|Japan: Half a Century of the Rule of Liberal Democrats|
Japan: Half a Century of the Rule of Liberal Democrats. Project leader E. V. Molodyakova. Editors I. P. Lebedeva, S. B. Markaryan. Institute of Oriental Studies Russian Academy of Sciences. Moscow, AIRO-XXI. 2010 - 284 p. (in russian) ISBN 978-5-91022-121-9
This book is intended for general Russian readers, and it has not been written at this time by accident. It analyzes a historical period associated with the rule of the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan, a period exactly dated - from the establishment of the party on November 15, 1955, to the end of its rule after a crushing election defeat on August 30, 2009. Not often does an opportunity arise to explore a complete period in modern history that has evolved before the eyes of the many authors who contributed to this publication. Moreover, the period under review was a most significant period because it witnessed the rooting of democracy in Japan, its transformation into the second largest economic power and a full member of the club of the most developed countries in the world.
The events examined in this study represent a totality of Japan's historical development during the second half of the 20th century. These developments, undoubtedly, go back not only to the first postwar decade, but also to the pre-war past. After all, the "link between the ages" has never been interrupted in Japan, a country where traditionalism has always played an important role. The natural course of events initiated in the Meiji period (1868-1912) was completely interrupted by the militarization of the country only in the late 1930s. Until then, there had been a gradual expansion of suffrage and social security, a reduction of the working hours, there appeared workers' and peasants' organizations, and even radical political parties. The country had an effective administrative system, a high literacy rate, good organization of production, and almost half a century of experience with the functioning of parliamentary institutions.
Although the Meiji Constitution of 1889 did make a de-jure claim for democracy, indeed, democracy was only brought into the country after the crushing defeat in World War II. It was not accompanied by the loss of traditions and national identity, however, because the country's political elite exhibited paramount pragmatism and realistically assessed the situation. It realized perfectly well that a parliamentary democracy with all its seeming shortcomings was an alternative to the misfortunes brought to Japan by the authoritarian rule. Democratization was also the only way for the ruling elite to retain power. With power retained by the pre-war conservative elite and only the top bureaucratic layer subjected to "purges", the old state apparatus headed by the emperor remained basically the same, safe for some remodeling and updating.
As a result, all postwar democratic reforms were conducted by the old conservative bureaucrats and politicians of the so-called second tier. The rooting of democracy was embodied in the personalities of several postwar prime ministers: Yoshida Shigeru, who was five times head of government, is known as "the creator of the updated Japan", and held prominent diplomatic posts before the war; Kishi Nobusuke, who signed the Japan-US security treaty in 1960, was the minister of trade and industry during World War II; and Ikeda Hayato, the author of the ten-year plan of doubling the national income, headed the tax department. One can justly say that in the postwar years the bureaucracy not only survived, but effectively managed the nation, clearly defining, in cooperation with politicians, the national priorities. Representatives of this galaxy of statesmen were not only politicians, but also professional managers, as is evident from their previous positions.
Russian scholars have thoroughly studied many aspects of Japan's political, economic and cultural development in the period under review. The objective of this research team is to identify and highlight what Japan acquired in the course of a nearly single-handed rule of the Liberal Democratic Party, how this rule had taken root and what were its salient features, strengths and weaknesses, what progress had been achieved and what failure led to its termination. This logic has determined the structure of this monograph. The first chapter, "Creating Dominant Party: the Human Factor", considers the formation of the Liberal Democratic Party, focusing on the human factor in its emergence and the beginning of its effective functioning as a dominant political organization. The author examines who and why took the lead in uniting conservative forces to form a counterweight to the growing influence of socialists and trade unions; what were the terms on which these people were able to agree with one another and to ensure a strong political base for the future of the party, and to persuade ambitious leaders to compromise for the common benefit.
A revival of the old and creation of new parties began in Japan literally from the first days of the occupation. The period saw a return to political life of most of the pre-war politicians, adhering to various and diverse views. Despite the fact that the power remained in the hands of the old elite, with its inherent close intertwining of political as well as family ties, there appeared on the political arena a constellation of conservative politicians who would become creators of a new political system headed by a dominant party.
