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Economic Superpower in an Age of Limits

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The Locomotive Strategy and u.s.-Japan Relations, 1977–1979

image of Journal of American-East Asian Relations

This paper examines macroeconomic policy coordination between Japan and the United States under the locomotive strategy from 1977 to 1979. Previous studies have described the strategy as a fiasco because of its negative economic impact. In fact, the Japanese government, after two years of stimulus packages, quit trying to be a locomotive bringing other developed countries out of their economic difficulties and the u.s. government admitted it in 1979. On the other hand, as this article shows, bilateral cooperation with the United States under this strategy expanded the roles and burdens of Japan, an emerging economic superpower, in international economic policy coordination. Japan’s efforts to implement the strategy made the u.s. government believe that Tokyo would continue to respond to its request to bear larger international responsibilities, while it also increased awareness of Japan’s global role in Tokyo. These bilateral perceptual changes paved the way for subsequent policy coordination and Japan’s assumption of greater burdens, notably the adoption of large-scale stimulus packages under belt-tightening budgets.

Affiliations: 1: Japan Atomic Energy Agency,


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