Sunday, October 11, 2020

Asia Monday Events, October 12, 2020

9:00-11:00am (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsors: George Washington University; KDI School of Public Policy and Management. Speakers: Sandra Fahy, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Sophia University; Stephen Haggard, Krause Distinguished Professor, School of Global Policy and Strategy; Liuya Zhang, PhD Candidate, Ohio State University; Jenny Town, Fellow, Stimson Center and Deputy Director of 38 North; Barbra Demick, Janice B. and Milford D. Gerton Fellow, New York Public Library’s Cullman Center; Nicholas Eberstadt, Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy, American Enterprise Institute; Melissa Hanham, Deputy Director of Open Nuclear Network, One Earth Future Foundation. Moderator: William Newcomb, Fellow, Center for Advanced Defense Studies. 

AMERICA'S TAIWAN POLICY: DEBATING STRATEGIC AMBIGUITY AND THE FUTURE OF ASIAN SECURITY. 9:00-10:30am (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Georgetown University. Speakers: Richard Haass, President of Council on Foreign Relations, Diplomat on American foreign policy; Yan Xuetong, distinguished professor, Dean of Institute of International Relations at Tsinghua University, editor-in-chief of Chinese Journal of International Politics, Vice chairman of China Association of International Relations Studies; Chiou I-jen, Democratic Progressive Party's New Frontier Foundation; Bonnie Glaser, Senior adviser for Asia, Director of China Power Project, CSIS. Moderator: Evan Medeiros, Penner Family Chair in Asian Studies at School of Foreign Service, a senior fellow with Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues. 

SECURING THE 2020 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. 10:00-11:00am (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: German Marshall Fund USA. Speakers: Karen Brinson Bell, Executive Director, North Carolina Board of Elections; Alice P. Miller, Executive Director, DC Board of Elections; Christopher E. Piper, Commissioner, Virginia Board of Elections. Moderator: Derek Chollet, Executive Vice President, German Marshall Fund of United States.

CHINA, SOVEREIGNTY AND THE 'COMMUNITY OF SHARED DESTINY. Noon-12:45pm (BST), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Chatham House Asia-Pacific. Speakers: Bill Hayton, Associate Fellow, Asia-Pacific Programme, Chatham House, Author of The Invention of China; Harriet Moynihan, Senior Research Fellow, International Law Programme, Chatham House; Kerry Brown, Associate Fellow, Asia-Pacific Programme, Chatham House. 

PREDICTIONS & OBSERVATIONS ON THE 2020 US ELECTIONS. 2:00-3:00pm (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: McCain Institute for International Leadership. Speakers: David Axelrod, Former senior advisor to President Obama, Director, University of Chicago's Institute of Politics; Rick Davis, Partner, Stone Court Capital; Trevor Potter, Founder and President of Campaign Legal Center; Bill McInturff, Co-founder and Managing Partner, Public Opinion Strategies. Moderator: Hannah Vaughan-Jones, Journalist and Presenter, CNN. 

JACKSON VISITING FELLOW DISCUSSION FORUM | SUSAN RICE. 4:00-5:00pm (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, Yale University. Speaker: Susan Rice, Former National Security Advisor to President Obama and U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, author of Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For. Moderator: Rick Levin, president of Yale, Frederick William Beinecke Professor of Economics, Emeritus.  

SECURITY AND DEFENSE COOPERATION IN THE INDO-PACIFIC | 2020 CONFERENCE ON TAIWAN IN THE INDO-PACIFIC REGION. 4:00-5:30pm (PDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Hoover Institution. Speakers: James Ellis, Annenberg Distinguished Visiting Fellow, Hoover Institution; Dr. Joseph Felter, Research fellow, Hoover Institution; Tetsuo Kotani, Senior fellow, Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA); Dr. Che-chuan Lee, Chief, National Security and Decision-making Division, Institute for National Defense and Security Research in Taiwan; Dr. Chyungly Lee, Research Fellow, Institute of International Relations at National Chengchi University. 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Monday Asia Events, September 21, 2020

GLOBAL CHINA: EXAMINING CHINA’S APPROACH TO GLOBAL GOVERNANCE AND NORMS. 9:30-10:45am (EDT), ONLINE. Sponsor: Brookings. Speaker: Welcome: Suzanne Maloney, Vice President and Director - Foreign Policy; Jeffrey Feltman, Visiting Fellow, Foreign Policy, The Brookings InstitutionJohn C. Whitehead Visiting Fellow in International Diplomacy, Foreign Policy; Lindsey W. Ford, David M. Rubenstein Fellow, Foreign Policy, Center for East Asia Policy Studies; Sophie Richardson, China Director, Human Rights Watch; David O. Shullman, Senior Advisor - International Republican Institute, Adjunct Senior Fellow, Center for a New American Security; Moderator: Patrick W. Quirk, Nonresident Fellow, Foreign Policy, Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence. 

BP ENERGY OUTLOOK 2020. 11:30am-12:30pm (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: CSIS Energy. Speaker: Spencer Dale, Group Chief Economist, bp. Moderator: Sarah Ladislaw, Senior Vice President, Energy Security and Climate Change Program. 

THE IMPACT OF THE ENERGY TRANSITION ON GLOBAL HEALTH AND ECONOMIC PROSPERITY. Noon-1:30pm (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Center on Global Energy Policy, Columbia SIPA. Speakers: Andrew Kamau, Principal Secretary for Petroleum, Ministry of Petroleum & Mining, Republic of Kenya; Cheryl LaFleur, Distinguished Visiting Fellow, Center on Global Energy Policy, Columbia SIPA; Maarten Wetselaar, Integrated Gas & New Energies Director, Shell; Mechthild Wörsdörfer, Director of Sustainability, Technology, and Outlooks, IEA. Moderator: Jason Bordoff, Founding Director, Center on Global Energy Policy, Columbia SIPA. 

CONVERSATION ON PEACEBUILDING AT SCALE. Noon (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Shamil Idriss, Search for Common Ground. Speakers: Shamil Idress, CEO, Search for Common Ground; Kathy Sun, Search for Common Ground; Saji Prelis, Search for Common Ground. Thinkers: David Wilcox, Founder REACHSCALE, Satish Jha, Chairman, REACHSCALE and EDUFRONT.

A GLOBAL ASSET PRICE BUBBLE IN A WEAK WORLD ECONOMY. 2:00-3:30pm (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: AEI. Speakers: Desmond Lachman, Resident Fellow, AEI; Tobias Adrian, Director, Monetary and Capital Markets Department, IMF; Jeffrey Frankel, James W. Harpel Professor of Capital Formation and Growth, Harvard University; William White, Senior Fellow, C.D. Howe Institute. Moderator: Alex J. Pollock, Principal Deputy Director, Office of Financial Research, US Department of the Treasury. 

