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Abe Wins in Landslide, Neighbors Cringe

“Abe Win Is Good for the Neighbors,” reads the headline of Aaron Back’s story on Japan’s election this weekend. Is this right? Was Abe’s huge win really good for Japan’s neighbors? Maybe, partly:

The continued political success of Shinzo Abe is cause for celebration in Southeast Asia…. The election victory endorses his campaign to end deflation through aggressive monetary easing. That’s a boon for Southeast Asia, where extra liquidity from the Bank of Japan could partly offset the impact of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s plan to scale back asset purchases.

China and South Korea feel a little differently about Japan and Abe than do the Southeast Asian countries. Bloomberg:

Even before the votes were counted, China was showing its unhappiness about Abe’s looming triumph. “To consolidate power, the prime minister and other Japanese politicians wrongfully chose to indulge a rightist tilt and constantly provoke Japan’s neighbors on sensitive territorial and historical issues,” a commentator for the official Xinhua News Agency wrote on Sunday. The article warned “if policymakers in Tokyo believe a potential election win could serve as a warrant for further rash behaviors to strain the ties with Japan’s neighbors, challenge the post-WWII world order, or abandon its pacifist commitment, they risk steering the country further down a wrong path.”

A professor at Renmin University in China took a stronger view: “As long as Prime Minister Abe is in power, it will be difficult for the two countries to find ways in the near future to improve diplomatic ties.”

Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party now has a stable majority in both houses of parliament. He will have significant control over the legislative process in both houses, “right down to appointing the chairmen of lawmaking committees,” reports the Economist, allowing economic reforms, Abe’s “three arrows”, to progress unhindered.

“Post-election,” the Economist continues, “there should at last be an answer to the question of who Mr Abe really is.” His economic reforms and aggressive foreign policy are broadly popular in Japan, but the extremely low turnout for this weekend’s election suggests that many voters are still on the fence. Both his economic and foreign policies are, for the most part, unpopular in the region: South Korea and China in particular resent a weak yen and Japan’s aggressive statements on history and territorial disputes.

At home, if Abe can’t keep the economy on its current track, the Economist speculates, or if he alienates voters by pursuing personal goals like revising Japan’s pacifist constitution, rescinding statements of remorse for World War II atrocities, or visiting the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on August 15th, the anniversary of Japan’s defeat, Abe might see his popularity evaporate just as quickly as it built up.

And, needless to say, those more controversial goals will only deepen anger at Japan in China and South Korea, and they probably won’t win it too many friends elsewhere in the region.

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  • wigwag

    I don’t know much about what Abe’s political victories mean for Japan’s neighbors, but I do know that a strong, prosperous, tenacious and assertive Japan is very much in America’s national interest.

    All we can hope is that Obama doesn’t find a way to blow this relationship in the same way that he’s ruined America’s relationships with so many other nations.

    • AndrewL

      A strong, assertive Japan is in America’s interest, up to a point. Would a strong Japan continue to tolerate American military presence on its homeland? Would a strong Japan continue to deny itself nuclear weapons? The Japanese right wing nationalists may not say it, but they will never forget who denied Japan hegemony of East Asia. Too many Americans take Japan’s submission for granted.

      • Tim Godfrey

        Japan’s submission? The US-Japan relationship today is one of partnership – not occupier. The bases are a problem for residents near the bases but are not resented by most Japanese.

        A nuclear Japan is no more a concern than a nuclear France, Japan already has the tech necessary to build a bomb and likely would only build one if it lost confidence in the willingness of the US to come to Japan’s defense.

        • AndrewL

          You need to take a longer term view. History has too many examples of today’s friends becoming tomorrow’s enemies (and vice versa). It’s not in America’s interest to welcome more nuclear powers, especially a country we dropped two A-bombs on.

          • GardenGnomeLF

            Today’s ‘friends’ becoming tomorrow enemies occurs when either Socialists or Islamists take over.

          • Tim Godfrey

            Well – circumstances can change but there are limits to what is plausible. It is simply not plausible that a Japan which is completely dependent on the the free flow of goods would jeopardize the current world order. If nukes are developed they will be to deter Chinese attempts to annex existing Japanese territory. They would not be used to threaten the US unless the US decided to actively support the annexation of Japanese territory by the Chinese. If that happened the US would deserve it.

  • Anthony

    Japan is world’s third largest economy. Prime Minister: I and Japan are back. Abe’s election ended six years of political deadlock – his party now controls both houses of parliament. But, if true, “the extremely low turnout,,,suggests that many voters are still on the fence” may yet restrain the LDP.

    • GardenGnomeLF

      Lefties always find ways to undermine what they don’t like.
      If the extreme left won, turnout would not be mentioned.

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