Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reshuffled his cabinet this week. Switching up cabinet officials is common practice in Japan, and in fact Abe kept his current cabinet since 2012, a record for any Japanese PM since WWII. He appointed more women to his cabinet, practicing what he preached about getting more Japanese women in the workplace, and he appointed several economic officials who are well-liked by the international market. But perhaps the most consequential part of the reshuffling is his appointment of several ministers who are friendly to China. Reuters reports:
In a bid for party unity, the hawkish Abe tapped outgoing Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki, his predecessor as LDP leader, for the key party post of secretary-general, the LDP’s de facto election campaign chief.Tanigaki, 69, is from a moderate wing of the LDP that favors better ties with China. He was also an architect of a plan to hike the sales tax in two stages to curb Japan’s huge public debt. Implementation of the second stage is now in doubt due to a string of gloomy economic data.Veteran lawmaker Toshihiro Nikai, 75, who also has close ties with China, was appointed to a second top party post. Outgoing administrative reform minister Tomomi Inada, 55, a close conservative ally of Abe, became LDP policy chief.“He is sending a strong message to China that he wants to improve ties. Not only Tanigaki but Nikai have good ties with China,” said political analyst Atsuo Ito.
Abe has been signaling that he wants to meet with Chinese president Xi Jinping, most likely at an upcoming summit of Asian leaders in November. But during the recent visit of his friend and ally, Indian PM Narendra Modi, he also indicated that Japan will take a strong stand against China’s increasing territorial aggression. Meanwhile, Abe’s party has worked to reinterpret the country’s constitutional restrictions on military action, and Japan is now selling military hardware for the first time. Japan’s PM appears to be walking the tightrope, hoping to improve relations between Tokyo and Beijing while at the same time balancing an increasingly aggressive China.