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Re-rising Japan

Its Strategic Power in International Relations


Edited By Hidekazu Sakai and Yoichiro Sato

"The lost two decades" of Japan’s economic power since the early 1990s have generated the image among scholars in the discipline of international relations (IR) that Japan is no longer a significant player. Hence, today’s IR literature focuses on the rise of China. Re-rising Japan: Its Strategic Power in International Relations challenges this trend by showing up-to-date evidence that Japan is still a major power in today’s international relations where the interests and power of the United States and China have increasingly clashed over many issues.

Indeed, since the Abe cabinet re-emerged in December 2012, there has been growing academic interest in Japan’s bold monetary/financial/social policies (Abenomics) and relatively assertive security policy. Where is Japan heading, and what path has it taken since the 2000s? This book responds to these questions.

Re-rising Japan assembles the latest studies on Japan written by today’s young and energetic scholars. It consists of three parts: (1) Geopolitics, (2) Domestic Political-Social Norms and Values, and (3) Asian Regional Integration and Institutionalizations. The individual chapters reveal what power assets Japan has and their strength and weakness in today’s international relations. Readers will attain a complete picture of Japan and its evolving new strategy in the decaying U.S. unipolar system where China has been behaving as a revisionist state.

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Chapter Six: Do Changes in Governing Party Lead to Changes in Foreign Policy? Evidence from Japan (Paul Midford)


chapter six

Do Changes in Governing Party Lead to Changes in Foreign Policy? Evidence from Japan1

Paul Midford


Following the establishment of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in 1955, the party, except for a nine-month hiatus in 1993–94, was in power continuously from 1955 until 2009, when the party was cleanly voted out of power for the first time in its history.2 The LDP in turn unseated the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and returned to power in late 2012. This relative paucity of changes in the party composition of government presents a good opportunity for asking how changes in the party in power influence foreign policy, not only in Japan, but in democracies in general. Since changes in ruling party have been so rare in Japan, the country offers an especially good environment for addressing this question.

To answer this question this chapter considers three hypotheses about the impact of changes in government between ruling and opposition parties on a country’s foreign policy. The first hypothesis, the party-position hypothesis, claims that when an opposition party wins power foreign policy changes in ways that reflect the party’s ideology and election platform. This hypothesis reflects straightforward pluralist logic: Public opinion cannot be easily manipulated and is coherent and stable, and elites who ignore public opinion risk finding themselves out of office.3

The second hypothesis, the continuity hypothesis, claims that changes in ruling party have little impact...

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