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Former Japanese PM leaves successor a dangerous legacy



Oct 06, 2021, 08:21

Japan's new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (R) is formally inaugurated in a ceremony with Emperor Naruhito (L), in the presence of Kishida's predecessor Yoshihide Suga (2nd L) at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan, October 4, 2021. /Getty

Former Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida replaced Yoshihide Suga as the nation's prime minister on October 4 after winning the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's elections last week. He held a press conference afterward to announce that elections to the lower house of parliament will be held on October 31, earlier than the date sometime in November that observers expected. Kishida says that he needs the people's mandate to advance his vision of a new capitalism and new society after COVID-19.

According to him, these will be based on the dual pillars of growth and distribution. He plans to invest heavily in sci-tech-oriented growth, green technology, AI, digital industry, and biology. Kishida also promised to help expand the middle class, improve social security and healthcare, and incentivize more births. On the foreign front, he reaffirmed that the Japanese-U.S. alliance is his cornerstone. Kishida said that he's committed to promoting freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

This policy is directly influenced by Suga, who despite only spending a year on the job, left behind a very hostile regional legacy. It was under his rule that Chinese-Japanese relations severely deteriorated in parallel with Japanese-U.S. relations comprehensively intensifying. Suga will therefore go down in history as the man who significantly escalated tensions with his largest neighbor and surrendered more of his country's sovereignty to its transpacific patron at the expense of its objective national security interests.

Japanese foreign policy was far from perfect before Suga took office, but it at least used to attempt (however insincerely) to strike a balance between China and the United States. Upon him taking power, the Quad, comprising India, Australia, Japan, and the U.S., began to rapidly militarize. Suga therefore oversaw the bloc transforming into an increasingly hostile U.S.-led military force to "contain" China. This symbolized Japan's departure from its prior foreign policy, which was already years in the making.

Under Prime Minister Suga, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi repeatedly attacked China over the Diaoyu Islands and Taiwan issues, saying in June that "the security of Taiwan is directly connected to that of Japan," and revealing in September that Japan might fight China over the Diaoyu Islands. It's difficult to imagine the top Japanese military official saying such things just a few short years ago, but that just shows how much former U.S. President Donald Trump succeeded in turning Japan against China.

It deserves to be mentioned that Suga's aggressive foreign policy moves can be interpreted as an attempted distraction from his country's COVID-19 and economic crises. In a sense, this is similar in spirit to U.S. President Joe Biden's attempt to divert his public's attention from these same two crises toward China. It therefore might not be a coincidence that Suga waited until Biden entered office before having Kishi saber-rattle against China. He simply followed the lead of his country's new foreign patron.

Kishida will retain Kishi as his defense minister but is replacing many others with close allies of Suga's predecessor. This suggests that he'll largely continue the anti-Chinese military policy that he inherited while actively attempting to reform parts of Japan's domestic policy. The annual white paper "Defense of Japan 2021," which the ministry of defense released in July, included the issue of Taiwan's security for the first time ever so it's now officially that country's policy. This makes it almost impossible for Kishida to remove the indelible stain that Suga left on Japanese policy through Kishi.

This might explain why Kishida decided to retain Suga's controversial defense minister, which was likely to appease the ruling party's anti-Chinese hawks. It would have been better had he decided to replace Kishi, but he's under tremendous pressure by the U.S. into keeping him. Kishida's primary challenge will be to assert Japan's objective regional interests of improving relations with China in the face of this foreign pressure.

Nevertheless, he doesn't seem too interested in striking such a balance. Kishida announced during his press conference that he'll protect Japan's airspace and maritime territory, which implies continuing Suga's policy of brinkmanship over the Diaoyu Islands. It was also concerning that he promised to enhance his country's missile defense and maritime capabilities. This will institutionalize Suga's counterproductive legacy on Chinese-Japanese relations as the so-called new normal. More U.S.-backed Japanese provocations in those islands and Taiwan can therefore be expected in the future.