A WORLD DIVIDED: THE GLOBAL STRUGGLE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE AGE OF NATION-STATES. 4:00-5:30pm (EDT), ZOOM WEBINAR. Sponsor: Wilson Center. Speakers: Eric D. Weitz, Author, Distinguished Professor of History at City College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York; Panelists: Christian F. Ostermann, Director, History and Public Policy Program, Cold War International History Project, North Korea Documentation Project, Nuclear Proliferation International History Project, Woodrow Wilson Center; Eric Arnesen, Fellow, The George Washington University; Moderator: Kathryn Sikkink, Ryan Family Professor of Human Rights Policy at Harvard's Kennedy School.  PURCHASE BOOK

FUTURE SECURITY FORUM 2020: REIMAGINING NATIONAL SECURITY IN THE AGE OF COVID-19. 9/21-24 (EDT), VIRTUAL PROGRAM. Sponsors: New America; Arizona State University; Global SOF Foundation. Speakers: Welcome remarks: Anne-Marie Slaughter, D.Phil, CEO, New America; James O'Brien, Senior Vice President, University Affairs and Chief of Staff to the President, Arizona State University; Carol Evans, PhD, Director, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College; Col. (ret) Isaiah (Ike) Wilson III, PhD, President, Joint Special Operations University; Fellow, International Security Program, New America; Panelists: Mara Hvistendahl, Author, The Scientist and the Spy: A True Story of China, the FBI, and Industrial Espionage; Samm Sacks, Cybersecurity Policy and China Digital Economy Fellow, New America; Randall G. Schriver, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs; Moderator: COL Frank Stanco, 2019-2020 Chief of Staff of the Army Senior Fellow, New America.   

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Monday Asia Events, September 14, 2020

9:00-10:00am (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Institute of World Politics. Speaker: Jung-Hoon Lee, Dean and Professor of International Relations at the Graduate School of International Studies, Yonsei University, former ROK government’s Ambassador for Human Rights. 

BECOMING KIM JONG UN: A FORMER CIA OFFICER’S INSIGHTS INTO NORTH KOREA’S ENIGMATIC YOUNG DICTATOR WITH DR. JUNG H. PAK4:30-5:30pm (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Global Impact Discussion: US-East Asia Lecture Series, Institute of World Politics. Speaker: Author, Dr. Jung H. Pak, a senior fellow and SK-Korea Foundation Chair in Korea Studies at the Brookings Institution. PURCHASE BOOK HERE.

THE U.S. AIR FORCE ARCTIC STRATEGY, ALASKA, AND THE NEW ARCTIC: A CONVERSATION WITH ALASKA'S SENATORS LISA MURKOWSKI AND DAN SULLIVAN. 4:00-5:00pm (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Wilson Center. Speakers: Lisa Murkowski, U.S. Senator for Alaska; Dan Sullivan, U.S. Senator for Alaska; Michael Sfraga, Director, Global Risk and Resilience Program & Director, Polar Institute. Moderator: Jane Harman, Director, President, and CEO, Wilson Center. 

Q&A WITH PSYCHOLOGIST SCOTT HAAS TO DISCUSS HIS NEW RELEASE WHY BE HAPPY? 6:30-8:00pm (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Japan-America Society of Washington DC. Speaker: Author, Scott Haas, Writer and Clinical psychologist. Fee. PURCHASE BOOK HERE.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Abe the Gamechanger Stumbles to Exit Under a Cloud

The abrupt resignation of Prime Minister Abe Shinzo due to poor health has sent shockwaves across the political landscape. This has raised concerns about the implications for Japan’s economy and foreign policy. 

By Jeff Kingston,
Director of Asian Studies at Temple University Japan

Australian Outlook, Australian Institute of International Affairs, 9/4/2020.

Leaders seldom time their exits well, hanging on to burnish a legacy only to get slammed by a crisis or scandal. Scanning the mass media political obituaries, there is a consensus that Abenomics was a flop and his womenomics policy a sham, while his cherished goal of constitutional revision never gained traction. He stood tall for free trade and managed Trump better than anyone else, but his most important legacy is providing stability just by lasting so long. The “Teflon premier” weathered a number of scandals involving document tampering and shredding, various cover-ups, and sweetheart land deals and special permissions for cronies, but this eroded public trust in him.

Under Abe, the political centre of gravity shifted sharply rightward, and there was a recrudescence of reactionary nationalism. He also strengthened the power of his office over top-level bureaucratic promotions, enhancing political control over the mandarins (Japanese bureaucrats). This, however, encourages a culture of sontaku (doing what one assumes a boss wants done to curry favour) among the ambitious that obscures responsibility for the alleged abuses of power that have dogged Abe since 2017. There is considerable speculation that these numerous scandals played a role in Abe’s decision to step down.

Abe came to power promising to rev up the economy, enact sweeping reforms, and assume a bolder role on the international stage. Abenomics entered the global lexicon, and his three arrows of monetary easing, fiscal stimulus, and structural reform generated a positive buzz. After two lost decades of anaemic growth and policy drift, Abe seemed like a gamechanger who could help Japan regain its mojo. On his watch, the Bank of Japan (BOJ) engaged in massive quantitative easing, driving down interest rates and the value of the yen. Corporate profits soared, and it seemed that Abe’ shock therapy had revived a wallowing economy. The Nikkei stock average doubled during his tenure, boosted in part by massive BOJ and government pension fund purchases and a surge in foreign investments. But the party was short-lived, as Abe implemented two tax increases that doubled the consumption tax and the shock of unconventional monetary policy wore off.

Moreover, the benefits never trickled down as wages remained stagnant and households didn’t feel the love. The conceit of Abenomics was that deflation was a mindset, and if the government could change the national mood and generate optimism then consumption would rise along with the economy. Alas, low consumption was due to thin wallets not a collective psychosis. Abe tried to jawbone Japan, Inc. into boosting wages, but had no luck because corporate Japan didn’t think Abenomics was sustainable.

Abenomics sputtered along, but Abe never managed to push through significant structural reforms. His signature policy of womenomics pledging to empower women never got off the ground, and according to the 2020 World Economic Forum, Japan’s ranking on gender equality slipped to 121, the lowest among advanced economies and down 11 rungs from the previous year. Due to Japan’s ageing and shrinking population, labour shortages have intensified, and expanding women’s employment, mostly in non-regular employment, has not been a sufficient remedy.

Immigration offers a solution, but Abe opposed welcoming immigrants, instead promoting limited migrant labour in certain sectors for a limited duration. The target of 345,000 migrant workers by 2025 is too small to make much of a difference in a labour market exceeding 60 million, and since the program was implemented, it has attracted few applicants because the conditions are unwelcoming. There are many factors that impede gender equality and immigration, but Abe could have used his power to push for more. His half-measures represent urgent, unfinished business for his successors.

