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Remembering Professor Ezra Vogel

On January 17, 2022, the Society of Security and Diplomatic Policy Studies (SSDP) and the Executive Committee of Remembrance of Prof. Ezra Vogel, Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences Emeritus at Harvard University, held a remembrance seminar sponsored by the Kajima Institute of International Peace (KIIPS) and the International House of Japan. During his opening speech, James Kondo, chairman of the International House of Japan, shared memories of Prof. Vogel, who stayed at the International House of Japan regularly when he was in Japan. After that, four prominent panelists—including Yutaka Kawashima, former vice minister of foreign affairs and ambassador to Israel; Ryosei Kokubun, former president of the National Defense Academy of Japan and professor emeritus of Keio University; Hitoshi Tanaka, former deputy minister for foreign affairs and chairman of the Institute for International Strategy at the Japan Research Institute, Ltd.; and Lt. Gen.(Ret.) Sadamasa Oue, former senior fellow at the Harvard Asia Center—spoke of Prof. Vogel's role and contribution to Japan-US relations and the world. The moderator was Masahiro Akiyama, president of the SSDP.

1. "Prof. Vogel was a part of our family" presented by Amb. Yutaka Kawashima

The first panelist, Amb. Yutaka Kawashima, spoke about an episode from Prof. Vogel's life in the 1960s. At that time, Prof. Vogel, who later published Japan As Number One, was just a young researcher. He came to a fishing village in Japan and researched with the Kawashima family, becoming almost a part of the family.

During the time when Prof. Vogel published Japan As Number One, Amb. Kawashima also stayed in the United States. At that time, many US-made products were defective. When customers bought these products, they needed to identify where they had problems and fix them before use. However, this was not the case if they bought products made in Japan. That was why Japan As Number One was so persuasive.

In the 1990s, Prof. Vogel served as national intelligence officer for East Asia at the National Intelligence Council in Washington. At that time, Prof. Vogel was concerned about the dominant research style in the US. He believed US academics focused too much on the science of statics but underestimated historical research.

In 2001, when Amb Kawashima retired from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Prof. Vogel asked him to teach at Harvard Kennedy School for one year. Amb. Kawashima stayed on the third floor of Prof. Vogel's house and lectured at Harvard University. At that time, the US had just experienced the terrorism of 9/11 and the prevailing mood was one of fear and tension. At the same time, many Chinese students were eager to study at Harvard, and the introductory textbook to enter Harvard was a popular book. Amb. Kawashima needed to find a textbook on Japanese diplomacy to give his students background knowledge, but it was not easy to find a good one at that time. The American classroom style was more discussion-based and oppositional. Thus, prior learning was essential. But it was unfortunate that there was no decent textbook at that time.

When Prof. Vogel was 72-73 years old, he began Chinese lessons. He did not want to rely on interpreters to get the information he needed. His book about Deng Xiaoping, leader of the People's Republic of China, has both English and Chinese versions. The Chinese edition has sold more than 1 million copies.

Prof. Vogel was worried about the Donald Trump administration. America should be a model of democracy for the world, he thought. But just before his death, he witnessed the January 6, 2021 United States Capitol attack. That was unfortunate.

2. "The historical role of Prof. Vogel" presented by Prof. Ryosei Kokubun

The next panelist, Prof. Ryosei Kokubun, analyzed the historical role of Prof. Vogel. In 1982, Prof. Kokubun wrote a letter to Prof. Benjamin Schwartz to study at Harvard University, but he did not receive a response. Prof. Vogel told Prof. Kokubun that Prof. Schwartz was not good at administration. So Prof. Vogel stepped in and made all the arrangements. He was like that.

Because of China's rise in world politics, Japan-US-China trilateral conferences were conducted for eight years starting at the end of the 1990s. At that time, Prof. Vogel was a core member of the American side of this project, serving as a mediator. When Prof. Vogel talked about historical issues between Japan and China, he demanded Japanese members face the past seriously. At the same time, he tried to persuade the Chinese side that Japan's current nationalism would not become a larger threat.

Mainly, Prof. Vogel's research focused on the society and people of Canton in China. The first book on Canton was published when China was in the midst of the Cultural Revolution. Prof. Vogel focused on only Cantonese society and interviewed people who came to Hong Kong. Even though China was experiencing the Cultural Revolution, Hong Kong was connected with the mainland. That fact could become valuable in the future, the book explained. The research style of Prof. Vogel was not power- or regime-focused. His research focused on society and people. He published a book about Deng Xiaoping. He wanted to write a book about Hu Yaobang, general secretary of the Communist Party of China who was well known in Japan, but not well-known in the US. Hu Yaobang was in charge of policy toward Japan, and Zhao Ziyang took control of policy toward the US..

