The Japanese are on to their sixth prime minister in five years. The FT calls it the “PM revolving door”, and says the newest leader, Yoshihiko Noda, will be lucky to get a meeting with President Obama at the White House.
In public, the White House welcomed Mr Noda’s appointment. “The relationship between the US and Japan is based on common interests and common values, and I look forward to working with prime minister Noda to tackle the broad range of economic and security issues that require our attention,” Mr Obama said on Tuesday.But privately, officials are rolling their eyes over yet another leadership change in Japan.
The Japanese are struggling. Twenty years of economic stagnation against the background of a population in decline and a culture that copes very poorly with immigration. Now add the earthquake, the tsunami and then the ongoing crisis over nuclear reactors and the strategic problems of the nuclear industry in a seismically active country that has no alternative power source. Japan’s political leaders are stumped.That matters to America. For 200 years the United States has had a simple grand strategy in Asia: we want to see a stable balance of power in Asia that keeps any single country from dominating the region and we want Asian economies to grow and remain open to the world as Asian societies modernize and move toward democracy. We think that protects our security interests, serves our economic interests and is a decent and humane vision for the region that Asians as well as Americans can support.That grand strategy does best when and if Japan does well. Via Meadia wishes the new Japanese prime minister more success than his predecessor had; most of all, Via Meadia hopes that democratic and peaceful Japan finds a way to recapture the dynamism that in the not so distant past made the Japanese economy the wonder of the world.