The ideal scenario would be for Kishida to pay lip service to continuing Suga's anti-Chinese legacy via Kishi due to U.S. pressure, but in practice focus the bulk of his efforts on dealing with Japan's COVID-19 and economic crises instead. His vision of a new capitalism and new society is promising and deserves his full attention. In any case, it's clear that Suga left his mark on Japanese foreign policy in only a year by turning his country into one of the U.S.' vanguard proxy states against China. Hopefully, Kishida will wise up to what a dangerous position this placed his homeland in and accordingly moderate its hostile policies, though his press conference raised doubts about whether he will.

The author Andrew Korybko is a Moscow-based American political analyst. (Source: CGTN)

13 552
pnp post time: 2021-10-09 10:25

This is simply a double standard: what's good for someone, is not good for someone else. Aren't western styles of clothing such as denim jeans, suits & ties, t-shirts, bikini bathing suits popular in China?

Newtown post time: 2021-10-09 08:22

Trying to wriggle your way out? What about the 'mob' that you applied to the Chinese?  Isn't that sneering at them for wearing Zhou Eng Lai blue suit without tie?  Let's face it, you have never posted anything positive about China during your long journey thru Forum; you only have negative comments, and this is just another one of your snide remarks!

Newtown post time: 2021-10-09 08:22

Sure, you are free to wear your pyjamas in the market place as you mentioned in one of your posts. But here we are talking about Japanese leaders in their formal dress imitating Etonian long coat-tails!

pnp post time: 2021-10-08 13:22

If I am free to wear what ever I please then doesn't the same principle apply to these Japanese people? [ Rather having them being chastised for wearing formal English fashions.] I wouldn't ''sneer'' at an item of clothing which I wear myself, and as indicated in the first statement, respect people's rights to whatever rainment they wish to don.

Newtown post time: 2021-10-08 08:56

"Does that mean that I am not allowed to wear it because I am not Chinese although that's where it was purchased"

No one is saying you can't wear it;  you are free to wear whatever pleases you, even the NZ Maori grass skirts!  All I did was to point out to you that the Zhou Eng Lai blue suit is nothing to sneer at, which you had obviously done.

gork post time: 2021-10-06 15:16

Pity them Japanese; they don't have anything they can call their own; they are always copying others, not just the Etonian long coat-tails but also the Chinese language, as they don't have their own written language! Perhaps sushi is the only thing they can brag of?

gork post time: 2021-10-06 15:16

I don't care if them Japs roam around in the nude, bending their backs towards ea. other gives me the creeps...

 Them 300000 jap soldiers surrender in Taiwan and changing their names to Taiwanese gives even a stiff one the creeps, seeing what's going on today with Taiwanese drive towards Bering absorbed to the jap empire...

 Independence is only a station towards the terminus...

pnp post time: 2021-10-07 11:51

''the Zhou Engl Lai suit is every inch Chinese'' I own such a suit  ( with one 'l' ). Does that mean that I am not allowed to wear it because I am not Chinese although that's where it was purchased. None of my compatriots took part in the Capitol riots; I think that I could easily spot someone sporting buffalo horns and Indian headdress around this neighbourhood.

Newtown post time: 2021-10-06 19:45

Mind your language, you have offended the Chinese on two counts; first the Zhou Engl Lai suit is every inch Chinese, unlike the Jpanese leaders' long coat-tails, an imitation of the West. 

And your use the use of the word 'mob' on the Chinese is downright offensive to say the least; you should reserve that for your compatriots involved in the 6 Jan riots at the Capitol!  

gork post time: 2021-10-06 15:16

The Japanese leaders have dual personality; they are Asians, but they imitate the West, in dress as well as in politics!  Can't blame them though, the US dropped two atom bombs on them, and forced them to kowtow to the US, and they have until now, been unable to find their own identity and independent foreign policy, always turning to its master, the US, for direction!  What a shame!