Attempts by Japan to return to militarist past face tough new geopolitics

Source:Global Times Published: 2013-12-11 21:03:01

Japan has drawn wide attention as well as severe criticism for approving a state secrets act Friday which will further guarantee the effective implementation of the National Security Council established two days earlier.

Such rightist and militarist maneuvers, coupled with Abenomics, have reminded people around the world of Japan's likely return to a political stance echoing the perilous WWII era.

Mass media and public opinion are showing grave concern over the frantic remarks and actions by Abe's cabinet, and some exhibit fear of the nation's regression to the disastrous wartime policies economically, politically and militarily.

Whether Abenomics, which has just celebrated a rather plain one-year-old birthday, will bring a lasting recovery and growth remains in doubt.

Shinzo Abe's three arrows - massive fiscal stimulus, aggressive monetary easing and structural reform - are quite similar to the economic policies in prewar Japan, since both featured the yen's depreciation and a budget deficit increase.

Another similarity is that then Japanese government and the current Abe administration both strived to buoy domestic demand, which constitutes the fundamental driving force for the country's economy.

With a peasant economy, where masses suffered from suppression and exploitation from landlords and lived in poverty in the early 1900s, the country failed to tap into its domestic market. This led to Tokyo's invasion of China and it became heavily reliant upon the Chinese market by exporting some 60 percent of its products to China and utilizing approximately the same amount of China's resources to revive its moribund economy.

Though it urgently needs to stimulate domestic consumption, the current government faces obstacles from an aging population who prefer saving to spending amid economic instability.

Since Abenomics has not alleviated this sluggish scenario, Tokyo has turned to Southeast Asia for investments after nearly two decades in dormancy. It is fair to say that Abe is pursuing a parallel strategy of engaging both China and Southeast Asian nations in the wake of its thorny political tensions with the former.

The current political and military policies adopted by the Abe administration also bear a resemblance to those in the prewar years.

There is the establishment of the National Security Council which was reportedly set up to discuss issues including the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone and the North Korean nuclear threat.

Creating favorable conditions for the Japan Self-Defense Forces to deploy units overseas through exercising the right to collective self-defense, the council, involving the Japanese prime minister, chief cabinet secretary, foreign minister and defense minister, is expected to exert similar functions with the Five Ministers' Conferences that set policies for the then empire's invasion and expansion plans in the 1930s.

Moreover, a state secrets act was passed by the Diet immediately after the setup of the council.

The act was likened to Japan's tough military secrets-protection legislation, introduced during the Meiji period and was then revised to be more war-supportive in the light of escalating Sino-Japanese tensions.

The legislation was abolished after WWII. However, now there is a sign that Tokyo is betraying its postwar pacifist path with the approval of the new secrecy act, which allows ministers to broadly categorize information as related to diplomacy, defense, counterintelligence and counterterrorism and bring it under a veil of secrecy. Public servants and journalists will be jailed for leaking information, inappropriate reporting and solicitation.

The law, designed to support the National Security Council, will help Abe rewrite the country's war-renouncing constitution, executing collective self-defense and formulating harsher peripheral diplomatic policies.

Although Japan's ambitions are prominent, the global geopolitical situation has fundamentally changed from decades ago.

It should be noted that the present international landscape makes it hard for Tokyo to embark on a militarist road, notwithstanding Abe's desire for the glory of a fascist Japan. 

The article was compiled by Global Times reporter Wang Xiaonan based on an interview with Zhou Yongsheng, professor of the Institute of International Relations of China Foreign Affairs University.

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