In order to understand the genesis of the notion of a dominant bourgeois party in Japan, the author briefly reviews the evolution of the country's party system, starting with the Meiji period, when its foundation was laid. The stormy process of party building during the first postwar decade saw mergers, divisions, and changes of party names; active participants in these were politicians whose names are firmly associated with the creation and functioning of the Liberal Democratic Party. The chapter discusses in detail their political views, tastes, and personal relationships of the most important individuals active on the political arena, displaying their backroom deals and arrangements.
Faced with the success of the "Left" at the national and local elections, rival conservative groups tended more toward unity against a common enemy and creation of a unified ideological and political platform, despite their different vision of the forms of cooperation. There were no fundamental objections to the union between the main parties of the conservative camp - the Liberal and the Democratic. The number of seats obtained by the LDP in the first parliamentary elections indicated that the Liberal Democrats had no real contender at the time, nor was such a contender likely to be expected.
The 1955 System, as the monopoly rule of the LDP came to be called, had quickly become complete. «The desire for unity in the face of external challenges, the consensus in dealing with domestic problems, a keen sense of the "common enemy", and the elitist sentiments inherent in the upper echelons of the Liberal Democrats from the very beginning, determined the "human dimension of Japanese politics during the whole period that the LDP stayed in power", the author concludes.
Due to political tradition, the concepts of party chairman and that of prime minister have become almost interchangeable during the LDP reign. Similarly, state policy and the policy of the party were perceived as identical. For several decades and under various prime ministers, Japan experienced steady and almost uninterrupted successful development in all spheres.
Chapter 2 of the monograph, "Internal and Foreign Policy of LDP Through the Prism of Prime Ministers Activities", reviews the activities of six premiers who made significant and often crucial, decisions that shaped domestic and foreign policies of postwar Japan: Kishi Nobusuke, Ikeda Hayato, Satō Eisaku, Tanaka Kakuei, Nakasone Yasuhiro, Koizumi Junichiro.
The term of office of the LDP chairman was limited to two years (in 1982, it was increased to four years), and, according to established practice, it was impossible to become prime minister on two different occasions. Due to extraordinary circumstances, however, the authority of the prime minister could be extended. The long-livers on the political Olympus were Prime Ministers Satō Eisaku (November 1964 - June 1972), Nakasone Yasuhiro (November 1982 - October 1987), and Koizumi Junichiro (April 2001 - September 2006). A rather formal procedure, the election of the prime minister is, in reality, a complex, multistage process that follows an acute political struggle for the post of party chairman between various factions. During theLDP rule, there were 23 party chairmen and 22 prime ministers.
The arrival in 1982 of the outstanding political leader, Nakasone Yasuhiro, should be attributed to the fact that the ruling circles wanted to have as their head a "strong" personality, capable of conducting effective domestic and foreign policy. The new prime minister put forward several ideas to reform Japan's domestic and foreign policy, and did much for their practical implementation.
The Nakasone's premiership saw the most active stage of the administrative and financial reform. It consisted of putting limits to government regulation of the economy and to extending the use of market mechanisms in the transition to a new, intensive model of growth, and the deepening of internationalization of the economy. Under Nakasone, a new impetus was given to relations between Japan and Asia-Pacific countries. One of his surprise moves in relation to the developing countries in the region was giving them, primarily all ASEAN members, an opportunity to initiate new developments themselves.
The first half of the 2000s is associated with the name of Koizumi Junichiro, and the transformations carried out under him, for which he deservedly gained a reputation as a reformer. Prime minister Koizumi focused on solving domestic problems, and immediately after his election he announced a program of transforming the government through privatization and deregulation, the introduction of a new tax system, solving the problem of bad debts of banks, taking control of the budget deficit, the release of local governments from petty tutelage, the reduction of the public works, and the reshuffling of the sector of special public corporations.
