11 July 2017

From Management Crisis to Crisis Management? Japan’s Post-2012 Institutional Reforms and Sino-Japanese Crisis (In)Stability

My latest peer-reviewed article has just been published in the newest print issue of Journal of Strategic Studies. I coauthored it with Professor Adam P. Liff of Indiana University. We address the important but under-studied subjects of Japan’s National Security Council (NSC), its post-2012 institutional reforms, and Sino-Japanese crisis (in)stability. In doing so, we analyze the likely implications of recent organizational restructuring and enhancement, especially the new NSC, for Japan’s crisis management capabilities—particularly vis-à-vis tensions with China over competing sovereignty claims in the East China Sea.

Adam P. Liff and Andrew S. Erickson, “From Management Crisis to Crisis Management? Japan’s Post-2012 Institutional Reforms and Sino-Japanese Crisis (In)Stability,” Journal of Strategic Studies 40.5 (2017): 604-38.

Abstract: Since 2012, China’s assertion of its sovereignty claim to the contested Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands has significantly raised the risk of a potentially escalatory political-military crisis with Japan. As circumstances worsen, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has championed major institutional reforms aimed at centralizing Japanese security policy decision-making and vastly improving crisis management. This article assesses these reforms’ significance for ameliorating Japan’s long-standing internal crisis management weaknesses, and enhancing its ability to communicate with Beijing promptly under challenging conditions. While significant issues remain, recent developments – especially the establishment of Japan’s first-ever National Security Council – demonstrate significant progress. Bilaterally, however, important firebreaks remain conspicuously absent.

KeywordsJapancrisis managementsecurityNational Security CouncilChina


The authors thank Thomas Christensen, Thomas Fingar, Taylor Fravel, Michael Green, Takako Hikotani, Ken Kotani, Alexandra Sakaki, Richard Samuels, and Jim Schoff for substantive feedback at earlier stages of this project, as well as audiences at the following venues for insightful questions and comments: Princeton University’s China and the World speaker series, Harvard University’s Program on US–Japan Relations seminar series, Stanford University’s Shorenstein APARC Public Seminar speaker series, and the International Studies Association’s 2016 Annual Conference. They are grateful to Ayumi Teraoka for suggesting valuable resources, and to dozens of experts and current and former officials in Tokyo, Beijing, and Washington for the opportunity to interview them on condition of anonymity.

Additional author information

Adam P. Liff is assistant professor of East Asian International Relations at Indiana University’s School of Global and International Studies (SGIS) and Associate-in-Research at Harvard University’s Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies and Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies. His research website is https://adampliff.com/.

Andrew S. Erickson is a professor of Strategy at the US Naval War College and associate-in-research at Harvard University’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies. He maintains the research websites www.andrewerickson.com and www.chinasignpost.com.