Japan’s strategic future put to test with Abe’s electoral victory

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/10/23 21:03:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party had a landslide victory in Japan's lower house elections on Sunday. The party, alongside the New Komeito Party, secured two-thirds of the seats.

The election again proved Abe's political ability to deal with crises. His approval ratings plunged to under 30 percent this summer, putting his position in danger. But he capitalized on the North Korea missile launch to heighten the sense of crisis in Japan and enhance his approval rating to 50 percent. He then dissolved the lower house and forced a snap election. Apparently he has won the bet.

Abe will be able to amend the constitution as more than two-thirds of the House of Representatives support him, but there remains strong opposition to a constitutional amendment in Japanese society. Abe has said that Article 9 of the constitution will remain, especially its second item that "land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential will never be maintained," but he wanted to add a new proviso about the status of Self-Defense Forces.

The election win means Abe will hold onto power till 2021. If everything goes well, he will become Japan's longest-serving prime minister after World War II.

The complicated partisan struggle in Japan, the dramatic change in Abe's approval ratings and the election result reflect voters are disoriented. At this time they are more easily influenced by temporary factors.

Obviously Japanese are not satisfied with the country's current situation and lately international society doesn't speak highly of Japan. But on the other hand, Abe and his party won overwhelmingly. There are not many options for Japanese nowadays as competitors were too weak to defeat Abe. His main competitor Yuriko Koike made a tactical mistake.

To discuss the details of Japan's election is meaningless given the fast-changing situation. What's important is that Abe gained a firm foothold with more aggressive posturing. He will continue to be Japan's political leader.

How will Abe use the mandate of the Japanese public? It can be expected that he will continue to implement Abenomics including its "three arrows" of monetary easing, fiscal stimulus and structural reforms. This approach has received a mixture of praise and criticism.

Compared with major Western countries, Japan's economy has performed moderately. Assessing the country's economic performance depends entirely upon the yardstick.

Japan's political elite may revise the constitution or add another provision to clarify the legal status of its defense forces. But if Japanese take this as a priority, they will miss the most important part. Security is not Japan's most critical challenge. After all, no country dares to attack Japan given its alliance with the US. North Korea's nuclear and missile tests are a bigger worry for China and South Korea than Japan.

If all of Japan remains anxious about national security, then it will have been gravely misled and collectively misjudged the situation.

Frankly Japan's political hustling doesn't serve the country's strategic interests. Japanese are not content with the existing framework and all this messing around.

Japan needs to again rise to the forefront of developed economies through technological innovation. It needs to make breakthroughs in the strategic landscape where it has consolidated its alliance with the US but strained relations with China. Only in this way can Japan be revitalized and regain its initiative in the world.

Improving frozen Sino-Japanese relations serves the interests of both countries, but it has been hard to realize. Whether Abe can substantially improve bilateral relations in his new term and how much China can guide him is significant to both sides.

The article is an editorial of the Chinese edition of the Global Times Monday. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

Posted in: ASIAN REVIEW

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