Japan’s snap election won’t ease Abe’s woes

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Author: Corey Wallace, ANU

When Abe dissolved the lower house on 21 November 2014 and called a snap election for December, top leaders in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and New Komeito identified keeping 270 seats as the low-water mark, which would represent a loss of 56 seats. Given current economic conditions and the state of public opinion, a unified and confident opposition would probably extract such losses and would challenge the LDP–New Komeito coalition’s majority. But the opposition is still struggling to unify, so Abe and the coalition look reasonably safe. Read more…

Japan’s unnecessary election

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a press conference at his official residence in Tokyo, 18 November 2014. Abe called a snap election for December and put off a sales tax hike planned for next year until 2017. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW Canberra

Prime Minister Abe is subjecting his ruling coalition — and his nation — to an unnecessary election on 14 December 2014. Abe claims his decision is all about policy, but in reality it is all about politics. His stated rationale for calling the election is the need to secure voters’ endorsement of his administration’s decision to postpone the consumption tax rise to 10 per cent until April 2017. But his real reasons are based on cold calculations of political self-interest. Read more…

Remembrance, reconciliation and the East Asian memory wars

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Author: Tessa Morris-Suzuki, ANU

‘The past’, as William Faulkner once wrote, ‘is not dead, it isn’t even past’. Nowhere is this more true than in today’s East Asia. The recent ‘memory wars’ between the countries of the region — particularly (though not exclusively) between Japan and its neighbours China and Korea — are eloquent testimony to the power of the past to haunt the present and influence the course of domestic and international politics. Read more…

Can Japan’s National Security Strategy outlive Abe?

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reviews members of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces at Asaka Base, Tokyo, 27 October 2013. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Yuki Tatsumi, Stimson Center

On 17 December 2013, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe issued Japan’s first National Security Strategy (NSS). The document declares that Japan will make a more ‘proactive contribution to peace’ based on the principle of international cooperation. It also outlines three basic goals for Japan’s national security — ensuring the nation’s territorial sovereignty, improving the security environment in the Asia Pacific region by cooperating with the United States and other regional partners, and active participation in global efforts to maintain international order. Read more…

Japan’s economic experiment

Bank of Japan (BOJ) Governor Haruhiko Kuroda at a press conference at the BOJ headquarters in Tokyo. The Bank of Japan sent a new shock-wave through financial markets last week when Governor Haruhiko Kuroda announced another massive round of monetary expansion. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, East Asia Forum

The Bank of Japan sent a new shock-wave through financial markets last week when Governor Haruhiko Kuroda announced another massive round of monetary expansion (Quantitative Easing or QE). The additional boost to the Japanese money supply was accompanied by a sharp lift of 4 per cent in the Nikkei stock market index and the yen falling to a seven-year low against the dollar. Some now fear that the impact of Japan’s monetary expansion will lead to the outbreak of a serious currency war. Read more…

What’s the score on Japan’s Abenomics

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie arrive at Beijing Capital Airport in China on 9 November 2014. Abe is in China to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) 2014 Summit and related meetings. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Hugh Patrick, Columbia University

The December 2012 election gave Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party control of both houses of the Diet as the electorate sought positive, decisive, energetic leadership out of the malaise of the past two decades. Shinzo Abe offered himself as that leader, with Abenomics as his program. Elections are next scheduled for mid-2016. Read more…

Time for India to punch above its weight with Japan

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Authors: Keshav Kelkar and Marc McCrum, UBC

Since taking office, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made efforts to entice foreign investment into India and to establish closer ties with Japan. Warm diplomatic gestures between Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have garnered considerable attention, with some commentators arguing that Modi’s recent visit to Japan marks the beginning of a new Indo-Japanese relationship aimed at countering China’s growing influence in the region. Others have referred to ‘India’s pivot to Japan’ and ‘Japan’s pivot to India’. Read more…

Hard line or soft line? Xi Jinping’s diplomatic choices

Wellwishers greet Xi Jinping, then China’s vice-president, at Haneda airport in December 2009. As president, Xi has the responsibility for promoting peace, tolerance and international trust, and at the same time building ‘powerful armies’ and a ‘strong maritime nation’. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Satoshi Amako, Waseda University

Xi Jinping has tackled serious domestic and foreign policy challenges since he assumed leadership in November 2012. He has put great effort into an astonishingly large-scale domestic anti-corruption campaign and has invested diplomatically in enhancing China’s image as a major country and leader in the region.

