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Behind Japan’s Success: The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)
The Liberal Democratic Party of Japan has been the most successful political party in the world superpower maintaining popularity since its formation in 1955. The party has retained power continuously for over five decades with the only interruption happening in 1993. The party was, however, able to rise again in a span less than a year. The party flourished quite well with unparalleled membership from reputable political leaders. The case of politics in Japan has been a unique one, particularly due to the domination over decades by a single political party. Politics in other world superpowers such as United States are often characterized by a stiff competition between the major political parties. The Republican Party and the Democratic Party in the United have had a fairly equal share of power since their formation. The situation in Japan is to a great extent a resultant of the party’s strategies and interests. Critically, the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan has been a backbone to the economy nurturing it up the ladder of success. The leaders in the party have always remained focused and observant of the issues that are most relevant to the success of the economy. A systematic historical study of the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan reveals that uninterrupted possession of power by the party is embedded in the party’s ideologies, strategies, and performance which have culminated in giving rise to a self-sufficient nation still possessing the enthusiasm to soar even higher.
The History of the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan
The Liberal Democratic Party of Japan rose into existence in 1955. The party was as a result of the unification of two major political parties of the period; The Japan Democratic Party and the Japan Liberal Party headed by Nihon Minshuto and Shigeru Yoshida respectively (Gannon & Sahashi, 2015). Ideally, the merger of the two parties was a promising ideal since each of the parties had good followership by both leaders and individual citizens. Their status implies that they already had specific spheres of influence in the country. Both the Liberal Party and the Democratic Party were right-wing and advocated for similar ideologies. The parties held the conservative ideology and having them split best worked towards splitting the follower of conservationism. The merger meant that the followers of both parties were brought together in the interest of a common goal. The union’s (LDP) main goal was to run against the Socialist Party, a then-popular political movement in the country advancing different ideologies.
LDP took the lead in the 1955 elections setting a record for being the first conservative party to form a government with a majority. LDP managed to retain the majority government until its short-lived fall in 1993. In 1994, the Socialist party, LDP’S main opponent joined the opposition leaving the ruling coalition. LDP ruled unopposed until the late 1990s when the Democratic party of Japan rose (Norris, 2010). The party gained lots of momentum and became a major threat to LDP. The two parties posed a great opposition to one another and shared almost equal positions in the government.
The greatest defeat for LDP happened in 2009 and was worse still the worst defeat for a ruling government. The support of the party has gradually declined since the breathtaking defeat in 2009. While 2009 is characterized by a resounding defeat of a sitting party and the political victory of an opposition party, it was also a period of recounting the achievement of the longest-ruling party (Lipscy & Scheiner, 2012). Over the years, the LDP has attained a great historical significance not only in the political field but also in the entire Japanese population. Additionally, the LDP has had a significant influence both to the neighboring countries and also nations from far.
The governance of LDP has been characterized by various changes of ideologies due to the long time in power. The party has always been quick to adjust to fit within the existing trends in order to remain relevant. The working of LDP has always been consistent with the prevailing circumstances. As a result, each period of governance is tied to unique ideologies critical for the specific period (Krauss & Pekkanen, 2010). The LDP mainly held philosophies that were the right of the opposition political parties. Being a Conservationist party, LDP identified itself with all ideologies of the similar parties. LDP emphasized the centrality of traditional institutions in the social arena, authority, power, hierarchy, and right to possess property.
Traditionally, LDP worked towards a set of goals that it closely identified with. The party stressed on the necessity of rapid economic growth through increased exportation, links with other world superpowers especially the United States, and administrative reforms (Norris, 2010). The anticipated close link with the United States was largely to strengthen defense strategies on a global scale. Administration-wise, LDP sought to enhance government bureaucracy, instituting tax reforms as well as privatization of state-owned corporations (Norris, 2010). The administrative goals which laid more focus on developing the economy were aimed towards saving the country from the anticipated strive due to the higher rate of the aging population.
The last quarter of the 18th century was characterized by the desire to establish meaningful links with other nations for mutual benefit. The LDP prioritized these links in order to secure a role in the rapidly developing continent of Asia (Norris, 2010). Japan, during this particular time, internationalized her economy through boosting domestic demand and liberalization. The ideologies and goals presented by LDP placed the political party at a competitive advantage. The party was considerate of the changing needs of the country which it addressed effortlessly.
