Publication in Economics, Politics and Public Policy in East Asia and the Pacific

The enigma of Shinzo Abe’s legacy

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

The question of Shinzo Abe’s legacy has been thrust into the spotlight by recent milestones. Abe overtook his great-uncle Eisaku Sato to become the longest serving post-war Japanese prime minister on 23 August this year. And on 20 November, Abe overtook Taro Katsura to become Japan’s longest-serving prime minister since the inception of parliamentary politics in Japan in 1889.

Beyond his longevity, what will Abe be most remembered for?

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Shinzo Abe: A legacy of his own

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at the conference Communication Connecting Europe and Asia, in Brussels, Belgium, 27 September 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Francois Lenoir).

Author: Sheila A Smith, CFR

Shinzo Abe became Japan’s longest serving prime minister on 20 November 2019. Staying atop a parliamentary democracy seems a herculean task these days, but it is especially hard in Japan where prime ministers have come and gone with alacrity. But more than time served, Abe will be remembered for what he did while in power: He has returned his party to centre stage, reasserted Japan’s standing on the world stage and reinforced the foundations of Japan’s strategy in a turbulent Asia.

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US–Japan trade and Trump’s political trophy

US President Donald Trump reaches out to shake hands with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York City, New York, US, 25 September 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst).

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe inked the US–Japan Trade Agreement to much fanfare on 25 September 2019. Abe declared the deal a ‘win-win’ for both sides while Trump has emphasised that it ‘a huge victory for America’s farmers, ranchers and growers’. Yet the deal is positioned as an initial agreement in the midst of ongoing negotiations. With an estimated liberalisation rate of 60–70 per cent on a trade value basis, it falls far short of the comprehensive standards expected of bilateral accords under World Trade Organization rules. So why the rush to get a limited deal?

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Japan should mediate in the Persian Gulf

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meets with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tehran, 12 June 2019 (Photo: Reuters).

Author: Mari Nukii, Japan Institute of International Affairs

Tensions between Iran and the United States are escalating rapidly. Japan has good relations with all countries at odds with each other in the Middle East, putting it in a favourable position to mediate efforts for avoiding war in the Persian Gulf. Read more…

Japan opens its doors to foreign labour

An elderly woman walks on a street in Tokyo's Sugamo district, 14 January 2015 (Photo: Reuters/Toru Hanai).

Author: Yuri Okina, Japan Research Institute

Since April 2019, the Japanese government has started to expand its immigration program to increase the number of blue-collar foreign workers arriving in the country. But much more needs to be done to sustain Japan’s economy.

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Peak Japan

Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko look at Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a memorial service ceremony marking the the 73rd anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War Two, Budokan Hall, Tokyo, Japan, 15 August 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Toru Hanai).

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

Japan’s post-war transformation saw the country grow into an economic superpower and a key ally of the United States in Asia and the Pacific. Yet a number of features emblematic of that transformation have peaked. Read more…

Can Tokyo survive Trump?

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US President Donald Trump arrive for a joint news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington DC, 7 June 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Carlos Barria).

Author: Sheila A Smith, CFR

A year and a half into the Trump presidency, US foreign policy seems to have settled into a state of persistent flux, with its longstanding diplomatic relations turned on their head. Allies have been dubbed adversaries, and adversaries described as friends. The NATO summit reflected greater tension than the meeting between the US and Russian presidents in Helsinki, despite the National Security Strategy’s cautious tale of a rise in major power rivalry.  Read more…

No Mattis miracles at Shangri-La as allies urged to keep the faith

Japan's Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera, US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis and South Korea's Defence Minister Song Young-moo attend a trilateral meeting on the sidelines of the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, 3 June 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Edgar Su).

Author: James Curran, Sydney University

US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis revealed much more than Washington’s intense frustration with China’s continued militarisation of the South China Sea in his speech at the recent Shangri-La Dialogue.

On display in Singapore was a considered attempt to remind US allies and others that America’s regional presence has a history.  Read more…

Mr Turnbull dabbles at the edge of strategic clarity in Japan

Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull talks with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe during a meeting of Japan's National Security Council at Abe's official residence in Tokyo, Japan 18 January 2018. (Photo: Reuters/Shizuo Kambayashi).

Author: Peter Drysdale, ANU

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s first foreign policy excursion of the year to Japan last week should have been the diplomatic slam dunk some reports suggest. No country in the region has a closer alignment of strategic interests with Australia, which built its post-war engagement in Asia on the foundations of the relationship with Japan. Read more…

Repositioning the US–Japan alliance under Trump

US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe leave after delivering remarks on North Korea at Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, US, 11 February 2017. (Photo: Reuters/Carlos Barria).

Author: Editorial Board, East Asia Forum

As the Trump wrecking ball swings at the machinery of US relations in Asia and the Pacific, US allies are quietly contemplating how to best respond to the new reality. The pain of this is particularly acute in Japan. Read more…

Domestic dalliances jeopardise Japan’s foreign relations

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to reporters as he arrives at his office in Tokyo, Japan, 3 July 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon).

Author: Kazuhiko Togo, Kyoto Sangyo University

Mid-2017 is certainly a time to remember for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. His cabinet approval rating fell drastically from around 60 per cent in March to below 30 per cent in July. Abe’s fall from grace started with the Moritomo Gakuen scandal in Osaka. Read more…

Japan’s new security agenda

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Ashigara (front), the U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain transit the Philippine Sea 28 April 2017. U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Z.A. Landers (Photo: Reuters).

Author: Jason Buckley, ANU

In September 2015, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe passed new security legislation permitting Japan to come to the aid of an ally under attack. This was a crucial step in Japan’s journey to becoming a ‘normal’ nation able to do more for its own security. Read more…

‘America First’ is unlikely to shake up the Asia Pacific

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reviews the honour guard before a meeting with Japan's Defense Minister Tomomi Inada at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo, Japan, 4 February 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Toru Hanai)

Author: Ted Gover, Central Texas College

President Trump’s ‘America First’ doctrine is a vigorous argument to change the United States’ actions at home and abroad while departing from the US post-war order that Trump argues left many US workers behind. This markedly different platform has created uncertainty in regional affairs, giving policymakers in Washington and elsewhere plenty of consternation as they strive to adjust.  Read more…

Mr Abe goes to Washington

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is greeted by US President Donald Trump in Washington, US. (Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

Author: Editors, East Asia Forum

Late last week Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with US President Donald Trump in Washington DC. This was their second meeting after a November stopover which made Abe the first world leader to meet with Trump after his election victory. Read more…

President Trump and getting on the front foot in Asia

US President Donald Trump salutes participants during the inaugural parade in Washington (Photo: Reuters/ Carlos Barria).
 Author: Editors, East Asia Forum

The inauguration of the 45th US President, Donald Trump, is a game-changer and the fallout threatens Asian interests perhaps more than those in any other part of the world.

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