Many people were aware of the need for such reforms even before Koizumi came to power. But nobody in the government wanted any changes or suggested alternative measures so as not to be at odds with bigwigs in construction business, who had always provided strong financial support for the LDP. Taking advantage of the favorable economic situation, the prime minister proceeded to reform the country's postal service, an unshakeable stronghold of power for the LDP, which put huge financial flows under the party's control.
In addition to solving some economic problems through privatization of the postal service, he sought to block, or at least impede, access to the fundsof the postal service by certain LDP members who were lobbying for it and using the accruing benefits to lure their electorate. This policy of Koizumi defied the factional structure of the LDP. Subsequent developments showed, however, that this policy was not shared by the LDP three prime ministers who followed.
The chapter entitled "Capitalism with a Human Face: an Economic Policy of Liberal Democrats" opens a large section of the study dealing with social and economic problems, which the Liberal Democrats had coped with rather successfully. A complex and highly topical matter that concerns the author is linked to the ongoing discussion about the nature of capitalism built in postwar Japan, i. e., during the rule of the Liberal Democrats. This issue warrants attention also because the Japanese economic model was for long severely criticized in the West precisely for its apparent deviations from the models in most developed countries.
Special attention, according to the author, should be paid to the following three issues in the economic policies of the Liberal Democrats: approaches to the regulation of the market, views on the nature and limitations of state intervention in economic development, and the redistribution of the results of economic growth among different groups of the population.
The economic policy of the Liberal Democrats was amazingly comprehensive and multilateral. One is under the impression that they had not overlooked any economic area or any branch of the national economy. The peculiarity of the Japanese model of state regulation was the use, along with various financial, credit, and fiscal instruments, of various and diverse methods, such as regulation of business practices of private companies and the so-called administrative guidance; the extent to which these methods were used was far greater than in the rest of developed countries.
It goes without saying that the Liberal Democrats did not succeed in all areas. Yet, judging by the results of the country's economic development, one must admit that their economic policy (at least until the 1990 depression) was generally successful. Not only did Japan rapidly increase its financial, economic, scientific and technical capacity, but it promptly became one of the world's most prosperous countries in terms of socio-political stability.
Until the end of the 1980s, the economic system formed by the Liberal Democrats functioned very effectively. It was the depression of the 1990's that showed that the country's development under the existing economic system had reached its limit and required a substantial reform.
The Liberal Democrats were repeatedly accused of either failing to implement necessary reforms or of delays in their implementation. But an unbiased review of what was achieved the 1990's-2000's, shows that before the power went to the DPJ, Japan's economic system had undergone major changes and become more market-oriented and open than before.
Over the past half century, Japan became one of the global economic powers, therefore Chapter 4, "The International Dimension of the Economic Policy of Liberal Democrats", shows how the country's political elite carried out its economic policy in the international arena. In a rapidly changing international environment, it deftly maneuvered between numerous and often conflicting interests of various internal and external forces, while national economic interests were the guiding principle.
The course to form an economic model oriented toward the external market began to take shape in the second half of the 1950s. The Government was deliberately establishing a support system for exports, and, while maintaining a high level of protection of its own market, undertaking foreign policy activities geared to create favorable conditions for the promotion of Japanese export companies. Throughout this period, the country's political leadership had to maneuver between the goals of protecting the domestic market and maintaining good relations with foreign economic partners and political allies, especially the U.S., which persistently demanded liberalization of the Japanese market since as far back as the late 1950s.
The strategy toward internationalization of the Japanese economy became a natural continuation of the policy of openness and liberalization. During the economic bubble and the depression that followed its collapse at the end of 1980s, foreign economic priorities began to influence decisions concerning domestic economic issues to a greater extent than ever before. With increased globalization, an indissoluble unity between the internal and external aspects of Japan's economic strategy was established.
Measures to improve economic efficiency, including, first and foremost, its international competitiveness, highlighted the structural reforms launched in the 2000s, which also included efforts to enhance the positive impact of external economic activities on the country's economic development. The international economic policy priorities were increasingly interpreted with a view to the most efficient use of the new situation in the world, namely globalization.
