Abe's Total Government: Blessing or Nightmare?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 23, 2013
Summary: Shinzo Abe led the Liberal Democratic Party to a victory in the parliamentary election. For Japan, this may be deeply gratifying. But for other countries, it is deeply worrisome. Will LDP total government take Japan down the highway towards national prospertiy, or down the blind alley towards militarism? Is a blessing for Japan, or a nightmare for Japan's neighbors? The answer depends on Abe, and his whims.
Full text below:
Shinzo Abe led the Liberal Democratic Party to a victory in the parliamentary election. For Japan, this may be deeply gratifying. But for other countries, it is deeply worrisome.
For Japan, this election ended the seven year anomaly known as the "Twisted Diet." It enabled Japan to extricate itself from the "short-lived cabinet" quagmire. This, coupled with a turnaround in the Japanese economy, may make Abe's "total government" feel like a blessing for the Japanese people. But other countries will probably see it as a nightmare. During his campaign, Abe trumpeted "territorial defense" and the overthrow of Japan's Peace Constitution. Abe has achieved total control of both upper and lower houses of parliament. His next move could inspire unprecedented region-wide anxiety.
There is only one Abe. But there are two interpretations of what Abe represents. These are derived mainly from two competing theses within Japan. One is the "wealthy nation thesis." The other is the "strong military thesis." The conflict between these two theses has resulted in two very different conclusions about the recent parliamentary election, at home and abroad.
The "wealthy nation thesis" argues that an end to the "Twisted Diet," and total LDP control over both houses is essential. Together, they will allow Abe to implement structural reforms and enable Japan's economy to experience a full recovery. Only a strong economy will enable Japan to reclaim its former glory as a great nation. In other words, the "wealthy nation thesis" views the parliamentary election as Japan's "revolving door" to major economic power status.
The "strong military thesis" views Abenomics as a prelude to Japan's "national normalization." It views the Japanese archipelago as a forward outpost against the Chinese mainland's eastward military advance. Abenomics will enable Japan's recovery. Japan can then engage in "territorial defense" and the fundamental work of constitutional revision. In other words, the "strong military thesis" views the parliamentary victory as a "stepping stone" for Japan's military buildup.
Both the revolving door and stepping stone require more than domestic support. They require international support. Abe clings to domestic support for the "wealthy nation thesis." He ignores the "strong military thesis" mindset. His endless invocation of the constitutional revision issue is purely for domestic consumption, to bolster his public support. No wonder Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki criticized Abe, saying that Abe's national normalization rhetoric targeted only domestic audiences. Every time Abe goes abroad, he changes his tune. Clearly the "strong military thesis" is a phony issue. Only the "wealthy nation thesis" is a true issue.
Unfortunately, with Abe waving the banner of territorial defense, national sovereignty, and ultranationalism, the "wealthy nation thesis" has gradually been marginalized. This has had a chilling effect on the "wealthy nation thesis" among the Japanese public. Ultranationalism has drugged the public. Imaginary "strong military policies" have become hot political topics. It has drugged Japanese right-wingers. It has drugged the LDP. It has even drugged Abe himself.
Abe has created two myths. First, he has falsely equated his parliamentary victory with public support for constitutional revision. In fact, the Japanese people supported the LDP in two successive elections, primarily to escape the nightmare of short-lived cabinets. They wanted to help Abe implement economic reforms. They did not necessarily support constitutional revision. According to an NHK poll, nearly 56% of the public wanted Abe to receive an absolute majority. But only 26% of the people want to revise the constitution. This sums it up.
Secondly, Able mistakenly concluded that Liberal Democratic Party "total government" meant it could revise the constitution as it pleased. the parliamentary victory gave the LDP control over half the seats in both the upper and lower houses. But that is a long way off from the two-thirds supermajority required for constitutional revision. The ruling coalition that the LDP belongs to includes the "New Komeito Party," which opposes constitutional revision. The "Japan Restoration Party" supports constitutional revision, but holds too few seats. Furthermore, even if the parliament revises the constitution, it must still be subjected to a national referendum. The public lacks consensus. Wanton promotion of constitutional revision would surely lead to a new wave of controversy and crises.
Abe's dream of constitutional revision is a long way from realization. But it has already become a nightmare for neighboring countries. The United States sees Abe's victory as Japanese public support for constitutional revision. Mainland China worries that once Abe achieves "total government," constitutional revision will become a runaway train. South Korea views increased Japanese military power as a tsunami that will upset the regional balance of power.
For Japanese nationals, the parliamentary victory is the end of the "Twisted Diet," and the beginning of economic reform. It is not necessarily the beginning of constitutional revision. Will LDP total government take Japan down the highway towards national prospertiy, or down the blind alley towards militarism? Is a blessing for Japan, or a nightmare for Japan's neighbors? The answer depends on Abe, and his whims.
2013.07.23 01:58 am