In terms of diplomacy, Abe has done more than all of his predecessors combined in fulfilling the Pentagon’s wishlist. He focused on strengthening ties to the US and shoring up the alliance with his so-called “proactive pacifism.” He agreed to new US-Japan Defense Guidelines in 2015 and then instigated the largest protests in Japan since the turbulent 1960s when he rammed enabling legislation through the Diet. The public fears that Abe has signed up for more than they are comfortable with, and that his collective self-defence (CSD) legislation is unconstitutional. Essentially there is widespread anxiety that sometime, somewhere Japan will be dragged into conflict at Washington’s behest even if has little to do with defending Japan.

In early 2020, the constraints imposed by limited public support came to the fore as Tokyo fended off Washington’s request to join a US-led coalition of allied navies escorting oil tankers following a series of attacks near Iran, including a Japanese-owned vessel. Instead, Japan dispatched one ship to the somewhat distant but less dangerous Gulf of Oman on an intelligence gathering mission. Abe’s half-hearted response walked the tightrope of not alienating President Trump, Iran, or Japanese public opinion, a risk-averse approach that is a reality check for those eager for Japan to embrace a more robust security doctrine.

Abe did not join the coalition naval patrols because he feared a public backlash and at the time still entertained hopes for constitutional revision. No doubt Washington’s security wonks are disappointed that Japan is not doing more burden sharing and is too skittish to be its deputy sheriff in Asia, but pacifism remains embedded in the national identity. Even hawkish Japanese politicians are aware they are walking on thin ice when they dispatch troops overseas.

The nostrum of shared values is often invoked as the foundation of the alliance, but at least in Okinawa, this means sidelining public sentiments and ignoring the democratic voice of islanders expressed in several elections. Abe has remained steadfast in supporting the construction of an offshore military base in Henoko to facilitate the relocation of the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, despite overwhelming opposition among Okinawans to this plan. The Futenma location in a densely populated city is dangerous, but islanders fear that constructing the Henoko base will have devastating environmental consequences and resent that their prefecture hosts most of the US military facilities and personnel.

By ignoring Okinawan voices and deferring to Washington, has Abe really strengthened the basis of the alliance? Similarly, if Japanese leaders can’t fulfil commitments undertaken in the 2015 US-Japan Defense Guidelines due to a squeamish public, isn’t there a risk of stoking recriminations in Washington that undermine bilateral ties? The government couldn’t even find a town willing to host an Aegis ashore missile defence system because locals saw this as more of a target than a shield, a perception Okinawans share about US bases. Japan lives in a much more dangerous neighbourhood than when the peace constitution was enacted in 1947. China and North Korea pose a threat, but there is a strong disconnect between the views of alliance managers and the public.

Much is made of Abe’s successful fawning over Trump, but this hasn’t prevented Trump from abandoning the Trans-Pacific Partnership, slapping sanctions on Japan and demanding a quadrupling of host country support for US bases to $8 billion. Trump knows he has Japan over the barrel on security and is taking advantage of its vulnerability, adding to the scar tissue of gathering resentment over his highhanded bullying.

Paradoxically, Abe’s legacy is meagre, a case of power without purpose, but he dominated the political landscape and just by providing stable political leadership, he gained significant stature at home and abroad. It appears that Chief Cabinet spokesman Suga Yoshihide has been anointed to serve out Abe’s term until September 2021, representing policy continuity at a time when Japan could use some fresh thinking about its various challenges. In terms of foreign policy, Suga is not so closely associated with Abe’s Russia policy or commitment to resolving the abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s, and these issues may slip down the agenda. Suga is not so reviled by the South Korean public, so there may be opportunities to overcome the divisive past. Although he has been a very effective lieutenant, he will lack the stature of Abe to hit the reset button on foreign policy priorities. He is a nose-to-the-grindstone manager of details rather than someone who can convey a vision, safe hands without inspiration. Precisely at a time when Japan needs a resolute leader, there is a nagging suspicion that Japan is headed for weaker leadership and policy drift.

Jeff Kingston is the Director of Asian Studies at Temple University Japan. He is author and editor of a dozen books, including Press Freedom in Japan (Routledge 2017), Japan (Polity 2019) and the Politics of Religion, Nationalism and Identity in Asia (Rowman & Littlefield 2019). He edited a two-part collection of essays titled “The Tokyo Olympics Past and Present” earlier this year for the Asia Pacific Journal Japan Focus, which can be viewed at and

Monday/Tuesday Asia Events, September 7-8, 2020

COVID-19 AND JAPAN’S COORDINATED DEVELOPMENT RESPONSES IN ASIA9/7, 7:00-7:45 am (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Chatham House. Speakers: Megumi Muto, Deputy Director, Ogata Sadako Research Institute for Peace and Development, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA); Syed Zahid Aziz, Managing Director, Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA), Lahore, Pakistan; Gareth Price, Senior Research Fellow, Asia-Pacific Programme, Chatham House. 

BUILDING BACK BETTER: WHY WE MUST ADDRESS AIR POLLUTION. 9/7, 10:00-11:30am (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). Speakers: Geraint Davies MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Air Pollution, UK Parliament; Sir Andy Haines, Professor of Environmental Change and Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; Helena Molin Valdés, Head of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition Secretariat; Dr. Eleni Iacovidou, Lecturer in Environmental Management, Brunel University London; Dr. Chris Malley, Senior Research Fellow, Stockholm Environment Institute, University of York; Dr. Yewande Awe, Senior Environmental Engineer, World Bank;Dr. Sarah West, Centre Director, Stockholm Environment Institute, University of York. 

BOOK LAUNCH & PANEL DISCUSSION | FUTURE OF COAL IN INDIA: SMOOTH TRANSITION OR BUMPY ROAD AHEAD? 9/7, 5:30-7:10pm (EDT), ONLINE EVENT. Sponsor: Brookings. Speakers: Anil Jain, Secretary, Ministry of Coal, Govt. of India; Ajay Mathur – DG,TERI and Co-Chair, Energy Transitions Commission; Partha Bhattacharyya, former Chairman, Coal India Limited; Moderator: Rahul Tongia, Fellow, Brookings India. ORDER BOOK.

WILL DETERIORATING US-CHINA RELATIONS PRECIPITATE SERIOUS MILITARY CONFLICT IN ASIA? 9/8, 9:30am (SGT), WEBINAR. Sponsors: Hinrich Foundation; S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS). Speakers: Dr. Alan Dupont, Research Fellow, Hinrich Foundation, New Cold War: De-risking US-China Conflict; Joseph Liow, Research Adviser, RSIS; Amy Searight, Senior Associate (Non-resident) for Asia, CSIS; Zhu Feng, Executive Director, China Center for Collaborative Studies of the South China Sea, Nanjing University. Moderator: Dr. Andrew Staples, Director of Research and Outreach of the Hinrich Foundation. 