Here the author identifies two crucial facts. Firstly, the need for systemic reforms, as well as building a system of foreign economic priorities conditioned, above all, by the internal logic of economic development. Secondly, the merging of internal and external aspects of economic strategy and a certain shift toward "Western values" in preparing and implementing reforms does not detract from the importance of the "national interests", primarily economic.
Globalism and regionalism were the two planes where Japan's foreign policy and foreign economic policies sought to secure the country's national economic interests in the 1990's and 2000's. Under the Liberal Democrats, the country has moved from isolation to openness, its economy becoming an integral, large and influential part of the global economy. With regard to the impact of international factors on domestic economic policies in Japan and the evolution of the country's economic model, the trend toward approximation of the Japanese economic model to what can be labeled a Western model was obvious throughout the historical period during which the Liberal Democrats remained in power.
Science and technology were high on the LDP economic policy agenda. This is the theme of Chapter 5 of the monograph, "Scientific and Technological Development of Japan during LDP Rule". The author of this section shows that the foundation of the country's government-directed scientific and technical development was laid down before the LDP's arrival in power: back in 1947, a special commission to restructure the research system
in accordance with the postwar problems was set up to be followed by the establishment of several administrative bodies to manage scientific and technological development. The most ambitious during that period were activities of the Chamber of Industrial Technology under the Ministry of Foreign
Trade and Industry (MITI).
While describing the scientific and technological development in Japan during the LDP rule, the author points to a combination of two strategies - a strategy of borrowing, i.e., widespread use of foreign achievements, and a selective strategy calling for concentration of the country's own efforts in certain priority areas crucial for development of the economy and society. A combination of the two could lead to particularly high production results.
The state, represented by MITI, served as the locomotive driving science, engineering, and technology in areas that private business found unappealing.
By securing Japan's advancement to the forefront of science, technology and economics, the LDP left its successor an enormous political reserve for further development, so that many future successes of Japanese scientists and engineers will be naturally associated with the successful science and technology policies that the LDP pursued during its rule.
The agricultural sector remained an important objective of the economic policy of the LDP government's during the entire period of the party's rule.
This aspect is discussed in Chapter 6, "Agriculture Under Protectionist Policy of LDP". It was the state that played the main role in creating modern and technically well-equipped agriculture. The state undertook a considerable part of financing the sector, in particular, its infrastructure, provided farms with subsidies and credits and set purchasing prices on virtually all kinds of products, etc. Fundamental and applied agricultural research was carried out in state research institutions, regional and prefectural experimental stations. These facilities were also engaged in seed production and breeding work, training and skills development of the agricultural workers. A public service for the dissemination of agricultural knowledge was set up to help introduce scientific and technological achievements in agricultural production. It would not be an exaggeration to designate the Liberal Democrats' agricultural policies as protectionist. But inside of two or three decades, agriculture was transformed from a backward industry based on manual labor to a modern sector of the economy. As a result, Japan joined the top ten countries in the world according to some indicators, and its productivity has increased significantly.
However, the agricultural sector today had developed a variety of problems that divert funds toward support of unprofitable farms and often hamper foreign-trade policies that are likely to promote the country's economic development in general. This is, first of all, insufficient agricultural production, labor shortages, especially of younger people, low incomes in agriculture and its low competitiveness in foreign markets. These problems await solution, since agriculture is extremely important not only as a provider of food, but also for other tasks confronting society, in particular, preservation of the environment.
Chapter 7 of the monograph is devoted to Japan's pension system. Monitoring these critical social issues for decades, the author concludes that numerous problems appeared in this field a long time ago, have been gradually building up, and eventually became the proverbial last drop in the overall situation that provoked the crisis of the country's entire political system.
Many problems have aggravated due to the aging population, as longer life expectancy and numerical increases in groups of the elderly add scope and urgency to the problem of providing sources of their income.
As the working generations diminish and the number of retirees goes up, the ratio of spending on pensions and incomes from insurance premiums is systematically getting worse, with pension funds are being quickly exhausted and the whole system experiencing great financial difficulties. Attempts to overcome this problem lead invariably to a tightening of rules of pension schemes, increases in insurance premiums, the raising of retirement age, and - more protests from the community. The most significant feature of the Japanese pension system, which is related to the specific historical development of its social and economic institutions, consists in that the scope of operations of the private pension systems is not only comparable to that of the state system, but in a sense is greater.
