Shinzo Abe changed the way the world perceives Japan, Can his successor do more of the same?
2020 was supposed to be a big year for Japan with its capital Tokyo hosting the Summer Olympics but we all know how that went. Instead, as the year comes to a close, Japan finds itself with a new Prime Minister after Shinzo Abe retires from politics for health reasons. Under Abe’s steady hand for almost a decade, a new Japan has emerged, one much more confident on the global scene. Something that has proven to be very important as a bulwark to China’s increasingly assertive stance in the region. Abe’s leadership has played a major role in Japan trying to rid itself of the military guilt caused by actions it took in the first half of the 20th century.
Yoshihide Suga, the son of a strawberry farmer and Abe’s chief spokesperson for the last few years, is the man handpicked by the outgoing leader to succeed him. While there is little doubt that Suga will stay the course, Abe’s great success, like Shinzo Koizumi, was keeping the various factions of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic party (LDP) at bay. This is a party whose intense factionalism had led to a revolving door; between Koizumi’s tenure ending in 2006 and Abe’s second term starting in 2012, Japan had six Prime Ministers (including Abe himself for a year). Keeping the factions at bay while pleasing the rank and file of the party, which preferred former defence minister Shigeru Ishiba for the top job, was quite the feat. The fact that Suga was appointed as Prime Minister without winning a popular mandate also rankles several politicians and analysts although elections are likely to be called very soon. Japan has proven itself to be a strong, resurgent power and the Olympics were meant to highlight a new, more self-confident nation. Its ties with the US are stronger than before and the nation has played a key role in the creation of the ‘Quad’ with the US, Australia and until very recently, a very reticent India. Abe’s personal friendship with Narendra Modi has seen a huge amount of investment by Japanese firms in India, although tempered by India’s stop-start economic growth. Suge is almost certain to keep the momentum of Japan’s new-found military and economic confidence going and indeed no matter what happens in that country politically over the next few years, it has turned a corner under Abe and will not keep looking back at its past.
(Courtesy: Editorial-The Pioneer)