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 HOAX: DONALD TRUMP, FOX NEWS, AND THE DANGEROUS DISTORTION OF TRUTH. 9/8, 2:00-3:00pm (EDT), LIVESTREAM. Sponsor: National Press Club. Speaker: author, CNN Worldwide’s chief media correspondent and Reliable Sources anchor Brian Stelter. 

 THE WAR OF ASIA AND THE PACIFIC AS HISTORY OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: RECONSIDERING THE INVASION AND OCCUPATION OF FRENCH INDOCHINA BY JAPAN9/8, 6:00pm (JST), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Japan History Group (JHG), Institute of Social Science (ISS). Speakers: Franck Michelin, Professor, Teikyo University; Atsushi Moriyama, Professor, University of Shizuoka. 

JAPAN’S GEOECONOMIC STRATEGY IN THE ASIA-PACIFIC9/8, 7:30 pm (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: UC San Diego.  Speakers: Saori N. Katada, Professor of International Relations, University of Southern California; Ulrike Schaede, Professor and Director of the Japan Forum for Innovation and Technology, GPS UC San Diego.

JAPAN UPDATE 2020: JAPAN'S CHOICES BEYOND COVID-19. 9/8-9/10, 3:00-5:00am (EDT), ONLINE CONFERENCE. Sponsors: Australia-Japan Research Centre; Japan Institute at the Australian National University. Speakers include: Haruka Sakamoto, University of Tokyo; Hiromi Murakami, GRIPS; Sota Kato, Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research; Toshitaka Sekine, Hitotsubashi University; Tomohiko Satake, National Institute for Defense Studies (NIDS); Yoshihide Soeya, Keio University; Rikki Kersten, Murdoch University; Moderators: Sanjaya Senanayake, ANU; Sagiri Kitao, University of Tokyo; Lauren Richardson, ANU; Ippei Fujiwara, Keio University and ANU.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Shinzo Abe's Economic Legacy

By Richard Katz,  
Senior Fellow, Carnegie Council For Ethics in International Affairs, APP Member

Tokyo Business Today, September 1, 2020

No matter what one thinks of Shinzo Abe and his policies, it is sad to see him forced off the stage because of this illness. Hopefully, doctors can find a way to treat it.

Aside from his longevity as Prime Minister, Abe will be judged first and foremost on his Abenomics. It was the claims of Abenomics that led the public to support him and acquiesce to other things they didn’t like. Unfortunately, the reality never lived up to the advertising.

Let’s look at Abe’s own measure of his success. He vowed to bring Japan to 2% real annual growth on a steady basis. He never came close. At the beginning, it appeared as if the economy was taking off. But that was misleading.

The economy had just gone through six years of a slump brought on by the global financial crisis by the time the LDP triumphed in the election of December 2012. GDP was down 1.4% from where it had been in the first quarter of 2007 prior to the global meltdown.

It was operating so far below full capacity use of labor and capital stock, that it was due for a spurt of relatively high growth to get back to full capacity. This came in the first five quarters of Abe’s tenure, from 2012-IV to 2014-I. GDP rose a total of 3.8%.

Then, Abe hiked the consumption tax and did so again in October 2019. Both hikes triggered mild recessions. Had Japan been fundamentally healthy, those would have been minor interruptions. But Abenomics had done nothing to elevate Japan’s potential growth rate on any long-term.

Consequently, in the six years from 2014-I to 2020-I (before COVID effects hit), GDP grew a total of just 1.8%. So, in those six years, GDP grew less than the 2% Abe claimed he would achieve each year.

Then there is harm to people’s living standards. Price-adjusted personal consumption in 2020-I—again before COVID’s economic harm set in--was 0.5% lower than it had been when Abe took office.

Never before during the lost decades had Japan suffered a consumption downturn for as long a period. This came, not because people are unwilling to spend, but because tax hikes and real wage cuts reduced their income. During Abe’s eight years, real wages per worker fell 3.5%.

How about the famous three arrows?

The only arrow Abe took seriously was the first: monetary stimulus guided by Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda’s Peter Pan theory: “the moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.” Abe and Kuroda, however, acted as if the obverse were true: if you just believe you can fly, then you can.

They believed that the main obstacle to growth was lack of confidence and deflation and, consequently, conquering deflation would revive growth. In reality, despite Kuroda’s claim he could hit 2% inflation in a mere two years, he never came close. This has caused a rethink among those monetary economists who believed that a central bank could achieve whatever inflation rate it wanted if it just tried hard enough.

From April 2015 (Kuroda’s original target date for hitting 2%) through June 2020, so-called “core core” inflation (excluding food, energy and consumption taxes), averaged a negligible 0.2%. Rhetoric aside, the BOJ has more or less dropped that 2% goal. To be sure, 0.2% inflation is better than the -0.6% deflation rate seen during 1999-2012. But that has done little or nothing to stimulate growth. The fact is that deflation is not the cause of Japan’s problems, but a symptom.

As for fiscal policy: Abe applied both the gas pedal and brake, often at the same time. His tax hikes took spending money away from people. On the other hand, government spending accounted for a huge 42% of all GDP growth during his whole reign and a stunning 80% during 2014-I to 2020-I.

Despite Abe’s (unfulfilled) pledge to reach a balance in the primary budget (the whole budget except for interest payments) by 2020, Abe was forced to keep on running big deficits lest the economy suffer no growth whatsoever.

The third arrow—productivity-enhancing structural reforms—was mostly promises and boasts, with very little action. It was less a policy than a sales pitch to foreign investors.

A next big test of Abenomics will come when we see how resilient the economy will be in the face of the global economic impact COVID.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Monday Asia Events August 31, 2020

August 30 - Last Day to Register for the Association for Asian Studies (
AAS)-in-Asia 2020: Asia at the Crossroads: Solidarity through Scholarship Conference, August 31-September 

U.S.-TAIWAN ECONOMIC COOPERATION: LOOKING AHEAD9:00-10:00am (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Heritage. Speakers: Bi-khim Hsiao, Representative, Taipei  Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States; David R. Stilwell, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, U.S. Department of State; Mei-hua Wang, Minister of Economic Affairs, Republic of China (Taiwan). 

ELECTIONS 2020: FOREIGN POLICY HALF-TIME REPORT. 10:00am (EDT), #ACELECTIONS2020 EVENT. Sponsors: Atlantic Council; Samsung. Speakers: Amb. Colleen Bell, Executive Director, California Film Commission, Former Ambassador to Hungary; Amb. Paula Dobriansky, Senior Fellow, Harvard University Belfer Center, Former Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs, US Department of State, Vice Chair, Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, Atlantic Council; Moderator: Damon Wilson, Executive Vice President, Atlantic Council. 