Xi’s mission, emphasised repeatedly after the 18th Communist Party Congress, is realising the ‘Chinese dream’. Read more…

Can Japan’s feed-in tariff continue to promote growth in renewable energy?

This handout photo from the Global Green Challenge shows the Japanese team Tokai Challenger celebrating their victory in the World Solar Challenge in Adelaide on 28 October 2009. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Espen Moe, NTNU

The effects of Japan’s feed-in tariff (FIT) for renewable energy have been impressive. Since 2011, Japan has seen a massive expansion of solar photovoltaics (PV). The size of the domestic market increased from 1GW in 2010 to almost 7GW in 2013. This solar expansion is expected to continue with the 2020 target for PV installations raised from 14GW to 28GW. But the success of renewable energy should not be taken for granted.
Read more…

Sino–Japanese relations 120 years after the war

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Author: Liu Jiangyong, Tsinghua University

The year 2014 marks 120 years since the First Sino–Japanese War. While the two nations have enjoyed several decades of peace, there is an uneasy feeling in China that recent developments and revisions to the Japanese constitution draw parallels with the decade prior to 1894. Read more…

What to expect from the new US–Japan Defense Guidelines

Ships from the US Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, including the George Washington Strike Group, steam together after the conclusion of exercise Keen Sword, a biennial exercise between Japan and the US, 16 November 2012. (Photo: US Pacific Fleet/Flickr).

Author: Ken Jimbo, Keio University

When the current Guidelines for US–Japan Defense Cooperation were released in 1997, the core strategic impulse of Washington and Tokyo was to deal with potential armed contingencies in Northeast Asia, namely regarding the Korean peninsula and Taiwan. As the US Asia strategy emphasised deterrence of and response to these contingencies, Japan reconfigured its alliance strategy from predominantly territorial defence to proactive cooperation with the US in ‘situations in areas surrounding Japan’. Read more…

Is that as good as it gets for Abenomics?

An eclipse over Tokyo: has Abenomics done its dash already? (Photo: AAP).

Author: Tobias Harris, Teneo

As the second year of Abenomics progresses, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s program of coordinated monetary and fiscal stimulus and structural reform has lost some of its lustre. Not only have Abe’s approval ratings fallen below 50 per cent for the first time since he took office in December 2012, but a recent poll in the right-wing Sankei Shimbun found that, for the first time, disapproval of Abe’s economic policies had exceeded its approval ratings, with 47 per cent opposed and 39 per cent in favour. Read more…

Asian cooperation hanging on a handshake

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe and other regional leaders look on as China’s President Xi Jinping shakes hands with former Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at last year’s APEC meeting in Indonesia. This year there is intense focus on the APEC opportunity to begin to fix the political relationship between China and Japan. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, East Asia Forum

The APEC summit is just over a week away and all stops are out in Beijing to make it an economic and diplomatic triumph, despite the huge underlying challenges in managing China’s relations with the region. The primary goals and foundations of APEC are economic — delivering on Asia’s economic development ambitions within the framework of the rules-based global economic system. Read more…

Looking for a plus-one, Japan turns to Vietnam

Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe prior to their talks at Abe's office in Tokyo on 10 October, 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Kensuke Yanagida, Japan Institute of International Affairs

As Japan seeks to diversify its investments beyond China, an opportunity arises for Vietnam to attract greater international investment.

Over the past few years, firms invested in China have started diversifying their investment destinations and reducing their overreliance on China, in what is called the ‘China Plus One Strategy’. Read more…