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Why did conservative Japanese politicians start paying attention to

national security in 1997?
Answer: 1994 electoral reform caused shift in electoral strategies from
pork to broad policy issues like national security
Pre 1997: Ignorance

Conservative politicians = Liberal democratic party (LDP)

Ignoring National security- turning blind eye when:
o China acquires nuclear weapon 1958
o US normalizes relations with china
o US withdraws after Vietnam
o Japanese citizens abducted
o Soviet Union invades Afghanistan and expands pacific fleetcollapse
o Iraq invades Kuwait
o 1st North Korean crisis
Usually economic power hand in hand with military powernot for Japan for


Pay attention: task forces, debates, new legislation (upgrade defense agency,
coast guard, self defense forces)

Why national security? Why 1997?


Existing Eplanations are obvious:

o New security threats (China and Korea)?
o Japanese economic recession since early 1990s?
Traditional historians see the surface: sudden focus on national security is
either in response to China/Korea security threats or to distract voters
from economic recession
But there is no evidence:
o Pre 1997 security threats were ignored
o New attention is not focused on the new security threats
Rather, it is focused on issues that compromise security, like
abductions, not really impt)

What did politicians care about?

Japanese Abductions by North Korea 1997 conservative politicians start

paying attention 2002 Kim Jong Il admits culpability and send 5 abductees
home what happened to other 12 abductees? Dead?

Surprising priority of abductions issue > the nuclear and missile threat
Shows they arent

Little Attention to New Security Threats


If they were really concerned, we would see statements like:

o Chinas military spending is increasedmaybe we need more
o China is getting an aircraft carriermaybe we should
o North Korea wont stop testing missiles
o The Chinese gov is causing riots
Instead, we see statements like:
o Our textbooks need a better version of history
o We should rethink whether we need the Marines
o There is no evidence the comfort women were taken by force
The fact that we observe focus on the green issues, shows the post1997 attention is NOT explained by new security threats or economic

REAL EXPLANATION: First Electoral vote in 1996 (1 year before)

SNTV- MMD (1947-1994)

130 districts, 1 vote each, 3-5 candidates elected per district

Basically MMDs only need 10-15% of a highly fractured vote to win
Intra- Party Competition: only LDP party ran multiple ppl against each otherneed reasons why 10-15% should vote for you over same-district people in
your LDP party
o Solution: win district with free pork for 10-15% of district
o Foreign policy not important in winning votes- LDP politicians must be

New election system, MMM introduced in 1996


2 tiers, 2 votes each,

Raised the bar for LDP candidates: need >50% votes to win!
Eliminated intra-party competition- only 1 winner per district, no longer
makes sense for LDP to run multiple ppl in 1 district
Why cant they give pork for >50% voter instead of 15% now? No, easier to
reach mass amounts of voters with broad policies
New best strategy: team up with other LDP politicians competing now in
separate districts and advertise a party platform

Conducted interviews:

Ishiba Shigeru- Under the old system, I was a friend to constituentsprovided roads, education, etc. There were 3 of us LDP candidates in my
district. I couldnt talk about policy or the LDP because it didnt differentiate
me from the other two.

Unlike USA, electoral candidates are not allowed to buy TV or print ads, or
(until recently) websites: campaigns must abide by Election Law
Best indicator: candidate election manifesto
o Made by the candidate- fixed length
o Distributed to all voters
LDA (Latent Dirichlet Allocation) uncovers topics in documents and measures
the proportion of document devoted to each topic
Classified topics as Policy or Pork topics
o Pork = benefits for organized groups (fishermen, women, etc.)
o Policy = investing in young people
See graph: manifestos suddenly start discussing Security after 1997

2 alternate explanations besides Electoral Reform:

1. Shift in Voter Priorities: sick of pork? Worried about national security?
a. Evidence that voter priorities shifted earlier than 1997 but LDP
politicians completely ignored it then
b. How can we observe level of dissatisfaction with gov policy?
i. # Petitions submitted to the Diet: assume more petitions about
national security means more dissatisfaction with natl security
ii. Proportions of Natl Security Petition Graph
1. Low from 1990-1998, only spiked in 2002
2. Changing politician preferences? Shift to the right (popular in current news)
a. Graph with scale from left- right positions in manifestos

b. But actually, LDP politicians have been shifting to the LEFT

(more towards center) until 2005 (only started shifting back
right from 2005 to today)
Conclusion: 1994 Electoral Reform
Prof created a new reliable indicator of candidate electoral strategy based on

Showed conservative candidates switched to security after 1996 (keywords)

Over the last decade: Japan is

Richard Sauels- political scientist, Kapan is becoming more muscular
Shift in electoral strategies was a necessary condition for security:
1. Increased the amount of attention that politicians could pay to national
2. Reduced the costs of making security policy- new collaborations
3. Electoral strategies doesnt explain the nature of the transformation (i.e. not
necessarily a more or less aggressive security policy) but rather opened the
door for discussion and focus on policy

Pre- 1997, there are responses by PMs and foreign ministers to foreign
threats/actions, but didnt trickle down to electoral positions or legislation

Japans policy towards Korea- normalization- wanted concrete for development in


Power that PM and Cabinet was weak pre 1997, but strong post-1997

Under electoral system- incentivized to not have strong PM (may shift away
pork resources since no party supporters)
But after 1997, need a strong party and PM to win votes

Electoral reform was implemented to combat corruption scandals (LDP scandals)

Is Japan shifting to the right? Dont really know, not sure voters are shifting to rightmedia coverage of Abes views which seem right-wing- under majority system,
policians have incentive to follow their PM and party line. Paper shows some
evidence that Majority-style governments like Japan tend to be center-right, while
non-majority are center-left.

Even if you were interested in policy- your hands were tied (cant discuss) pre-1997

Parallels to Lecture:
Mainstream historians seem to keep attributing Japanese actions to external
factors/influenceswhen in fact a lot of driving force is domestic: Japan in its own
drivers seat
Like Prof argues, 1930s Japanese foreign policy was NOT in response to US
influences, but domestic agenda (anti New Japan) with domestic politician
skirmishes over elections

Current events in Japan: indeed, see center-right, Abe hawkish, western media
views Japan shifting right- structure plays into this