Although Japan and China started from a common experience of reactive modernisation, having been forced to face the challenge of Western imperialism during the second half of the nineteenth century, state-society relations in the two countries have diverged significantly since World War II. The authors ask whether the idea of the normative supremacy of the state vis-à-vis civic actors, which was historically shaped by the primacy of strengthening the nation over protecting the weak, still prevails today. By developing a four-fold set of ideal-type modes of state-society relations (marginalisation, protectification, accommodation, empowerment), the chapter analyses the changing legal and political environments and compares the interaction dynamics between state and civic actors within Japan and China over the past seven decades. While the shifting patterns of state-society relations in the two countries show clear differences, particularly at the intersections between the legal and political spheres, the authors find that the joint heritage of the nation state’s claim of normative supremacy in protecting the weak has continued to reproduce itself in contemporary times.