‘DESERT ONE’: HOW THE HOSTAGE CRISIS AND FAILED RESCUE RAID STILL CLOUD US-IRAN RELATIONS. Noon, ONLINE EVENT. Sponsors: Atlantic Council; IranSource. Speakers: Nasser Hadian, Professor, University of Tehran; Barbara Kopple, Director, “Desert One"; Ambassador (Ret.) John Limbert, US State Department and US Naval Academy, Col. (Ret.) Ed Sieffert, United States Marine Corps; Moderator: Barbara Slavin, Director, Future of Iran Initiative, Atlantic Council; Introduction: Ambassador (Ret.) Stuart Eizenstat, Senior Counsel, Covington & Burling LLP. 

SCIENCE & AMERICAN ADVANCEMENT. 1:00-3:00pm (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsors: The Hill; Philip Morris International. Speakers: Hon. France A. Córdova, Former Director, National Science Foundation; Dr. Susan Hockfield, President Emerita, MIT; Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX); Phyllis Arthur, Vice President, Infectious Diseases and Diagnostics Policy, BIO; Holden Thorp, Editor-in-Chief, Science MagazineDr. Vaughan C. Turekian, Executive Director of Policy and Global Affairs at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Benjamin Corb, Director, Public Affairs, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; Hon. Paul M. Dabbar, Under Secretary for Science, DOE; Ellen R. Stofan, John and Adrienne Mars Director, National Air and Space Museum; Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ); Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN); Sponsor Perspective: Dr. Moira Gilchrist, Vice President For Strategic & Scientific Communications, Philip Morris International; Moderator: Steve Clemons, Editor-At-Large, The Hill

THE MIRACULOUS DELIVERANCE FROM AN EPIC TRAGEDY: THE END OF THE ASIA PACIFIC WAR WITH RICHARD B. FRANK. 2:00pm (EDT), ZOOM EVENT. Sponsors: Friends of the National World War II Memorial. Speaker: Richard B. Frank, internationally recognized leading authority on the Asia-Pacific War, author. PURCHASE BOOKS:

LAUNCH OF ‘UNDER BEIJING’S SHADOW’ BY MURRAY HIEBERT. 10:00pm (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Speakers: Murray Hiebert, Senior Associate, Southeast Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS); Dr. Huong Le Thu, Senior Analyst, Defence and Strategy Program, ASPI. PURCHASE BOOK:

Shinzo Abe Is Ill. But Is That the Only Reason He’s Quitting

Maybe he can’t face the Japanese people’s calls for accountability.

By Koichi Nakano
, professor of political science at Sophia University in Tokyo.

New York Times, Aug. 30, 2020

TOKYO — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s announcement on Friday that he would resign because of poor health was a rather abrupt end for a supposedly strong leader. Mr. Abe has ruled Japan, most recently, for a record seven years and eight months: He is the country’s longest-serving prime minister.

The decision was a surprise — and yet it wasn’t.

A chronic illness was also the reason Mr. Abe cited when he suddenly resigned from his first stint as prime minister in 2007.

The matter of his health had surfaced again a couple of weeks ago when, after he underwent a medical checkup, a former minister and close associate of Mr. Abe’s publicly expressed concern that the prime minister was overworked and might have to be “forced” to get a few days’ rest.

That seemed strange because Mr. Abe certainly hadn’t appeared to be working too hard. In fact, most Japanese people had grown critical about his not doing enough to manage the pandemic and its economic impact.

Mr. Abe was largely absent from public view after the coronavirus broke out in Japan early this year, popping up occasionally only to announce ill-conceived policies: His plan to distribute two washable cloth masks — so-called Abenomasks — to every household was quickly derided as futile and inefficient.

At the same time, he was still mired in various scandals from the past several years — and still failing to provide convincing accounts of his behavior.

Both the Moritomo Gakuen and Kake Gakuen scandals prompted allegations that Mr. Abe had granted special favors to ideological companions or his friends. The Moritomo Gakuen case, about a heavily discounted land deal, involved a cover-up by Finance Ministry officials, including the doctoring of public documents. Mr. Abe continues to deny any involvement (or any by his wife), but he has apologized on behalf of the government for the document tampering.

Controversy had also been growing around the cherry-blossom-viewing party the prime minister hosts every year: an official government event paid for by taxpayer money that has kept getting more and more lavish, and increasingly has seemed designed to reward Mr. Abe’s and his party’s loyal supporters. When the opposition started asking questions about the 2019 event, the Cabinet Office shredded documents listing that year’s attendees, in violation of government rules.

After that, coronavirus or not, the scandals and the cronyism continued.

In January, the prime minister bent or reinterpreted — call that what you will — a law so that a favorite prosecutor could stay in the job past the mandatory age of retirement. Then he tried to have the law formally amended — a move that looked like an attempt to retroactively validate what he had already improperly done. But after the prosecutor was forced to resign over illegal gambling, Mr. Abe had to retract the plan.

In June, the justice minister and a close aide of Mr. Abe, Katsuyuki Kawai, and his wife, Anri, a member of the upper house of Parliament from Mr. Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, were arrested and charged with vote buying during the election for that chamber last year. The Kawais received 150 million yen (more than $1.4 million) from the L.D.P., over which Mr. Abe presides. (The prime minister denies any involvement. The Kawais have pleaded not guilty to the charges.)

In short: Mr. Abe has had a lot of explaining to do — to Parliament, the media, the public. And yet he has done as little of that as possible.

Mr. Abe closed the ordinary session of Parliament, known as the Diet, on June 17. On July 31, the opposition called for an extraordinary session as soon as possible. Although such requests are a right guaranteed by the Constitution, Mr. Abe rejected it: It was the third time he has done so.

Before Mr. Abe’s resignation announcement on Friday, his last proper news conference had been on June 18 — even though a prime minister’s news conferences with Japanese media are notoriously staged and meek affairs.

No wonder that by then public support for Mr. Abe had already dropped to its lowest levels since the start of the coronavirus crisis.

Japan has been relatively successful in managing the spread of the virus and limiting the death toll, but the government isn’t getting much credit for that. In one opinion poll from mid-August, about 60 percent of respondents said they had a negative view of the Abe administration’s response to the pandemic.

Mr. Abe returned to power in December 2012 vowing to “take back Japan” — a promise to rebuild the Japanese economy with his signature “Abenomics” and “normalize,” as he put it, Japan’s defense policy through rearmament and by reinforcing ties with the United States.

