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Book on Japan's News Agency

26. Sep. 2012

“Japan’s News Propaganda and Reuters’ News Empire in Northeast Asia, 1870-1934” is the title of a new book by Dr. Tomoko Akami. The book focuses on Japan’s news agency and will soon be followed by the second volume on the soft power of Japan’s total war state in 1934-1945.

Twenty years after the first undersea cable was laid across the English Channel in 1851, the north- and south-bound cable networks connected all the continents, except for the Antarctic. Overseas news was now conveyed more quickly, and affected the worldview of more and more people. As metropolitan states gradually expanded their franchise bases, the public opinion was becoming an important factor not only in domestic politics, but also in foreign policies. The states had to realize the power of news and the need to utilize them in foreign policy. As soon as global telecommunication networks were established, three major news agencies – British Reuters, French Havas, and German Wolff – created an inter-imperial news cartel system in 1870, and Northeast Asia came under Reuters’ news empire.

Using the notion of ‘news propaganda’, this book analyses how the Meiji state came into the inter-imperial news system, and how it became aware of the problem of Reuters’ news empire in Northeast Asia. It also examines how the Japanese state began the development of governmental institutions and the national news agency, to utilize news propaganda in international politics, and to challenge Reuters’ news agency in the region with the help of American Associated Press. The book demonstrates the modern thinking of foreign policy elites, including high- to middle-ranking diplomats, military officers and news agency men. Well attuned to global trends, technological development, and the rising significance of the ‘international public opinion’, they responded not with isolationism from, but with greater engagement with the world public in the time of diplomatic crisis and international conflicts. Their challenge to Reuters’ news empire was a quest for Japan’s greater power in that system, and closely connected to the military expansion into China.

Dr. Tomoko Akami was a visiting professor at the Cluster’s A3 “Networking” project. She received her MA in International Relations and Regional Affairs at Hiroshima University in Japan, and a second MA in History at Melbourne University, Australia. In 1996, she received her PhD in Philosophy in Asian History at the Australian National University in Canberra. Dr. Tomoko Akami now teaches and researches at the College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University, where she also holds the position of deputy director of the Centre for European Studies.


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