Chapter 8 of this study is entitled "Southeast Asia in Foreign Policy of LDP". Japan's post-war strategy for these countries, as it was formulated by LDP leaders and ideologues, has been marked by enviable consistency and was passed on from one generation of politicians to the next in line. The development and implementation of strategies and foreign policy were for decades under full control of the dominant party. One can say that the official foreign policy of Japan was identical to the LDP position.
The elaboration of the Japanese conservatives' policy toward SEA countries had its beginning with the signing of the San Francisco Peace Treaty.
For many years, the main task of LDP post-war diplomacy was restoration of the "good image of Japan" in Asia, which was severely damaged by Japanese policy during the war. During the first stage, Southeast Asia was conconsidered in the context of the so-called economic diplomacy as a recipient of Japanese exports.
Promulgated in 1977, the doctrine of Prime Minister Fukuda provided for diversification of the country's foreign policy and marked a notable stage in Japanese politics in Asia. Even today, the doctrine has not lost its relevance, the author of this study contends. Moreover, many regional initiatives taken by Japan in the 1990s and 2000s reflect one way or another the principles enunciated in the mid-1970s. A decade of the Cold War, which followed, and the escalation of US-Soviet confrontation and the arms race froze the implementation of the doctrine so that it was not until the early 1990's that Japan began to embody it to the full.
Beginning in the 1990s, Japan has come forth increasingly in favor of various regional initiatives, established active economic ties with new ASEAN members, formed a system of free trade agreements, and participated in international peacekeeping operations. With Southeast Asia continuing to be the safest arena for demonstration of Tokyo's independence, Japanese initiatives in this area are being met with approval by the U.S.
Extremely topical at the present time is the problem of nuclear weapons and the attitude to it in different countries. Japan's position on this issue is considered in Chapter 9 entitled «‘Nuclear Dilemma' in Foreign Policy of Liberal Democrats». There is indeed a ‘nuclear dilemma' in the country's attitude toward nuclear weapons in the postwar period, and its essence lies in a combination of two alternative conceptual approaches to solving the nuclear issue. On the one hand, Japan has always positioned itself as a nonnuclear power, which, moreover, has a moral obligation as the world's only country to have suffered from atomic weapons. On the other hand, Japan, having accepted the U.S. security guarantee, has de facto recognized the legitimacy of the use of U.S. nuclear weapons for defense against external attack.
This duality was reflected in Japan's entire post-war policy vis-à-vis the nuclear issues, which was markedly ambiguous, inconsistent, and contradictory. As a non-nuclear power, Japan actively preached the idea of nuclear disarmament down to a total eradication of nuclear weapons, and favored a total ban on nuclear testing. The non-nuclear status was part of the pacifist image of the state that has waived its militarist past and proclaimed a complete repudiation of war as a means of settling international disputes.
At the same time, Japan's non-nuclear status is closely linked to the nuclear safeguards by the U.S., which, according to the officially accepted point of view, provided Japan peace and security in the postwar period, allowing it to achieve a high level of economic development and prosperity.
In the interpretation of the government, possession of nuclear weapons in order to ensure one's own security is not subject to any constitutional prohibitions. Yet, even in the post-bipolar era, the country's political leadership still stood by the reasonable point of view that Japan should refrain from the «nuclear option».
The concluding chapters 10 and 11, entitled "Mass Culture in LDP Epoch: Otaku Phenomenon" and "Cultural Diplomacy: Half a Century under LDP Banner", present a comprehensive picture of this sphere of life of the Japanese.
Chapter 10 shows the emergence and development of numerous and varied artistic trends - from realism to avant-garde; as a rule, these trends were born in the West, but they took root in local soil almost immediately thereafter. Indeed, almost always this occurred in harmony with national tradition or acquired an original new interpretation. The author rightly notes that this synthesis resulted in a unique cultural product, which was equally in demand by audiences at home and abroad, and had a significant impact on world culture as a whole.
