The assassination of Shinzo Abe shocked Japanese public opinion and aroused a strong outpouring of sympathy from the international community, particularly Japan’s allies and partners. Abe, a third-generation politician, who represented the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), was revered in India as a friend and partner. But what he meant as a leader for Japan and for the world is a moot point.
Fumio Kishida, the outgoing prime minister, has promised to fulfill Abe’s most important political goal of revising Article 9 of Japan’s constitution. It is a good example. Abe was unable to repeal the article, but he managed to overcome its restrictions by devious means to facilitate armed response and participate in collective security measures.
The rationale that they were meant to bolster Japan’s security in the face of China’s resurgence failed to convince others in the region, as memories of Japan’s warlike colonial past were stirred, leading to strong protests. on the part of the victim nations and flawed the security environment for Japan. by accelerating the militarization of East Asia.
Its proactive diplomacy has put Japan back on the world stage to some extent, especially in East Asia. But Abe’s hardline stances on the legacy of Imperial Japan, including wartime atrocities in Asia and the Pacific, squandered any gains he had made through initial gestures of goodwill.
He argued that the Nanjing Massacre of 1937 was a fabrication, an effort by the Chinese to smear the Japanese, and that the number of murders was “exaggerated”. It’s akin to ‘Holocaust denial’, although he tried to apologize during his second term.
After agreeing with South Korea to settle the “comfort women” issue in 2015, Abe denied that Japan had built such a system or that its government was involved in it.
To complement his history denial efforts, he extended his efforts to rewriting textbooks to whitewash Japanese war crimes.
Abe ascended to power for a second term in 2012, promising to pull the economy out of two “lost decades” of stagnation. Abenomics, as his policy was called, aimed to improve demand and achieve an inflation rate of 2%.
The aim was to “increase competition, expand trade and increase employment” through three policy arrows: fiscal stimulus, quantitative easing and structural reforms. It has accelerated growth, but not at the expected rate. The monetary easing boosted stock prices and weakened the yen, helping exporters make huge profits. But big business hasn’t raised wages, and household spending hasn’t increased. Consequently, Abe could neither meet the inflation target nor pass on the benefits to his people.
Abe spoke of a “democratic security diamond” in his first term as a partnership between liberal democracies against an authoritarian China. But neither his instincts were democratic nor his actions guided by him.
It has only helped to perpetuate the one-party rule of the LDP, uninterrupted since 1955, with the exception of three years each in 1993 and 2009, by crushing opposition from within and from within. outside.
Abe’s reign was riddled with numerous scandals. His administration suppressed freedom of the press through censorship, intimidation and the weakening of legal protections.
The Specially Designated Secrets Act came into effect in 2014, under which journalists who work with government whistleblowers could face up to five years in prison. Japan rose from 10th place in 2010 to 72nd place in 2015 in Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index.
Certainly, Abe showed leadership by selling the Indo-Pacific idea to Australia, India and the United States and helping to create the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) to contain the China. However, the aspirations were inherently inconsistent and the scope was limited. Members have often made contradictory overtures to China to achieve narrow ends, including Japan’s support for the Belt and Road Initiative.
Painting the Quad as “Asian NATO” reduced its appeal among other countries in the region. Additionally, the AUKUS trilateral security pact between Australia, the UK and the US, announced in 2021, has undermined the Quad’s objective.
and prospects seriously, and therefore, Abe’s legacy for
the world too.
As a blue-blooded politician, Abe had many advantages of access, resources, networks, and knowledge to meet both political and personal goals while in and out of office. Many interpreted his vaunted slogan “Japan is back” as telescopic as much as his desire to put Japan back on the world stage, but much of his policy was to reenact Japan’s glorious imperial past rather than advancing. in the 21st century, whether fulfilling The main goal of the LDP is to militarize Japan through constitutional revision or to deny the rape of Nanjing.
(The author is a non-resident fellow of the Taiwan Center for Security Studies, National Chengchi University, Taipei.)