New Sisyphus writes an interesting summary of Huntingdon's Clash of Civilizations which contains in part:
First, Huntington defines a civilization as the highest order of a social group to which a person will readily identify himself. For example, an Italian man in a cafe in Rome would probably identify himself, in ascending order, as: a Roman, an Italian, a European, a man of the West, while a similar man in a cafe in Cairo would identify himself as a Cairo-ite, an Egyptian, a Muslim. With that definition in hand, Huntington identifies seven major world civilizations active today, with their "core state," that is, the leading state or states that stand for and defend the given civilization:
1) West: Non-orthodox Europe, U.K., Ireland, Iceland, Greenland, Canada, United States, Australia, New Zealand (I would add Israel to this list; Huntington does not and, in fact, barely mentions it at all in his book, largely, one suspects, because it is a civilizational unit of its own that would tend to muddy the waters of his high-level overview).
Core States: United States of America, United Kingdom, Germany, France
5) Sunic: China, most of Southeast Asia, Korea
Core State: People's Republic of China.
7) Japanese: Japan. The only one-state civilization left in the world.
And then he says that one of the challenges for the West is
5) to slow the drift of Japan away from the West and toward accommodation with China;
I wrote a comment disagreeing with this which I think is worth expanding on.
Firstly the question is whether Japan is still a separate culture/civilization. Or to put it another way is Japan more different to the USA than say France or Iceland? 150 years ago there is no doubt that the answer to that would be yes. Before the Meiji restoration Japan resembled its Asian neighbours Korea and China in that it had a decadent inward looking government. The key difference is how it reacted when it learned of the results of Western industrialization. My knowledge of late 19th century Korea history is poor but to the best of my knowledge only Japan (after a certain amount of civil war) decided to remodel itself on the new Western model. Certainly if other East Asian states attempted to do the same they failed. In roughly 30 years from 1865-1895 Japan sent teams of students to Europe and the USA and borrowed what seemed to be the best of what was on offer. In the process it formed strong and lasting ties with key western institutions such as the Royal Navy, ties which lasted at least until the 1920s.
In 1894/1895 Japan showed how much it had learned by fighting and winning the first Sino-Japanese war and in the process conquering Korea and receiving Taiwan as war spoils. It is my contention that the Triple Interverntion of Russia, France and Germany at the end of that war was in fact a contributing factor to Japan's subsequent single-minded militarization and hence to its involvement on the wrong side in WW2 - a war which was primarily a war of competing ideologies within the West. However all of that process was very much in the Western tradition. It is I think reasonable to suggest that Japan looked at the major colonial European powers and imitated them rather too well in that it also failed to recognize that Empire was in fact a bad idea, however given the world as it was in the latter half of the 19th century it is hard to see what other conclusion could be drawn.
Today it seems to me that Japan is philosophically Western. This doesn't mean that it wears baseball caps or even that it plays baseball, although it does both (something that France does not) but that it is fully capitalist and democratic, albeit somewhat dirigist (as is France), and secure in its identity as a nation (again like France). Just as with France it contribites more than just industrial product to the west, it also adds cultural product, from Sushi to Anime, and absorbs in return the output of Hollywood and the luxury goods of Europe. Moreover thanks to its brief colonial period it faces a legacy discontent from unhappy former colonies that is shared only by the West and, to the extent that it has left, Russia. This legacy also means that it is highly unlikely to actually return to the Asian fold because its near Asian neighbours were the ones who suffered the most from its attempts to become a "Great Power".
This means that the challenge above "to slow the drift of Japan away from the West and toward accommodation with China" is bunk and the wrong question. Japan has attempted to become part of the West since 1865 and has remained loyal to this dream despite rebuffs from the West in 1895, 1919 and the 1940s and it still is doing so because Japan has looked at the world and seen that over all the Western ideology provides the greatest success. The more interesting question, alluded to by Plunge recently thanks to this FT article, is to what extent can Japan spin other nations out of the Chinese orbit - particularly Taiwan and Korea.
The PRC today could not really do more than they do already to make both Japan and Taiwan nervous and look to common interests. Although there are some minor border issues between the two in the main both are far more concerned by the activities of their large neighbour than about disagreements with each other. So long as the PRC makes bellicose statements both countries will fail to come into the Chinese orbit. To a lesser extent I think the same could be said for the Philipines which also considers that these days a mercantilist Japan is less of a threat than a warmongering PRC and where, while Japanese occupation was bad, the longer US occupation seems to have been more resented.
The tricky country is Korea. N Korea is currently firmly under the Chinese thumb and S Korea seems to be behaving in precisely the way that Japan didn't after WW2. Although Korea still has much US influence and indeed considerable common interests the S Koreans seem determined to pick fights with the US and with Japan despite those two countries being the ones that a neutral third party would think were its natural allies against N Korea and the PRC: To some extent this is the growing pains of a newly democratic nation and I think the comment I heard in Tokyo nearly 15 years ago that S Korea is just like Japan 20 years earlier is probably mostly correct and probably still holds true despite over a decade passing. Obviously the analogy should not be stretched too far but it does hold in terms of internal market liberalization and general acceptance of the idea that foreign companies could own large Korean ones. Unfortunately the Japanese politicians in the process of thumbing their nose at China also manage to piss off Korea and this is bad for any attempt to fully integrate Korea into the West.