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Governance of Crisis Situations in Japan and its Impact on Japanese Society

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Director : Eric Seizelet (UPD)

Regular Members : Paul Jobin (UPD), David-Antoine Malinas (UPD)
Associate Members : Guibourg Delamotte (INALCO), Yatabe Kazuhiko (UPD)

Description and aims of the programme
The subject of crisis governance (kiki kanri) has been considered taboo for a long time for historical and political reasons. As it implied putting on hold the constitutional order promulgated by the Meiji Charter, the new democratic institutions established in 1947 excluded, as a matter of principle, any kind of crisis management system, no matter how measured. Under the gojugonen taisei, « 1955 system », the Japanese Left wing parties, intellectuals and media proved to be extremely wary and avoided any global reflection on the question. Indeed, as a general rule, crisis governance was considered contrary to the constitutional freedoms since it implied a restriction of movement of goods and people and property rights, not to mention the granting of extensive powers to security forces at a time when the very legitimacy of the Self-Defence Forces, jietai, was contested by a segment of public opinion and the political class. As a result, the secret initiatives of the Defence Agency in 1963, rendered public in 1965, as well as the official initiatives of Fukuda Takeo’s cabinet in 1978 and those of Nalkasone’s government in 1984 all failed to see the light, not because the LPD in power was deprived of the political majority required to impose the initiatives on the Diet, but because the emotional impact associated with the very mention of crisis situations would have made it impossible to ensure a satisfactory operating of the unequal bi-partisanship shared by the LPD and JSP.

Consequently, although the political elite were aware of the weaknesses the absence of a crisis management system entailed, as attested by numerous reports and studies on the question, the status quo prevailed for a long time because, on the one hand, the opposition accepted the weaknesses —since they guaranteed the survival of the post-war democratic order— and on the other, the ruling LPD deemed that there was no political advantage in playing the opposition’s game and alerting public opinion by bringing up the subject. As a result, the conservative government, without renouncing their objectives, deployed a triple strategy 1) remove the emotional impact associated with crisis situations by transforming the question from a matter « national defence » to a matter of « security », a concept that was more inclusive and global and in which « defence » is just one among other aspects. 2) Remove military connotation from crisis management in political discourse by referring to ‘risk management’ instead 3) Take advantage of the changes in the internal and external contexts to « remilitarize » crisis management, i.e. by using the reorganization of the country’s political landscape which resulted in the marginalization of those forces that were the most hostile to the regulations associated with crisis management and through the identification of new threats, namely ballistic and terrorist, which call for a firm response on the part of the authorities within the framework of the « population protection », kokumin hogo, policy.

The research will focus on the following themes : 1) decrypting the different historical phases in the evolution of the notion of crisis management 2) the legal provisions made for crisis management 3) the application of crisis management governance mechanisms through case studies : the governments response to crisis ; hypertrophy of the executive power and the weakening of control structures ; communication and information as a means to facilitate decision-making and to manage the population ; impact on the population : its perception of the crisis management in a given situation, credibility of the actors involved, psychological and emotional mechanisms ; the role of the Self-Defence forces in crisis management ; relations with the population, the reality of the bunmin tôsei, « civilian control » principle in crisis situations ; 4) crisis management in the Japanese-American security system : shared risk diagnosis and assessment, integrated command system, response rationalization according to the type of threat, degree of interoperability of weapons and communications systems.

Calendar : the programme will be launched in Autumn 2014 with monthly seminars with the aim of putting into perspective the distinctive approaches to crisis management adopted in the West and in Japan. The seminar will also include one-day study sessions devoted to the feedback and understanding of individuals having experienced or been involved in crisis situations.