The culture of the period has evolved in conjunction with technological advances and is inextricably linked with the development of telecommunications. The emergence and spread of television, the creation of computers, and the invention of the Internet have produced a real cultural revolution.
The author of Chapter 11 justly observes that in the mid-1950s, just as during the establishment of the LDP, Japan was faced with the necessity of modeling its new image both for internal and external use. It remained unclear, however, whether that image was to rely solely on the values newly introduced from the overseas, or whether it should appeal to the "trampled" groundwork of national greatness? Analysis of the political situation at home and the world situation clearly showed to the elderly but ambitious party leaders that they would not be able to adhere entirely to either of them; thus, the problem lay merely in determining an optimal balance between the conflicting scenarios.
The somewhat Solomon decision taken by the LDP leadership called for active international cooperation in culture while maintaining Japanese traditions as the basis of national identity. In determining the direction of postwar cultural diplomacy, the government and the LDP were not confronting too difficult a problem, as it may seem at first glance. Unlike many other countries, cultural diplomacy was not some kind of innovation for Tokyo, nor was it merely paying a tribute to the times when it embraced it. On the contrary, Japan is one of the pioneers of cultural diplomacy in the modern sense of the term and a country that has been most successful in realizing its main tasks.
Even in the early postwar years, Japan used the experience of the mid-19th century when, burdened by a system of unequal treaties, it set out to take an equal place among other developed countries, while presenting the image of a peaceful country with unique culture and traditions, focused on solving internal problems.
Generally speaking, cultural diplomacy is one of the top foreign policy priorities of Japan today. Though its foundations had been laid long before the Liberal Democratic Party came to power, they were, like many other things, creatively interpreted and put to use by the best representatives of the LDP specializing in world politics and national culture. Regardless of whether the LDP returns to power or not, no changes should be expected in Tokyo's cultural diplomacy, after all, this part of the LDP activities proved least susceptible to domestic political risks, and as shaped the country's image for many decades to come, the author concludes.
In their studies of the Liberal Democratic Party's rule, the authors of each section of this collective monograph showed indubitable successes of its development strategy and analyzed the establishment of postwar Japan.
Yet, they did not overlook instances when the Liberal Democrats could not, or would not, seek to solve problems and overcome destructive phenomena in proper time.
In the last period of its rule, the dominant party, as all of Japan, experienced difficult times. Many of the problems that the Liberal Democrats were compelled to address had a long history. These were problems associated primarily with the situation in the party (e.g. the dismantling of the factional structure, inherited election districts, the practical irremovability from office of the upper stratum of the party elite, a limited supply of candidates for senior positions in the party and government, a lack of bright leaders and new ideas, difficulties to invigorate the party due to the poor influx of new cadres), as well as acute problems related to the system of political donations from private firms, the reform of the political system, and creation of new parties.
Other problems clearly manifested themselves since the early 1990s and gradually moved into the 2000s. These are related to the LDP's short stint in opposition; the setting up of the coalition government; major shifts in the opposition camp; the reshuffle of prime ministers, which was quite unusual for Japanese political culture; and the continuation, or freezing, of the ongoing reforms in conditions of the global economic crisis. Last but not least was the loss of public confidence in the ruling party, which was reflected in the protracted parliamentary crisis of recent years and the emergence of the first serious claim on the part of the opposition, represented by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), to remove the LDP from power because of the certain«fatigue» of the population from its protracted rule. The LDP found itself in the grip of a serious crisis that cried for immediate constructive resolution.
The events that followed proved, however, that the party not only failed to realize the seriousness of the problems it faced, but, it seemed, did everything possible to speed up its removal from power.
We conclude this study with the last policy document adopted by the LDP, the Manifesto, with which it addressed its voters on the eve of the crucial parliamentary elections of Aug. 30, 2009. The Manifesto showed only too clearly that the party had nothing but hackneyed statements to offer its voters, and that its leaders obviously ceased to understand the dominant mood in the society. Thus, having joined the opposition, the LDP opened a new chapter in its history. It remains to be seen what lessons the party will learn from this experience.
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