Japan As Number One was a book that focused on how US could learn from the lessons of Japanese success. But at the same time, readers felt the deep affection that the author had toward both the US and Japan. Prof. Vogel was an optimist. However, during the Trump administration, he was not so optimistic.

In 2017, Prof. Graham Allison published the book, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap? In this book, Prof. Allison pointed out that there was a 74 percent possibility that the US and China would go to war. Prof. Vogel disliked this idea and visited Prof Allison's office to talk at length about how to reduce rivalry, avoid mutual destruction, and co-exist.

3. "Prof. Vogel contributed to rebuilding US-Japan relations" presented by Chairman Hitoshi Tanaka

The third panelist, Chairman Hitoshi Tanaka, focused on Prof. Vogel's personality. During a problematic time in Japan-US relations, he got a chance to enjoy dinner with Prof. Vogel and Prof. Joseph Nye. Prof. Vogel discussed the episode in the taxi when he returned from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to a hotel. The taxi driver told Prof. Vogel, "You are a C-spy or a teacher at Harvard University!" Because Prof. Vogel was both of those things, this became a joke that he often retold. The character of Prof. Vogel was warm like that.

In 1995, there was a rape incident by US soldiers in Okinawa, and Japan-US relations worsened. At the same time, there were issues about Japan sharing more of the security burden with the US. Prof. Vogel's deep understanding of Japan was helpful in restructuring Japan-US security relations.

In 2011, Prof. Vogel invited Chairman Tanaka and his wife to Harvard. Prof. Vogel arranged a dinner to exchange opinions with other Harvard professors at an Italian restaurant and drove Prof. Tanaka and his wife to it. Prof. Vogel was 80 years old at the time, but his driving was very bold, and Chairman Tanaka and his wife were very glad to reach their destination in one piece.

Prof. Vogel created opportunities for the exchange of opinions with Prof. Michael Sandel of Harvard University, whose well-known class had a reputation for being very fast-paced and energetic. At that time, Chairman Tanaka was teaching at Tokyo University, but his students were not very engaged. He asked Prof. Sandel how to change this. Prof. Sandel replied, "You should find a student who did not prepare well and ask that student a question. There is a high probability that the student won't be able to answer. As a result, other students will gain the confidence to raise their hands". Chairman Tanaka took that advice and created a much more energetic class.

The desire of Prof. Vogel was to form communities to promote mutual understanding and maintain stability. In both domestic and international spheres, there has been a recent increase in polarization. Chairman Tanaka says he was concerned about such a mood. For example, he felt that President Biden's "Democratic Summit" and the concept of the "Indo-Pacific" were examples of such segmented thinking. There is a negative mood even toward Japan-China and Japan-South Korea exchanges as too pro-China and pro-Korea in Japan. Prof. Vogel always pointed out how important forming communities is.

4. "Prof. Vogel and his Japan-US class" presented by Lt. Gen.(Ret.) Sadamasa Oue

The fourth panelist, Lt. Gen.(Ret.) Sadamasa Oue, introduced an episode about Prof. Vogel's contribution toward Japan-US relations during the last years of his life. Lt. Gen.(Ret.) Oue met Prof. Vogel for the first time, when he was studying at the Harvard Kennedy School from 1996-98. In July 2019, Lt. Gen.(Ret.) Oue was sworn in as a Harvard University Asian Center senior fellow and had lunch with Prof. Vogel at the faculty club. He was surprised at Prof. Vogel's curiosity, energy, and appetite. At the lunch, Prof. Vogel predicted that Joe Biden could defeat Donald Trump if Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren were chosen as vice president. And, of course, that is what happened.

In 1980, Prof. Vogel started the Japan-US program. At that time, his book Japan As Number One had just been published. How to manage Japan-US friction caused by Japan's economic development and how to promote Japan-US cooperation not only on a bilateral basis but also on a global basis were matters of concern. The situation demanded new ideas. The Japan-US program was created as a result. In 2020, the program celebrated its 40 year anniversary. There was an online meeting to celebrate the anniversary, and, at age 90, Prof. Vogel used Zoom effectively and showed his enormous smile to the participants. Prof. Vogel thought Zoom would change the meaning of society and education, making distance meaningless.

