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.