The Contributions of the LDP
LDP ruled Japan for more than half a decade a factor that made many generations grow knowing LDP as the only ruling party. The only interruption that was made was short-lived, and many citizens hardly realized the change of leadership. There were limited reform that occurred when LDP was not in power. The continuous election of the LDP offers a different dimension of democracy. The way democracy worked in this period in Japan was rather interesting; how the LDP managed to continuously win the hearts of the citizens despite there being other parties in existence. The sudden and resounding fall of the LDP is also interesting. LDP had triumphed in all the previous elections. The big loss by LDP in 2009 implies that the party had fallen out of context, and its relevance ended.
The LDP has guided Japan through various experiences, both high and low. The LDP party in Japan is synonymous to a guardian who sees a child through childhood to adulthood. The LDP took charge in Japan from as early as during the post-war period. The party made huge contributions towards restoring the sanity in Japan following the termination of the Second World War. The leaders of LDP made critical policies that would help regain peace and stability in Japan. Later on, the party would guide the country through a war-free future. Generally, the party saw Japan all through her healing period after the war and put strategies in place to prevent future wars.
Japan came out of the Second World War wounded economically with most of the citizens living in abject poverty. Following the huge periods of war, Japan had invested a lot in warfare. The military required huge funding, not to mention the funds that were directed towards manufacturing and acquiring superior firearms (Warren & Mulgan, 2016). Ideally, Japan had suffered the most out of the excesses of the nations in World War II. The atomic bombing by the United States had great implications on the economy of Japan. The large number of victims from the bombing posed a great challenge to the economic development of the nation. Many people of the productive age bracket lost their lives. Most of the victims who survived who survived would lead dependency lives following the damage to their bodies. Despite the effects of the Second World War, Japan would still rise again to be a great nation and restore her lost glory. The LDP was the pioneer to the economic ‘miracle’ that happened in Japan. Japan quickly and successfully underwent through a recovery process to self-sufficiency. In a span of two decades, Japan had switched back to her original status courtesy of the LDP.
LDP is famed for its swift action on matters that required urgent solutions. Following the economic activity that followed after the Second World War, Japan fell to be the most polluted country (Lukner, 2013). The country exploited resources with no consideration of environmental sustainability. LDP prides itself for having presided over the entire clean-up process. The government was so proactive to address the current problem as well as to prevent a similar occurrence in the future. LDP came up with strict environmental policies and legislations to deter the industrial world from overexploiting the environment.
The LDP has been critical in shaping the foreign policies currently enjoyed in Japan. The party helped establish good relationships with nearly all the countries worldwide including the enemies from the Second World War. Currently, Japan enjoys diplomatic relations with almost all world superpowers and independent states. The country joined the United Nations in 1956 and has ever since been an active member in the union and sits in other similar summits of both regional influence and international impact. The country under the LDP signed various security pacts. The latest pacts signed under the leadership of the party were that of India in 2008 and that of Australia in 2007. Japan being among the top super powers prides itself for being among the top five official development donors. Most of the foreign ties that are working in Japan were initiated during the decade immediately after the Second World War. As a result, the good ties were largely as a result of the LPD’s Leadership. Later pacts, under the leadership of other parties, must also have been informed by the past foreign relations.
Japan established good diplomatic relationships with the United States, despite the latter having cost the former a fortune during World War II. After the war which left Japan and the allies defeated, the leaders sought and maintained reputable defense and economic ties with the United States. Both Japan and USA share both export and import markets for their commodities (Howe, 2012). Similarly the two countries are committed to defending one another, and the United States has military bases situated in Japan.
The economic miracle that happened in Japan would perhaps not have happened without the strategies and the planning by the LDP. The political party, being a conservationist party stressed on the centrality of social institutions and good relations both at state and international level (Warren & Mulgan, 2016). Japan’s noteworthy post-war economic growth could be ascribed to the immediate foreign policy adopted by the country. The growth would not have been possible without the interventions of the United States. It was the alliance between Japan and the United States that made the former to rise again. The economic miracle in Japan did not spurt until the 1950’s when LDP was stable enough to negotiate for fair and diplomatic foreign relations. The alliance between the two countries was consolidated in the late 1950s. The alliance culminated with the approval and signing of an official defense factor between the two countries. The GDP of Japan started growing rapidly after the agreement. Later on the growth accelerated at a higher rate. The highest growth was experienced in 1959 at a rate of 12 percent. For more than a decade, Japan maintained a GDP rate of more than 10 percent. By 1970, Japan had risen to be among the top economies sustaining the name of being among the most developed nations globally. Clearly, Japan is an ideal example of a country that has risen from the level of below-average to the upper tier in short span of time. The country is an ideal of a super-power developing overnight from the level of an underdeveloped country. The political systems set forth by the LDP of all the time in Japan have a lion share of the contributions that led to the rise of Japan to a similar tire with the United States.
