Kishida wants change | Latest news The Moscow Post
01 December 2023

Kishida wants change

The pandemic in Japan could affect the balance of political power.

Fumio Kisida was elected chairman of the ruling LDP, but he can be prime minister only before the elections to the lower house of parliament in November, a correspondent for The Moscow Post reports.

The outcome of the election may be affected by the coronavirus pandemic. But it should be noted that the LDP has de facto monopoly power in parliament. The opposition is fragmented.

Fumio Kishida, a former foreign minister, won the race for chairman of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Kishida will officially become Prime Minister during an extraordinary session of parliament, which is scheduled to begin on October 4. Kishida enjoys the support of the "old guard" of the LDP, namely the influential leaders of the factions. What does he promise and what do his compatriots, allied states, neighboring countries, including China and Russia expect from the prime minister?

Japanese media about choosing a leader and pandemic

The international agency Nikkei Asia entitled the editorial of September 30: "Japan needs a reformer, not a conservative." Fumio Kisida is considered a "no surprises" politician who will observe the status quo. His nomination by the top of the LDP as a new leader indicates a lack of readiness for change. Ordinary party members overwhelmingly supported Taro Kono, Kisid's opponent in the election. Kono proposed administrative reform.

Neither he nor the other candidates who voted for the post of LDP leader offered a clear plan to prevent another wave of the coronavirus pandemic in Japan. Another report, also dated September 30, under the heading "LDP chooses stability," emphasizes that the pandemic revealed numerous shortcomings in Japanese administrative practice.

Disparate health facilities were unable to respond quickly to the Government's demand to mobilize in a pandemic. This, in particular, showed that the quality of the Japanese bureaucratic system is declining, that the center and prefectures do not have proper channels of coordination, that digital technologies are being poorly introduced, that the Japanese health system in the pandemic was engulfed by chaos.

When Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced that he would no longer run for LDP chairman, voters breathed a sigh of relief. Suga was unpopular. Support for his cabinet policy was directly related to disapproval of the lacklustre response to the pandemic. Voter dissatisfaction intensified when the final decision was made to hold the Olympics. Many Japanese believed that the holding of games aggravated the situation with COVID-19.

Kishida reacts and promises

The conclusion of Japanese observers is very categorical: "Dysfunctional management prevents all types of national policies, from diplomacy and security to the economy and trade.... As a leader, Kishida must resolutely fight crises and resolutely pursue reforms. "

Among the few known plans of the future Prime Minister, the promise to create a Health Crisis Management Agency stands out. The Agency will also be responsible for the fight against the pandemic, which has become an important motivation for its creation.

At first, a relaxed attitude to the pandemic was replaced by lockdowns and other measures. By mid-2020, the country had no severe restrictions, there was no mass testing, there was no center to combat COVID -19. In early 2021, the country was almost powerless before the second wave of the pandemic. Daily rates for the number of infections began to exceed five thousand cases, an emergency mode was introduced in Tokyo and some neighboring prefectures. The number of people infected in the country per day began to exceed the mark of 5 thousand people.

The Olympic Games were postponed for a year, and then, until the last moment, they were generally in danger of disruption. Many Japanese, especially those living in the Tokyo area, demanded the cancellation of the games. The Olympics were still held, but were held with empty stands. It cannot be ruled out that voters will not forgive the LDP for the fact that the Yoshihide Suga government at first easily treated the pandemic, delayed the start of universal vaccination, and preferred restrictive measures to deploy medical infrastructure.

How he intends to stay in power

The main task facing Kisida and his factions in the LDP is to remain in power after the upcoming elections to the lower house of parliament in November. Kishida promises to make substantial financial injections to help the economy recover from the consequences of the pandemic. It should be noted that Japan is already the leader in public debt, which is twice the volume of GDP, which amounted to 4.7 trillion dollars at the beginning of 2021.

He was critical of the economic policies of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, known as Abenomics, and stated that the rich benefit from Abe's proposed economic course. Known as a moderate liberal politician. He believes that the problems of social inequality should be solved by redistributing income, raising the salary levels of working Japanese on this basis, and helping small businesses. In particular, promises to help families with children, workers without full-time work, women and students. He is also a supporter of a single income tax of 20%.