While analysts debate his record — a stock market boosted, but stagnant wages and record government debt; a controversial and unsuccessful bid to revise the Constitution’s pacifist clauses; close ties with President Trump — the L.D.P. is looking for a successor.

Since Mr. Abe is abruptly resigning amid crises and controversies, the L.D.P. is more likely to search for a new leader by consulting a relatively small group of the party’s Diet members and representatives in local chapters than by organizing a full-fledged race with the participation of rank-and-file party members.

If so, the prospects of Shigeru Ishiba, a popular and persistent critic of Mr. Abe’s ways, would seem rather limited.

Mr. Abe had been said to have a soft spot for the docile, if uninspiring, Fumio Kishida, a former foreign minister, but he may now be supporting Yoshihide Suga, his chief cabinet secretary, who is more ruthless, secretive and authoritarian and might have a better chance of defeating Mr. Ishiba.

Whatever Mr. Abe’s eventual legacy, whoever his immediate replacement, one thing already stands out: Japan’s longest-serving leader is leaving office by skedaddling from scandals and evading calls for accountability from the people he is supposed to serve.

Saturday, August 29, 2020


Abe without makeup

Japan’s Longest-Serving PM, Shinzo Abe, Quits in Bid to ‘Escape’ Potential Prosecution

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in his second time at bat lasted longer than anyone before him but he leaves office unable to stomach the job with the public unable to stomach him.

BY Jake Adelstein, Daily Beast, Aug. 28, 2020.

Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, decided to resign Friday ostensibly because of his health, but also because he fears the unpleasant and unhealthy conditions of a Japanese prison.

At a press conference, he cited his painful stomach condition ulcerative colitis as the reason for stepping down, but he leaves at a time when his ratings are plummeting and he is under at least one criminal investigation, with the public clamoring for the reopening of other cas

Abe is not resigning; he is escaping. 

He is under investigation by the Japanese prosecutors for violations of election laws, similar to those his former handpicked justice minister is now being tried for in the lower courts of Tokyo. Testimony in that case may implicate Abe in the political scandal as well.

Abe’s efforts to shield himself from investigation by Japan’s authorities have fallen apart.

A high-ranking member of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), of which Abe also serves as president, told The Daily Beast on conditions of anonymity, “If Abe had been able to stack the prosecutor’s office with his choice—he’d still be clinging to power. His choice for the next head of the National Police Agency, Itaru Nakamura, was sidelined this month and Abe fears being arrested by either the prosecutors or the police. Resignation now allows him to escape a lot of scrutiny.” Nakamura was the high-ranking police chief that ended the rape investigation of Abe’s unofficial biographer.

A source in the Ministry of Justice told The Daily Beast, “It’s a done deal. Abe resigns taking ‘social punishment’ and several criminal investigations into his conduct are going to be closed.” Former special prosecutor Nobuo Gohara says, “It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that he resigns the same week a criminal trial has started in which Abe’s involvement will become a central issue.”

The Tweet of Defeat
This year, Abe’s approval ratings sank as low as 27 percent in opinion polls. You’ll see many things cited in the Japanese press in the coming days about what caused Abe’s grip on power and popular support to fail. There have certainly been many gaffes this year. He ignored the growing threat of the novel coronavirus due to his obsessive desire to hold the Olympic Games, which meant that Tokyo had to appear safe. His plan to distribute two face masks to every household, when masks were in short supply, was an expensive disaster. The masks were too small, dirty, and they were slow to be delivered. They were ridiculed as “Abe No Mask,” which sounds much like “Abenomics” when said in Japanese. Abenomics was the PM’s much-touted fiscal policy that involved the imaginary “arrows” of monetary easing and financial reforms, but the overhaul never came and the policy was a total failure.

Abe claimed that Japan’s “if you don’t test, you don’t know” coronavirus policy had worked fantastically, until it failed and the infection rates began shooting up again. This was accelerated by his obstinate push for the implementation of a weirdly named promotional campaign,“Go to Travel,” which ended up translating for many people to “Go to Quarantine” as the pandemic resurged.

What has derailed his popularity isn’t his poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic, but an ill-timed attempt to consolidate his power in the midst of it. #SayonaraAbe (in Japanese) was trending on Twitter months ago.

The end of the Abe era began with a single tweet that started his downward spiral in May. There is some irony in a prime minister who invested so much energy controlling Japan’s mainstream media being taken down by social media.

On the evening of May 9,  there was a tweet by a 35-year-old female office worker that sparked an inferno of public dissent. The resulting tweetstorm was fueled by Japan’s usually apolitical celebrities and former prosecutors. Even LDP members expressed dissent.

The content of the tweet seems rather prosaic. “I protest the proposed changes in the Public Prosecutor Office Laws.” There were 8 million tweets with the hashtag “I protest the proposed revision of the Public Prosecutors Office Law,” by May 14. 

Here’s the backstory. 
Abe has slowly exerted his control over government agencies, public broadcaster NHK, and even the media. In 2014, he created a Cabinet Personnel Bureau that gave the cabinet control over the appointment of hundreds of top-level bureaucrats. Ambitious government workers paid attention, and have since worked hard not to offend him and gain favor. He has incentivized them to cover up scandals without being directly asked. He has wined and dined the press to curry favor, and bullied them relentlessly when displeased. Japan’s press-freedom ranking was No. 22 when he took office; it now ranks 66th. 

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Abe and the ruling LDP lobbied for changes in the constitution that would give the cabinet absolute authority in an emergency. The attempt failed but even conservative magazine PRESIDENT called it in an opportunistic and despicable grab for power. When he tried to put the public prosecutor’s office under his thumb this summer, he was going too far.

Fatally Wounded 
The move against the prosecutors began on Jan. 31, when the Abe cabinet decided to delay the retirement of Japan’s second most powerful prosecutor, Hiromu Kurokawa. Kurokawa was reportedly very close to Abe and cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga. The press referred to him as “the guardian deity of the Abe cabinet.”  

The majority of prosecutors are required by law to retire at 63; Kurokawa was allowed to stay on. Abe claimed this was not a problem because his cabinet had “reinterpreted the law” to make it possible. The opposition, legal scholars, and the public vehemently disagreed.

The administration stood its ground but later proposed an amendment to the Public Prosecutor Laws. This was seen as a retroactive attempt to justify keeping Kurokawa in office, and clearing the way for replacing the top prosecutor in Japan. 

Former Prosecutor-General Kunihiro Matsuo and other ex-prosecutors wrote a protest letter to the Ministry of Justice stating explicitly that they believed the revisions were an attempt by the Abe administration to have prosecutors act in accordance with their will. The letter quoted John Locke: “Wherever law ends, tyranny begins.” 

Abe defended the bill in parliament, “There will be no instances of [prosecutorial] personnel affairs being determined arbitrarily,” he said. Only 16 percent of the public believed him.

