Harvard Professor Ezra Vogel Dug Deeply Into East Asian Cultures – Ezra F. Vogel chose a bold title for his 1979 book on Japan’s growing economic power: “Japan as Number One: Lessons for America.”
The book, unsurprisingly, sold well in Japan. It also helped establish the Harvard professor’s reputation as a leading American expert on East Asia. He wrote more than a dozen other books, including a biography of Deng Xiaoping in 2011 and a history of Sino-Japanese relations. In the mid-1990s, he served as an East Asia expert on the National Intelligence Council.
He was ahead of the curve in predicting Japan’s steep ascent in the 1980s. But that memorable book title, “Japan as Number One,” later forced him repeatedly to answer needling questions about how he failed to foresee the economic stagnation that plagued Japan from the early 1990s.
The country’s institutions proved less adaptable to crises than he expected, Dr. Vogel said. “I did not argue that Japan had the largest economy in the world,” he wrote in a 2000 follow-up book. “I wrote that the Japanese did many things well, that many of their successes were No. 1 in the world.”