Politics Economy Global Column Backnumber INDEX Readers' Email HOME

Kurimoto's Opinion


by Shin-ichiro Kurimoto

Member of the House of Representatives
Economic Anthropologist
Professor Tokyo University of Agriculture

--A Product of the Failure of Conservative Politics and Bureaucrats.
Japan's politics during the period between its economic growth including the bubble era and its collapse was, in a sense, a kind of socialism, in which regulatory control was tightened and loosened as bureaucrats and politicians considered necessary. The bureaucracy preferred to regulate business, and the conservative politicians were their cronies. The corrupt relations between the two, however, did not come to surface as the country's economic vitality was so powerful that the political system managed to hide its inherent flaws.

But it was a completely different story after the Administration forced the bubble economy to burst. They were too slow in deregulation, thereby wearing out the private sector's vitality to a great degree. And because of that, Japan fell behind its competitors in the development of telecommunication technology. It was relegated to a second class position among the G5 nations. It happened to be the time when those powerful financial captains started their voracious speculations on the stock markets worldwide for gigantic gains in the middle of a global money glut. Russia, and most Asian countries, fell prey to the financial captains on the markets and plunged into an economic depression as if they had been pushed into it by invisible hands. Many other countries, including those in the former Eastern bloc, suffered a financial crunch caused by swift, hard-to-control inflows and flights of short-term funds.

At that time, a lot of people around the world dreaded that a similar blow on the already weakened Japan might trigger off a global depression. A intimidating voice, "Don't you mind if Japan ends up in ranking among financial losers?," was heard everywhere.

It was also around that time that the triangle of Japanese business, conservative politics and bureaucracy was setting about a move to reinforce their attachment to everlasting control over the nation. It fell on the period between the Murayama Administration and the second cabinet of the Hashimoto Administration (July of 1994 through December of 1997).

What the LDP politicians and the bureaucrats were trying do during that period was as follows:
1. They would respond to the request for deregulation expressed by the international community. But they would do so only under their initiative and at a slow pace. Bureaucrats were determined to maintain their influences, particularly those of the Ministry of Finance.
2. They would give priority to the reconstruction of national finances, and then they would negotiate with the G5 members without hurry. The order of their agenda was 1) to establish Japan's individuality, in connection with the world economy, around the idea of Asian Monetary Fund and the internationalization of Yen, and then 2) to go into specific discussions on each topic.

That scenario, however, had to be re-written. They had initially thought that they would be able to clear all the bad assets of the banks with ad hoc measures. But that prospect turned out to be a gross miscalculation on their part.

Filled with anxiety about their future, people of Japan fell into a typical deflationary mood, in which they refrained from spending although they had plenty of cash to spare. The Obuchi Administration was born at the time when those anxious people voted against the then LDP-led government.

--The man who missed the golden chance of defeating the Obuchi Administration.
Obuchi picked a couple of M.O.F. old boys to man the seats of the Minister of Finance and the chairman of the LDP's Policy Research Committee, and submitted a MOF-led financial policy to an extraordinary session of the Diet. (Keizo Obuchi, Ki-ichi Miyazawa and Yukihiko Ikeda strongly insisted that the financial system would be saved if the Long-Term Credit Bank was rescued. But look what happened to the LTCB after that. Shouldn't these three men deserve a criminal conviction?) During that Diet session (later called the Financial Revitalization Diet (autumn of 1998)), Obuchi and his bunch surrendered to the tenet of the Democratic Party in their policy discussions. Obuchi was also intimidated by the signs of a budding revolt within his own party (LDP). Then there came the fall of the LTCB, but Japan's financial system remained intact, contrary to what the Obuchi Administration had predicted with much confidence.

The lie of the Ministry of Finance, in the political sense, went on the deadlock. They were thrown into a total shambles, unable to figure out why their policy had a bad reputation both at home and abroad. They had dared to force the passage of that bill in the Diet even at the risk of endangering the LDP and its cabinet, because they were so confident to convince anybody.

I think that the Obuchi cabinet would have come to an end if Naoto Kan, the then leader of the Democratic Party, had made an issue out of Obuchi's political failure with a view to bring the Diet to dissolution. That would have brought about a decomposition of the LDP. Considering that it was immediately after the defeat of the LDP, I believe it would not have been so difficult to make a Kan Administration in that general election, because an anti-Obuchi coalition would have been formed with the aid of the Liberal Party of Ozawa, who had been denouncing the mismanagement of the Obuchi government for some time.

However, Kan took no time to choose to remain in the comfortable position of the opposition party leader, which was extremely popular among the people. There is no doubt that Kan's decision incensed Ozawa. So, in that sense, it was Kan himself, and nobody else, who played the most important role in rescuing the Obuchi Administration.
There are people who claim that Japan had already been under the control of the United States for some time. I do not necessarily agree with them. It's been a tradition since the time of Shigeru Yoshida's Administration that the conservative politics of Japan always sought to establish its independent stance with regard to political issues in time of peace. And the US always found such Japanese attitudes quite vexatious. Of course, I do not deny the fact that the US was always heard on critical issues in the end. Recently, however, the Japanese government has not necessarily acted in concert with its long-time partner, though it did live up to American expectations on issues like deregulation and upgrading the quality of infrastructure--at least as a gesture.

Now the times have changed. The helpless Obuchi took a rash step to put Japan in a position of another state of the US. To be more exact, he had no other choice but to do so. It was a departure from the LDP's more modest traditional alignment with the US. I regret that I am not able to go into further details on this now in the interest of page space; but let me just tell you that I AM EQUIPPED with more than sufficient evidence to substantiate what I have said.

Following this turn of event, the Obuchi cabinet strode to an infamous surrender to the so-called "global standards" by forcing the passage of a series of controvertial bills in the Diet, including the Wiretapping Law and the Law of National Flag and National Anthem. These bills appeared to put the clock back, but the Obuchi Administration showed no hesitation in passing them, because it was their perception that the issues in themselves were "legacies of the past", so why do we have to be bothered?

I anticipate that future economic policies to be submitted from the mainstream of Japanese politics will be the ones that obliterate the effect of asking a fundamental question like "What is the future of Japan going to be like?" The US, despite its position as Japan's full-fledged suzerain, is not any more a state with a wholesome national economy. Rather, the present America could be considered an executive wing of international financial capital, and its real political clout is more often than not vested with those who keep a low, very low, social profile.

I'm sure you would like to know who those people may be. What I can tell you at the moment is the following. The formation of the Clinton Administration in January, 1993 was possible only when Gore, one of the leading figures of the South, joined his forces with the Democratic presidential candidate, Clinton. These two persons had shared no common political base before that. And there was a certain group of people who acted as an intermediary in the union. That is the very group that represents the real power holders of the United States. That's where the current politics of Japan always turns its face to. To be more precise, our government is compelled to look to them for their instructions on every major issue.


Translation by Triking

Link:to page top

bldot.gif (43 ???)

Politics | Economy | Global | Column | Readers' Mail | HOME

Kurimoto Shinichiro Office
House of Representatives Office Bldg 1-701
2-2-1 Nagatacho, Chiyoda word, Tokyo JAPAN
Voice 81-3-3508-7387

CopyrightęTeam Cyber-Fox Rat & Bear Studio 1999