Typically, Abe would ramrod the bill into law anyway, as he has done with other unpopular legislation. 

By May 18, his approval ratings had plummeted to 34 percent. The same day, the LDP agreed to temporarily table the legislation. 

That evening, more than 600 lawyers submitted legal briefs to the Tokyo prosecutors office accusing Abe of misusing public funds to hold cherry blossom viewing parties for his constituents, a scandal that became known as “Cherryblossom-gate.” 

Bad luck followed Abe’s bad decisions. The weekly magazine Bunshun reported that Kurokawa had routinely played mahjong with reporters, gambling on the games in clear contravention of Japanese law. Kurokawa was given an admonishment and allowed to resign. 

After nearly a decade in power, Abe has become haughty, declaring in parliament last year “I am the nation.” He has been winning for a long time, but no one’s luck lasts forever. The legislative attempt to subvert the prosecutors may have been, to paraphrase the title of an epic war film, a bill too far. It was later abandoned entirely. 

Already on Trial? 
The current investigation of “Cherryblossom-gate” is not the only problem facing Abe. 

He is being dragged into the high-profile trial of a close friend and supporter. This June, Katsuyuki Kawai, 57, a House of Representative member and his wife, Anri Kawai, 46, a member of the House of Councilors, were indicted on suspicion of handing out millions of yen in cash to politicians and supporters in Hiroshima Prefecture. This was allegedly in return for their efforts to secure votes in the Upper House elections held in July 2019. Abe appointed Katsuyuki minister of justice in September 2019; Katsuyuki resigned on Oct. 31. 

Their trial began this week.

The LDP headquarters provided nearly $1.5 million (150 million yen) or more in campaign funds to Anri Kawai, and some of that money may have been used in bribing local politicians to help round up votes. If Abe himself, as president of the LDP, approved the whopping funding for Anri, he will move into the spotlight.

Former Special Prosecutor Nobuo Gohara told The Daily Beast, “It seems clear from the opening statements by the prosecutors in the case of Kawai, that they will show Prime Minister Abe’s involvement in this case. For a former minister of justice, hand-picked by Abe to be involved in bribing other politicians—outrageous. Even if Abe can avoid criminal responsibility, he has a moral responsibility in the matter.”

Gohara sees Abe’s inability to stomach his position as part of the stress of not knowing when or if he will be implicated in the current trial. 

There is a third fire burning under Abe’s feet, one known as the Moritomo-gakuen case. In 2017, it became clear that government land valued at nearly $8 million had been sold to a right-wing school operator for $1 million, reportedly at the urging of the prime minister and his wife, Akie. The school was going to be named Abe Elementary. When the scandal came to light, bureaucrats in the ministry of finance altered and destroyed documents to cover up Abe’s involvement. One government official, Toshio Akagi, refused to play along and killed himself in protest in March 2018. He left behind incriminating documents that his widow revealed this year. Over 70 percent of the Japanese public now wants a reopening of the investigation into the Morikake case. 

He didn’t learn
Abe virtually vanished for a month this summer, avoiding all press conferences and parliamentary discussions. He can now avoid discussing the scandals surrounding him very easily. He has seemingly timed his publicized visits to the hospital this week in a way to make sure that questions about his involvement in corruption cases were not asked. By visiting Keio Hospital on Aug. 24, the day before the Kawai trial, attention was shifted from his role in the case, to whether or not he was going to be able to continue as prime minister. 

Abe’s great escape is not as dramatic as the flight of former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn, but it’s a valiant effort. 

Abe was Japan’s longest reigning prime minister in its constitutional history, but never has so little been accomplished in such a long period of time. If he leaves any legacy at all, it is a number of bills passed into law that were so unpopular they now lie like landmines and may blow up Japan’s brittle democracy someday. Those laws include: a draconian conspiracy law that seems right out of the sci-fi film Minority Report; a repressive and Orwellian state secrets law that will muffle the press and whistleblowers; and the Peace Preservation Act, which allows ostensibly pacifist Japan to wage war.

This was his second term in office after a disastrous stint from 2006 to 2007. He was able to resurface due to the support of the right-wing Shinto cult Nippon Kaigi, which will continue to yield great power in parliament long after Abe. 

They say those who don’t remember history are doomed to repeat it. Perhaps the root of Abe’s folly is that he is a well-known historical revisionist, the grandson of a war criminal, who has never been able to admit to the atrocities committed by Japan in World War II; many of his political appointees and allies admired Hitler. He’s been so busy trying to deny the past that it seems Abe can’t even learn from his own history. His life is a re-run.

He leaves office much the same way he did when he stepped down in 2007: unable to handle the job while mired in scandals involving his cronies; unpopular, considered incompetent, and irrelevant. 

He will not be missed. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The Abe Crisis: Does Anyone in Washington, DC Care?

By Daniel Sneider : Lecturer, International Policy at Stanford University, APP Member

Tokyo Business Today [Toyo Keizai ] August 25, 2020

The longest serving Prime Minister in modern Japanese history may be on his way out of office, driven by a personal health problem and by a poorly managed response to a larger health and economic crisis. Back in the corridors of power of Japan’s principal ally, the United States, is anyone really concerned about the fate of Abe Shinzo? And if Donald Trump’s ‘friend’ leaves, does Washington have a chosen successor?

President Trump is, not surprisingly, almost completely consumed by his faltering election campaign, hoping for a boost from this week’s Republican convention. To be fair, his opponent, Vice President Joe Biden, fresh off a well-received Democratic convention show, also pays scant attention to Japan.

Still, President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are well aware of Abe’s health problems and possible departure from office, a former senior Trump administration official told me. “I am sure,” he insisted.

“I believe the U.S. government is tracking closely and is more informed than the general public regarding Abe’s health, particularly in the last 24 hours,” another senior former Trump official who managed alliance security relations told me early this week.

The State Department and the CIA are following developments very carefully and “that’s the kind of thing included in the PDB (President’s Daily Brief) and Trump takes his intelligence briefings 2-3 times a week, putting aside the quality of his understanding or level of interest,” a former official who worked on Asian security in both Republican and Democratic governments said.

Despite those reassurances, experienced policy makers question whether there is any serious engagement from the White House.

“The administration is completely preoccupied with trying to survive Trump’s terrible poll numbers, including Secretary Pompeo who is playing an unprecedented role in the Republican convention and domestic politics,” Michael Green, former national security advisor on Asia to President George W. Bush, told me.

“While bashing China is part of the administration’s survival strategy, that has not translated into focusing on allies for the White House. So, I doubt that there is much attention at the top to Abe’s fate or the post-Abe transition at this point.”

