The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Shinzo Abe’s Rendezvous with Destiny

Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party was catapulted by large poll margins into a majority coalition government earlier this month, and parliament elected Shinzo Abe, the LDP’s leader, as Prime Minister. Mr. Abe has now appointed his new cabinet, and he has ambitious hopes for his government:

Mr Abe, who was also PM in 2006-07, chose another former premier, Taro Aso, for the key role of finance minister.

Analysts say the cabinet includes a number of Mr Abe’s close allies as he eyes the task of pulling Japan out of a prolonged economic slump.

Mr Abe told a news conference in Tokyo: “With the strength of my entire cabinet, I will implement bold monetary policy, flexible fiscal policy and a growth strategy that encourages private investment, and with these three policy pillars, achieve results.

He also said he would step up Japan’s alliance with the United States.

Abe is well known for his nationalistic rhetoric, and he aims to build up Japan’s military as well as its economy:

The grandson of a former prime minister and son of an ex-foreign minister, Mr Abe, 58, has pledged to take a tough line in a territorial row with China.

China has urged the new government to take “practical steps” to deal with the dispute over islands in the East China Sea.

Mr Abe has also called for Japan’s pacifist constitution to be revised and patriotic sentiment nurtured.

It’s too early to tell whether Abe will be more successful this time than during his last stint in office. One way or the other, though, Japan is on the way to a new era. If Abe’s team can break the political and economic forces that have kept the Japanese economy growing slow and its debt high, it can reaffirm the unique world role Japan has held since its defeat of Russia signaled the beginning of the end of the white domination of the world. But if Abe’s plans don’t work, Japan’s relative decline will accelerate, and the Pacific Century will ironically see the first modern great power of the Pacific sink into the second ranks.

Japan does not have an infinite amount of time to turn things around. If Abe fails, the shadows will lengthen across the country known formerly as the land of the rising sun.

Published on December 27, 2012 12:15 pm