Japan

In this photo taken on 6 August 2021, police officers walk beside the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, as it was known before 1945 and now called the Atomic Bomb Dome, as the city marks the 76th anniversary of the world's first atomic bomb attack. (Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP)

The real reason why Japan is following the US’s lead

Academic Toh Lam Seng traces Japan’s long-held foreign policy stance of “following the US’s lead”. Circumstances of history led to this default pattern, even though Japan did try to break out of this straitjacket. Domestic opposition aside, under the US's watchful eye, Japan has not been able to possess nuclear weaponry or have a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council. But with the changing situation of a rising China, might Japan move closer to getting what it has always wanted?
Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is also the president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, holds up a placard reading "Corona disease countermeasures, New Capitalism. Diplomacy and security" at a debate session with other leaders of Japan's main political parties ahead of the 31 October 2021 lower house election, at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo, Japan, 18 October 2021. (Issei Kato/Reuters)

How Japan's political stance is becoming increasingly hawkish and conservative

Academic Toh Lam Seng traces the history of Japanese politics from its “1955 system” of clear policy difference between the conservatives and reformists to the more recent potato-potahto matches between conservative parties born out of LDP factionalism or splintering. Seen in this light, is the Japanese population really growing more conservative and politicians are merely tapping into this trend, or are the political parties themselves perpetuating an endless cycle of conservatism?
Japan's new prime minister Fumio Kishida delivers his first policy speech at parliament in Tokyo, Japan, 8 October 2021. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

No concrete vision for future Japan-China relations despite telephone talks between Xi Jinping and Fumio Kishida

University of Tokyo's Shin Kawashima notes the significance of the phone conversation between Japan's newly installed Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Chinese President Xi Jinping. He says that while there are solid reasons why China wants to maintain a good relationship with Japan, many aspects of future Japan-China relations remain unclear. This is especially interesting to watch as the Chinese Communist Party's 20th Party Congress will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the normalisation of relations between the two countries next year.
Fumio Kishida, Japan's prime minister, center, during a group photograph with his new cabinet members at prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, on 4 October 2021. (Stainislav Kogiku/SOPA Images/Bloomberg)

Can Japan rise above faction politics and become the 'bridge to the world' under new PM Kishida?

Fumio Kishida became the new Japanese prime minister despite a relatively weak political base. This shows that faction politics within the Liberal Democratic Party still provided some measure of stability in influencing outcomes. However, public opinion has landed on the side of wanting a leader with the gumption and vision to implement reforms and improve the plight of the Japanese people. But will this new administration be a force for change as the people want, or will the Japanese government go back to the days of having a new prime minister each year? Japan-based academic Zhang Yun takes us through.
Japan's newly elected Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader Fumio Kishida and his predecessor Yoshihide Suga stand on stage following the LDP leadership vote in Tokyo, Japan, 29 September 2021. (Kyodo/via Reuters)

Will the new Japanese PM Kishida do better than his predecessor Suga in foreign relations?

New Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has just formed his Cabinet, and it remains to be seen whether and how relations with China will be affected. Japanese academic Shin Kawashima gives an analysis.
Taliban fighters patrol along a road on the backdrop of a mural painted on the wall of a flyover in Kabul on 26 September 2021. (Hoshang Hashimi/AFP)

Japanese academic: Japan's role in Afghanistan after US withdrawal

Japanese academic Kazuto Suzuki observes conflicting approaches in how the West and China are handling Afghanistan matters after the Taliban takeover. He says while Japan had made some headway in helping to eliminate the Taliban and build up the country, its progress was disrupted by the US's withdrawal from Afghanistan and it now has to redefine its modus operandi in the changed landscape. How can Japan play a role now in building better lives for the people of Afghanistan?
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during a "Quad nations" meeting at the Leaders' Summit of the Quadrilateral Framework hosted by US President Joe Biden with Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in the East Room at the White House in Washington, US, 24 September 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Be present but don't fight with China: Can the Quad fulfill this tall order from ASEAN?

In recent years, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), and the "free and open" Indo-Pacific concept that underpins it, have enjoyed forward momentum in response to growing Chinese assertiveness. However, the Quad faces problems gaining support in the region as China remains adamantly opposed to any configuration perceived to curb its emergence while ASEAN fears that its centrality will be undermined by a minilateral arrangement helmed by external powers. What does ASEAN want from the Quad and can these be delivered?
A US flag flutters in the wind near the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum on 10 September 2021 in the US. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP)

With AUKUS, Southeast Asia may become a more intense battleground

Yogesh Joshi points out that the new AUKUS shows an American recognition of the military threat from China, which is assessed to have the world's largest navy. Such anxiety has the US sharing its most prized military technology of nuclear propulsion with Australia, something it has never done with any country except the UK. With the US determined to maintain primacy in the Indo-Pacific, will there be a greater chance of inadvertent escalation of tensions? Will the Southeast Asian region suffer the brunt of heightened risks?
This picture taken on 7 July 2021 shows vehicles in Tokyo. (Philip Fong/AFP)

Covid-19 pandemic: Supply chain disruptions in Southeast Asia affecting Japan and the world

In 2020, Japan was ASEAN’s largest export partner of auto parts, making up 17.8% of ASEAN's exports, followed by the US (15.4%) and China (10.2%). However, with the onslaught of the Delta variant of Covid-19 this year, many Southeast Asian countries have imposed factory operation restrictions that have disrupted the supply chain, with Japanese firm Toyota Motor suffering the greatest impact. Japanese academic Sukegawa Seiya examines the issue.