From 2019-21, Lt. Gen.(Ret.) Oue was a senior fellow at Harvard University's Asia Center. This post was created by Prof. Vogel, Prof. Nye, and President Masahiro Akiyama in 1999. The post has been prepared for retired generals of Japan's Self Defense Forces (SDF). Lt. Gen.(Ret.) Oue was twelfth. His predecessor was Lt. Gen.(Ret.) Isobe Koichi, and his successor is Vice Adm.(Ret.) Tokuhiro Ikeda. This senior fellow position is a source of defense and military information from high-ranking SDF officials.

For many years, Prof. Vogel invited Japanese students and young researchers to join his class. Before the COVID-19 crisis, more than 100 participants joined and debated actively in small breakout groups. Although Prof. Vogel was listening to all the opinions of participants equally, he fell asleep sometimes. For the participants, the question of how to keep Prof. Vogel awake was an issue. The most important lesson all participants learned in that class was positive thinking. Mother Teresa once said, "Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words." Prof. Vogel was a person who carefully followed Mother Teresa's advice. Prof. Vogel was a person who found the good in any person or country.

Prof. Vogel was interested in Japan-China relations even after the 9/11 terrorism incident. Japan's Air Self Defense Force has concerned China, especially after the number of new Chinese fighter jets exceeded Japan's in 2008, a gap that has been widening every year. Prof. Vogel asked Lt. Gen.(Ret.) Oue to exchange opinions about the capabilities and perception of the Chinese military. But there was no chance to do that, unfortunately. In October 2020, Prof. Vogel published an article pointing out that China hawks were going too far. He was a person who researched and educated the public about Japan-US-China relations.

5. "One letter" presented by President Masahiro Akiyama

After the four panelists spoke, moderator Masahiro Akiyama spoke of his memory of Prof. Vogel. President Akiyama got a chance to meet Prof. Vogel when he was director-general of Japan's Defense Agency in 1995. At that time, Prof. Vogel, Prof. Nye, and Prof. Kurt Campbell always visited Japan together. Under Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, the "Higuchi Report" was published. The report indicated that Japan would change its security policy to diversify and focus less on Japan-US ties after the Cold War, and the US was concerned. Vogel, Nye, Campbell repeatedly explained how important Japan-US relations were to both countries.

In 1998, when`Mr. Akiyama resigned as the vice minister of defense taking charge of a scandal at the Defense Agency, he received One Letter, an invitation signed by Prof. Vogel, Prof. Nye, and Prof. Campbell. The letter invited him to study at Harvard University. Mr. Akiyama got a chance to "study" at Harvard University for two years. After him, Vice Adm.(Ret.) Hideaki Kaneda was his successor. Prof. Vogel used his personal fund to prepare a place for Mr. Akiyama to live, and gave him a study room and research budget. The theme of the research was Japan-US relations and maritime security. Mr. Akiyama also made a presentation to graduate students, and based on the report he prepared, he published the Japanese book "Nichibei No Senryaku-taiwa Ga Hajimatta (Japan-US Strategic Dialogue Has Begun)."

Prof. Vogel's contribution to Japan-US relations was enormous. President Akiyama retold a story about Prof. Vogel and Prof. Nye working in the intelligence service. When Prof. Nye was nominated to be assistant secretary of defense, he was not interested in taking the position. But Prof. Vogel and Prof. Michael Green persuaded him to take it. At that time, Mr. Akiyama was the counterpart of Prof. Nye. Prof. Nye contributed to make the US Security Strategy for East Asia-Pacific Region, called the "Nye Report." The report was created because the US was concerned about the "Higuchi Report."

Prof. Vogel visited Japan every year, met President Akiyama and asked what he thought about people like Jyunichiro Koizumi (former Prime Minister), Toshimitsu Motegi (former foreign minister), Yoshimasa Hayashi (current foreign minister). Prof. Vogel was strongly interested in Mr. Koichi Kato, and they were very close.

On May 5, 2000, Prof. Vogel gave a commemorative lecture upon his retirement from Harvard University. He expressed concern about Japan's policy toward China and South Korea.

When President Akiyama asked Prof. Vogel about the future of China, especially China's violations of human rights and its gulag, Prof Vogel's response was that Chinese people valued economic development over human rights in the current situation. But the situation would not last the next 20 years.