Below the highest levels of the administration, there is much greater awareness and even worry about what is happening in Tokyo. “U.S. policy officials and others with responsibility for ties with Japan are following this drama very closely and are in close touch with our embassy and other institutions tasked with reporting on political and other developments inside Japan,” says Evans Revere, former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific.

Senior sub-cabinet level officials such as Deputy Secretary of State Steve Biegun or deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger “are watching with some concern, since Abe has been the cornerstone (and in many ways the architect) of their ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’ strategy,” agrees Green.

In the Trump administration, particularly as it heads deeper down the road of full-scale confrontation with China, Abe occupies a treasured position for his fealty to their goals. “There has long been a view,” the former senior Trump official dealing with security relations said, “that Prime Minister Abe is ‘as good as it can get’ in terms of supporting the alliance, having the right views on China.”

The weakening of Abe’s command of Japanese politics, however, is already having a visible impact to some American officials. While there are no worries about the underlying foundation of the alliance, “there is a broad resignation that things are already getting harder to implement in the twilight of Abe’s tenure,” observes Green, who is the Japan chair at Georgetown University and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The cancellation of the Aegis Onshore radar and missile system is one recent example for American policy makers, signaling a possible slowdown in security cooperation in the post-Abe era.

The Abe succession question
Despite those concerns in the national security community, there is no evidence that Washington is lining up behind any one of the well-known list of Liberal Democratic Party stalwarts considered as possible successors to Abe.

“I don’t think the US Government has particularly special insights on succession because the Japanese and the LDP haven’t figured it out themselves,” says the former Trump security official. “I’m not aware of a strong preference as the likely candidates are known and generally regarded as having traditional views on the alliance,” he adds.

Green, a Republican policy maker who has publicly opposed Trump’s re-election, anticipates that the next Japanese administration will be less capable of implementing a tightening of security relations.

“I have heard no enthusiasm for any of Abe’s successors and a general wistful hope that maybe—just maybe—Abe might pull out another term,” says Green. “But that now seems all but impossible. There is no sense that Japan’s trajectory will change in geopolitical terms -- it’s all about who can execute. And nobody is seen as having the momentum that Abe did for his first five years.”

Does Trump have a personal preference, such as Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide, whom he has met? “I doubt he would even know Suga’s name,” says the Asian security expert who served in previous administrations. “He would want continuity with Abe, but it’s too much to imagine he’s concerned about anything before November 3 (US election day).”
The Biden view

Democratic nominee for President, Joe Biden, is not evidently devoting much time or thought to the Japanese political situation. But he is surrounded by experienced policy advisors on Asia who are knowledgeable about the alliance and will put a priority on repairing the damage done by Trump’s ‘America First’ isolationism. They are likely to back off from unreasonable demands for defense cost sharing and strengthen cooperation on issues like climate change, Iran and even open the door to reconsidering the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“Every public utterance by VP Biden and those associated with him suggests that a Biden administration would place top priority on repairing, refurbishing, and reaffirming the central importance of America's alliances, particularly the one with Japan,” says former State Department East Asia hand Evans Revere, now associated with the Brookings Institution.

“Biden and his team know the damage that has been done and I have a high level of confidence they will take steps to restore the U.S.-Japan alliance-partnership to its rightful place as the centerpiece of the U.S. alliance system in the Asia-Pacific.”

The national security professionals inside the U.S. bureaucracy who manage the day to day relationship with Japan may be relieved to have a change of administration in Washington, regardless of who takes over in Tokyo, most observers believe.

“The U.S.-Japan relationship is sufficiently mature and the foundation of the alliance strong enough that it would not make much difference to those tasked with managing the alliance on the U.S. side who is in the kantei,” Revere argues.

“The bigger concern for those tasked with trying to keep the U.S.-Japan alliance on track these days is who is in the White House. President Trump's erratic, dismissive, and even contemptuous approach to allies and alliances has been a major problem for career officials, especially those who have dedicated their careers to strengthening our key alliances.”

A change in U.S. leadership may actually make the transition in power in Tokyo easier to manage. Given Abe’s intimate ties to Trump, he would face some challenges in forging a relationship with a Democratic administration in Washington.

“If Biden wins, a change of leadership in Tokyo will matter even less,” well known Japan watcher Tobias Harris told me. “In Tokyo, meanwhile, given the talk that Abe could be replaced by an elder caretaker - either (Deputy Prime Minister) Aso Taro or Suga - it seems that the alliance will be in fine hands for the next year, at which point the LDP could have a more open and contentious leadership fight to determine the direction of the post-Abe era,” believes Harris, author of The Iconoclast, a newly published biography of Abe, the first in-depth look at the Japanese leader in English.

For now, in Washington, the political drama in Tokyo will take a clear backseat to the main event at home – the November election.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Monday Asia Events August 17 2020

UNDER BEIJING’S SHADOW: SOUTHEAST ASIA’S CHINA CHALLENGE. 9:00–10:00am (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: CSIS. Speaker: Author, Murray Hiebert, Senior Associate, CSIS Southeast Asia Program. 

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THE ARMS TRADE TREATY & DIVERSION: ASSESSING RISKS AND IMPACTS. 9:30–11:00am (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Stimson. Speakers: Jonah Leff,Conflict Armament Research; Tom Nijs, Flanders Department Of Foreign Affairs in Belgium and Co-Chair of the ATT CSP6 Working Group on Transparency and Reporting; Stela Petrović, Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications of Serbia and Facilitator of the ATT CSP6 Sub-Working Group on Diversion; Himayu Shiotani, United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research; Rachel Stohl, Stimson Center.

A CONVERSATION WITH FORMER US SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON. Noon (EDT), #ACFRONTPAGE EVENT. Sponsor: Atlantic Council. Speaker: Hon. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Former US Secretary of State; Frederick Kempe, President and CEO, Atlantic Council.

TWILIGHT OF DEMOCRACY: THE SEDUCTIVE LURE OF AUTHORITARIANISM. 4:00–5:30pm (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Wilson Center - History and Public Policy Program. Speakers: Anne Applebaum, Staff Writer, The Atlantic. Moderators: Christian F. Ostermann, Director, History and Public Policy Program; Eric Arnesen, Professor of History, George Washington University. 

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CARLOS P. ROMULO IN WASHINGTON, DC - WITH LIANA ROMULO. 7:30-8:30pm (EDT), ONLINE EVENT. Sponsor: RMC Foundation, Philippines on the Potomac Project (POPDC), US-Philippines Society, Sentro Rizal Washington DC. Speaker: Liana Romulo, Gen. Carlos P. Romulo’s granddaughter.

Asia Monday Events, October 12, 2020

THE 2ND NORTH KOREA ECONOMIC FORUM ANNUAL CONFERENCE (PART II) . 9:00-11:00am (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsors: George Washington University; KDI Sc...