Aptly termed, The Growth of Japan Before World War II and After, this empirical study grappled “before” and “after” dynamics created by sharp system breaks due to war (that is, after World War I and after World War II), as well as the subsequent transformations in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and the early 1980s.

The Japan case indicates how a country‘s profile can change over time and how these changes are associated with different patterns of international behavior. Each period demonstrated different structural features and alternative pathways for adjustments to internal and external constraints. Nonetheless, Japan‘s profile continued to demonstrate powerful resource scarcities, and thus the necessary dependence on external trade. The demand for imports could only be met by the supply of exports, thus shaping a vicious cycle of reliance on external resources. Japan was caught between a rock (invariant resource levels) and a hard place (external constraints on resource access). In the decades preceding major international conflicts Japan fostered its eventual technology-dominant profile enabling it to engage in a wide range of expansionist activities to reduce its resource constraints.   The book was long completed before analysts recognized the declining birth rate of Japan and the leveling of its population growth – that potentially affecting the country’s profile.


  1. Choucri, N., North, R. C., & Yamakage, S. (1992). The challenge of Japan before World War II and after: A study of national growth and expansion. London: Routledge.
  2. Choucri, N., & North, R. C. (1989).  Lateral Pressure in International Relations: Concept and Theory. In Midlarsky, M. I. (1989). Handbook of war studies: [1]. Boston [u.a.: Unwin Hyman.