The longevity is the biggest
achievement: on Shinzo Abe (Indian Express)
Mains Paper 2: International
Prelims level: Not much
Mains level: Challenges ahead of the PM Shinzo Abe
On November 20, Shinzo Abe will become the longest- serving Prime
Minister of Japan, overtaking Taro Katsura’s record of 2,886 days in office.
Prime Minister term of Mr. Abe:
Mr. Abe has been in power for two different spells: a short-lived one,
between July 2006 and September 2007, and the current stretch since 2012.
Over the last seven years, he has brought stability to a political
landscape that had been fractured, honing the image of a strong,
conservative leader readying Japan for a newly muscular role in a shifting
Mr. Abe has steered the economy out of deflation and decline, if not
He has presided over a significant increase in the country’s military
capabilities and attempted to expand Japan’s strategic options beyond its
traditional reliance on the United States.
The TINA factor
His legacy might not be as long-lasting as his time in office.
Critics say the only reason Mr. Abe is still in power is because of a
weak and uninspiring Opposition.
The TINA (there is no alternative) factor that voters around the world
are all too familiar with.
Tenure and performance of Mr. Abe:
Mr. Abe returned to power in 2012, Japan had been through five Prime
Ministers in as many years.
His immediate order of business was implementing a set of economic
reforms to stimulate the economy, popularly dubbed Abenomics.
The three pillars of this stimulus included monetary easing, fiscal
spending and deregulation to promote private investment.
He also vowed to bring more women into the workforce, an attempt
Mr. Abe has reinvented Japan, from a recalcitrant participant in trade
liberalisation to a leader of the Trans-Pacific Partnership bloc, after the
U.S. withdrew from it in 2017.
Under him, Japan has boosted defence spending and enhanced its ability
to project power outside of its borders.
In a historic shift in 2014, Mr. Abe’s government reinterpreted (without
amending) the Constitution to permit Japanese troops to fight overseas for
the first time since the Second World War.
A five-year defence programme announced in 2018 allocated 25.5 trillion
yen ($233.7 billion) in spending, a 6.4% rise over the previous five years.
On the diplomatic front:
Mr. Abe has reached out to traditional partners like the U.S. (he was
the first foreign leader to meet with Donald Trump after the President’s
election), while keeping ties with rival China on an even keel.
Mr. Abe made an official visit to Beijing last October (the first such
visit in nearly seven years) and President Xi Jinping is expected in Japan
For Japan, it has been a difficult balancing act, to avoid excessive
dependence on the U.S., while anticipating the dangers associated with a
more assertive China.
Mr. Abe has demonstrated considerable tactical pragmatism in walking
Mr. Abe has also reached out to strengthen alliances with regional
powers like India and floated the idea of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific for
which he has gained the backing, to varying degrees, of the U.S., Australia
and India.But, despite this smorgasbord of initiatives,
Mr. Abe’s tenure has not been entirely rosy.
The Japanese economy remains limp and Japanese corporations have so far
proved unable to transform themselves into 21st century technology leaders.
Though, during his tenure, Japan has benefited from periods of economic
growth and low unemployment, the country remains mired in a slow-growth,
high-debt deflationary trap.
The government recently downgraded its 2019 growth forecast to 0.9% from
an earlier prediction of 1.3%.
Moving away from pacifism
Domestically, Mr. Abe’s vision of a less pacifist Japan remains deeply
His most cherished policy goal is the amendment of Article 9 in the
Constitution: the clause that restricts Japan’s ability to maintain a
But it is looking no closer to fulfilment than it did at the beginning
of his reign. The Prime Minister wants to write the existence of Japan’s
Self-Defense Forces, as the military is known, into Article 9, giving
constitutional standing to de facto reality.
However, a survey conducted by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper earlier this
year showed that 64% of respondents opposed even this modest revision.
While Mr. Abe continues to reiterate his pledge to push through the
revision by 2020, it is looking increasingly unlikely that he will prove
Japan can meet the challenge of China’s increasing heft. Relations with
neighbour and potential ally, South Korea, are worse than ever.
Under Mr. Abe, Japan has made little progress in facing up to its
historical responsibility for the widespread atrocities of the Japanese
Imperial Army in the Second World War.
The recent deterioration in relations with Seoul were prompted by
unresolved grievances involving Koreans who were forced to work in Japan’s
mines and factories during the war, as well as “comfort women” who were made
to service the military’s brothels.
Far from helping heal the historical wounds inflicted by Japan, Mr.
Abe’s nationalistic stance is seen as unrepentant at best and provocative at
Mr. Abe’s long reign will come to an end in September 2021 when his term
as leader of the Liberal Democratic Party finishes.
At the current juncture it looks as though he will get a pass in the
history books, though not with distinction. ‘A’ for longevity, but a ‘B,’ at
most, for everything else.
Q.1) What is “TOI 700 d”, recently seen in news? A. An Earth-size planet orbiting its star in the habitable zone which has
been found by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission.
B. Potentially hazardous asteroid of the Apollo group.
C. A six-metre telescope on Cerro Toco in the Atacama Desert in the north of
D. None of the above
Q.1) Describe the tenure and performance of the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. What
are the major challenges still ahead of him?