Naoto Kan and the End of ‘Japan Inc.’

My latest, from The Nation. An excerpt:

The fact that so many media organizations had to fly journalists to Japan underscores how much that country has disappeared from our political discourse since the early 1990s, when Japan’s economic juggernaut was halted by a financial and banking crisis that led to two decades of stagnation. At the same time, some of the US criticism of Prime Minister Kan seems to stem from nostalgia for the years when the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) ruled supreme through a system in which—in the New York Times’ words—“political leaders left much of the nation’s foreign policy to the United States and domestic affairs to powerful bureaucrats.”

That is extremely misleading. Beginning in the early 1950s, the LDP was financed heavily by the CIA as a bulwark against the once-powerful Japanese left, and successive LDP governments acted as a junior partner to the United States in the cold war. While Washington provided the weapons (and the soldiers) to fight communism, the Japanese elite provided military bases and profited by funneling economic aid and investments to US allies in South Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines and elsewhere.

At home, the LDP and its corporate backers fought ferociously to suppress labor unions and civic groups that organized to protect workers, human rights and the environment. The end result was an LDP-created “Japan Inc.”—an undemocratic, corporatist state in which bureaucrats blessed and promoted nuclear power and other industries they were supposed to regulate, and then received lucrative jobs in those industries upon retirement—a system known as  amakudari.

But during the ’90s the LDP-style of governing came crashing down…

To read the article in full, click here.

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One Response to Naoto Kan and the End of ‘Japan Inc.’

  1. Sheila Johnson says:

    Dear Tim, I just read your piece in The Nation about Naoto Kan and the recent tragedies in Japan, and I was already planning, as I read, to send you a note saying you’re a worthy successor to Chal. I don’t think he could have said it better. And then you mention him at the end . . . Thanks so much. You also mention the sterling work that Gavan McCormack continues to do. The latest link he sent me is .
    Keep up the good work! Sheila

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