Many scholars, economists, historians, and political scientists have attributed the growth of Japan to the political systems created by the LDP after the tragic war. During the mid-1900s, the Japanese bureaucrats and business people collaborated to spearhead an export-based economic growth. The plan initiated by the LDP would attract massive domestic investment, progressive industrial policies, and installation of foreign technology. All these far-sighted political policies culminated in accelerating the rate at which Japan was growing with economically making the economy to ascend to greater heights in the global scale of superpowers. The economic initiatives of the United States had on Japan had their base on the mode of governance in Japan. The conservationist party was against adherent to the traditional institutions, and so was the United States at the time. United States was aware that if any of the allies intervened in the economic growth of Japan, it would definitely appeal to the strengthening of the existing anti-capitalist ideologies. The support that Japan gained from the United States was largely as a plot against the looming communist encroachments by other super-powers. Furthermore, much of the economic help that Japan received from the United States was short-lived.
Under the leadership of LDP maintained a stable political and military climate for the thriving of economic investments. Japan has been able to maintain a high-budget military force on a global scale. The country is ranked top among the most peaceful nations. It is unusual that the military of the nation has never fired guns outside its territory. The military system is restricted by the constitution. The nation was also ranked among the top five most powerful militaries in 2015behind other World superpowers, United States, China, and Russia. The military of Japan has its foundations to the period following the Second World War. During the re-establishment period, the government restructured the military to form a highly powerful unit dedicated to safeguarding the interests of the extremely wounded nation. The troops have managed to maintain all peacekeeping activities in Japan. The LDP government participated actively in the formation of the military system as well as the constitutional articles governing the working of the military institution.
Clearly, LDP’s popularity in Japan is embedded in the party’s ability to steer the nation successfully through difficult economic and political periods. LDP was in governance during the OPEC oil crisis and still managed to handle the situation (Koichi, 2016). LDP saw Japan through her hardest economic periods after the Second World War. The party was able to lead the country through a total economic transition and by so doing restoring Japan’s lost pride. Japan regained her international economic confidence in the mid-1900s, courtesy of the LDP. Japan’s economic transition was accompanied by the decline of the influence of other political parties especially the parties in opposition, more precisely, the Communists and the Socialists (Krauss & Pekkanen, 2010). Even though LDP did not exist without the witnessing of political corruption, the vice was only realized later after the party had already gained too much popularity. The party had also done a lot in the country such that the citizens would hardly lose their trust in it. The citizens would later lose their trust in LDP after a series of scandals which led to endemic corruption in the party. The economic growth rate had also declined, and the party had also ceased being as proactive as it was initially.
The case of LDP’s dominance in Japan provides an uncommon case of democracy. Popularly, in democracies, a party hardly rules for more than two decades without being unseated by another party. However, the performance of LDP explained its retention of power for so long, with very limited opposition. The classical LDP is the kind of a political party that every nation would certainly desire to have. The party delivered all what the Japan citizens needed to get back to their initial status after the world war. The main reason why the electorate remained loyal even when corruption scandals were looming within the party is because the party had remained loyal to them during the time when the country needed sound and sane political system of governance. LDP craftily negotiated for the restoration of Japan to her original state. Ideally, all the good that Japan enjoys today is largely to the foundations after the Second World War and the obvious goodwill of LDP during the most critical moments.
- Gannon, J., & Sahashi, R. (2015). Japan’s Way Forward: The Prospects for Political Leadership and the International Implications. Looking for Leadership: The Dilemma of Political Leadership in Japan, 181-195.
- Howe, C. (2012). America’s Role in the Making of Japan’s Economic Miracle. Journal of East Asian Studies, 18(1), 1-8.
- Koichi, N. (2016). Contemporary Political Dynamics of Japanese Nationalism. The Asia-Pacific Journal, 14(20), 1-13.
- Krauss, E. S., & Pekkanen, R. J. (2010). The Rise and Fall of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party. The Journal of Asian Studies, 69(1), 5-15.
- Lipscy, P. Y., & Scheiner, E. (2012). Japan Under the DPJ: The Paradox of Political Change. Journal of East Asian Studies, 12, 311–322.
- Lukner, K. (2013). Introduction to Special Issue: Japan’s Crisis Management amid Growing Complexity: In Search of New Approaches. Japanese Journal of Political Science, 2(14), 155 176.
- Norris, M. J. (2010). The Liberal Democratic Party in Japan: Explaining the Party’s Ability to Dominate Japanese Politics. Inquiries Journal, 2(10), 1.
- Warren, T., & Mulgan, A. G. (2016). The Politics of Economic Reform in Japan. 1-13.
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