In 1980 Japan's real stock market capitalization, as a percent of gross national product, ranked fourth, behind the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. By 1989 the United Kingdom had superseded the United States in capitalization and Japan leaped to a new first place height!
By the early '50s the Japanese were beginning their long climb back from the depths of economic collapse as a result of World War II. By 1980 their savings rate was 17.9 percent of disposable income compared with 7.1 percent for the usually considered savings-conscious Americans.
Japan did this without exporting military wares to other nations. In 1986 Japan produced approximately 10 percent of the world's gross national product-at the very time the United States had become the world's largest debtor nation.
In 1989, Japan with half the population of the United States, for the first time donated more funds to international aid ($ 11 billion) than did the United States ($8.9 billion), and much of that without strings attached.
For the first time (from 1988) a Japanese, Dr. Hiroshi Nakajima, heads a major international organization, the World Health Organization. Japan has become a world-class aircraft builder, having had access to U.S. technology. An island empire without natural resources, expect for its gifted people, Japan must protect sea lanes around Southeast Asia, which extend well more than a thousand miles.
The Japanese have finally become comfortable with their world economic superpower status, but it has taken most of the '80s to assert themselves. Were the Japanese to translate economic power into diplomatic power-no easy task for a nation inexperienced in international power-brokering-the nation would be an awesome force by century's end.