We can say that Kishida will try to redirect the policy of his cabinet towards the interests of ordinary Japanese. At least his plans help shape the expectation of change in Japanese society, while creating a favorable atmosphere for the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Kishida, paying attention to such a phenomenon as the "habit of power," plans to give priority to young and less famous LDP deputies when forming her cabinet. Changes in its composition, changes in domestic policy and in social policy priorities are exactly the areas where dynamics can be expected. There will be no change in Japan's foreign policy: a multifaceted alliance with the United States, rivalry with China, nervousness towards the DPRK, distance from Russia - all this should remain without significant changes.

How to resist China

Issues of economic security and competition with China in the field of technology, trade, regional influence will occupy an important place on the agenda of the Kisid cabinet. In an attempt to maintain technological dominance, Japan is ready, together with the United States and South Korea, to coordinate efforts in the field of technology, to ensure the security of supply chains of strategically important goods, including semiconductors.

In this regard, ties with Taiwan, which has become the world's leading semiconductor manufacturing site, are of particular importance. These issues were reflected in the consultations of the QUAD Quartet leaders held in Washington on 24 September. In this context, Japan aims to develop a special relationship with India and the ASEAN bloc. Tokyo has long aimed, together with the United States, to compete in these regions with China for economic influence.

China adopted the ASEAN initiative, known as the Comprehensive Regional Economic Partnership (RCEP), which aims to economically connect ten ASEAN states with six dialogue partners: China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand. In June of this year, Tokyo also ratified this agreement, finding itself in the same company as Beijing. It is not yet clear whether Japan will cooperate with China under the Belt and Road program, but the QUAD quadripartite structure, which Japan entered, was conceived as an alternative to the Chinese plan.

One of the areas of such competition is infrastructure projects, ports and free economic zones, financing mechanisms for large projects. As Foreign Minister in the Abe government, Fumio Kishida did a lot personally to launch a regional coordination mechanism within the Indo-Pacific region with the participation of Japan and the USA, Australia and India.

China remains Japan's most important market. The main investments of Japanese companies are concentrated in China, some of them import the products of their Chinese branches to Japan. Tensions are hurting Japan's economy and contradicting the interests of Japanese manufacturers. That is why, during the years of US trade conflicts with China under the Trump administration, Tokyo, as the head of the Japanese "economic dragon," did not share Washington's actions.

Kishida believes that national security is complex, not limited to the country's ability to defend interests through military force.

In anticipation of the general election in Japan, voters will monitor how Kishida will build relations with the United States, what initiatives he will (and will) take in relation to China, for the development of relations with which he once advocated.

Strengthening the alliance with the United States

With regard to factors of military force, and decisions to confront China in the area of ​ ​ the Senkaku Islands, the South China Sea or the Taiwan Strait, Japan is completely devoid of independence and depends on decisions taken in Washington. The United States, in particular, undertook to defend Japanese interests in the event of an aggravation of the Japanese-Chinese conflict over the Senkaku Islands, and is also the guarantor of Japan's security in general.

With the arrival of Biden in the White House, Japan has to strenuously confront "authoritarian systems," including China, North Korea, as well as Russia. Beijing's "aggressive and authoritarian" diplomatic and economic policies are likely to be the top priority of the new cabinet. The DPRK's nuclear missile program will be the main security irritant for the Kisid government, as for its predecessors. Kishida, unlike them, stated the need to give the Japanese self-defense forces the ability to strike back at enemy missile bases, referring primarily to North Korea.

Like his predecessors as prime minister, Kisida, equal to the White House, will be faithful to the defense of "core values," including freedom of speech, democracy, the rule of law and human rights. Japan will "continue the course" to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. In this regard, according to him, the government will have to "soberly evaluate" the role of nuclear power plants, the prospects for their construction, expansion or modernization.

Acquaintance with Russia

Vladimir Putin met with Fumio Kishida on December 2, 2016 in St. Petersburg, when they discussed the preparation of the visit of the Russian leader to Japan. The new prime minister took part in the negotiations on the peace treaty, when he headed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from December 2012 to August 2017 in Abe's office.

Kisida has not yet voiced his position on relations with Russia, he should do so after the parliamentary elections if he retains his chair. Will he continue the course of Abe, in the formation of which he participated? As Japanese Foreign Minister, Kishida advocated continuing negotiations on a peace treaty. According to him, what happened to the four islands was "a change in the situation with the help of force." At the end of his term as Foreign Minister, he noted that the issue of belonging to the four islands should be resolved "on the basis of a new approach." It was then a proposal by Russia to develop joint economic activities in the South Kuril Islands.

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