Yoshida, Shigeru

Yoshida, Shigeru shēgāˈro͞o yōˈshēdä [key], 1878–1967, Japanese statesman. He was until 1954 the most powerful political figure in postwar Japan. He was ambassador to Italy (1930–32) and to Great Britain (1936–39). He was arrested late in 1944 for championing peace but returned to the government after the surrender in 1945 and became head of the Liberal party. He was prime minister five times between 1946 and 1954. During his administration a new constitution was promulgated, land reforms instituted, the U.S. occupation ended, and Japan's economic transformation begun. The unresolved problems of trade with mainland China, rearmament, the alliance with the United States, and economic rehabilitation finally forced him from office.

The Yoshida doctrine, his policy for Japan's postwar recovery, consisted of focusing the country's resources on economic production supported by well-trained workers while adopting the United States's stance on issues of security and international politics. Although this was a safe course throughout the cold war and led to spectacular economic growth, by the 1990s it created a new set of issues that Japan had to contend with. Large trade imbalances and protectionism brought on intense pressure from without to eliminate unfair trade practices, while within Japan businesses with global markets called for a more flexible workforce and open markets for foreign goods. Japan also found itself under pressure to assume a greater share of the international military burden, which involved facing public distrust of the military and long-held pacifism.

See his memoirs (tr. 1961, repr. 1973) and study by J. W. Dower (1979).

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