6. Other memories

(1) Prof. Vogel wrote Japan As Number One but the Japanese believed, "Japan Is Number One." Indeed, Prof. Vogel saw the Chinese attack on the consulate in Shanghai and worried about the Japan-China rivalry. That was the reason that Prof. Vogel organized the Japan-China Dialogue for students of both countries. (Mr. Hidefumi Doi, Deloitte)

(2) Lt. Gen.(Ret.) Toshimichi Nagaiwa got a chance to study at the Harvard Kennedy School. Prof. Vogel was unrivaled in his knowledge of Japan. But Prof. Vogel continually asked Lt. Gen.(Ret.) Nagaiwa his and Japan's perception about China. As a result, Lt. Gen.(Ret.) Nagaiwa invited Lt. Gen.(Ret.) Wright from Washington, D.C. and talked about the subject with Prof. Vogel together (Lt. Gen.(Ret.) of Japan's Air Self Defense Force, Toshimichi Nagaiwa)

(3) Prof. Vogel had the demeanor of an intelligence officer. When Dr. Watanabe was a visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and met Prof. Vogel for the first time, the first question from Prof. Vogel was, "Where are you from?" If the question is asked to an American, they usually reply, "Ohio," "Texas," etc. If the same question is asked to a Japanese, they usually reply that they are from "the Ministry of Defense," "the Asahi newspaper," etc. That was Prof. Vogel's expectation, because the sociological part of his research had given him a deep understanding of Japan's "vertical society" (a concept created by Chie Nakae) and its sense of belonging. Prof. Vogel thought the character of societies and their norms were not universal. These societies and norms have diversity based on inherent local logic, Prof. Vogel thought. As a result, he had flexible views toward each country, including Japan and China. (Dr. Tsuneo Watanabe, Sasagawa Peace Foundation)

(4) The post Prof.(Ret.) Akiyama established at Harvard University has been inherited by uniformed officers of Japan's Self Defense Force because both Japan and the US have wanted to continue the exchange. Harvard was also in touch with the Chinese military and invited colonel class officers to hold exchange events. One Chinese colonel told Vice Admiral(Ret.) Koda that she could talk freely in this place but she could not talk after she returned to China. Because there was a concern about such a situation, Prof. Vogel asked Prof. Akiyama to find proper high-ranking officers of the Self Defense Force, and Vice Adm.(Ret.) Koda inherited the role. (Vice Adm.(Ret.) of Japan's Maritime Self Defense Force Yoji Koda)

(5) In an increasingly segmented world, Prof. Vogel claimed how important the community-based approach is. (Prof. Keiji Nishiyama, Yamaguchi University)

(6) Prof. Vogel made an effort to promote exchanges between younger generations of Japanese and Americans and Japanese and Chinese.

When Prof. Vogel visited the Northeast area of Japan, he pointed out one important thing. When he watched television coverage, it said that the Northeast region had not recovered well from the Great East Japan earthquake. However, when he saw the area with his own eyes, he found that it had recovered much more than expected. Checking things out with our own eyes is important, he said. He tried to pass this message on to the younger generation. (Prof. Akiko Imai, Showa Women's University)

(7) From 1974-75, Amb.(Ret.) Yoshiyasu Sato worked at Harvard University as a CFIA fellow (now, WCFIA fellow). Amb.(Ret.) Sato and Prof. Vogel have continued their friendship ever since then. When Glen Fukushima arranged a meeting with other members of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Prof. Vogel, Prof. Vogel was in fine health. Therefore, when Amb.(Ret.) Sato found out about Prof. Vogel's death, it was a shock. Like Prof. Vogel, Amb.(Ret.) Sato prefers to "ignore minor conflicts of opinion for the sake of greater common interests" and commit to Japan-China relations. Amb.(Ret.) Yutaka Kawashima and Prof.(Ret.) Hitoshi Tanaka were co-workers and they also connected with Prof. Vogel. (Amb.(Ret.) Yoshiyasu Sato, former Japanese ambassador to China)

* This article was written by Dr. Satoru Nagao (Hudson Institute). From 2017-20, Dr. Satoru Nagao was staying in Washington, D.C. and got a chance to meet Prof. Vogel at the residence of the deputy chief of mission of Japan. Prof. Vogel always conveyed an aura of deep knowledge.

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