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Japan’s Priorities Post-Election: Economic Crisis or Nationalism?

December 17th, 2012

Three years ago, Japan’s Democratic Part came to power, unseating the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party on a promise of political reform. Now, the Democratic  Party has been unceremoniously kicked out of power by the same Japanese electorate, and the LDP has come back to power in a landslide. LDP leader Shinzo Abe, the new prime minister, won the election with a promise of being tough with China on a territorial dispute involving several desolate islands. Abe also claims that the economy will be his number one priority.

But Shinzo Abe can’t have it both ways. Japan, still stuck in a two decades old “L” shaped recession, certainly realizes how important China is for the faltering Japanese economy. China is the number one buyer of Japanese exports, and the trade between the second and third largest economies in the world in the largest two-way export and import relationship in the world. Heightened nationalism in Japan targeting China will inevitably drive a reciprocal response from China’s equally bellicose territorial nationalists. The result would be a sharp deterioration in the trading relation that would hurt both China and Japan, the latter far more heavily, given the character of its long-enduring economic crisis.

Japan’s Abe will either have to backtrack quickly on his tough talk regarding Sino-Japanese relations, or accept that such a dangerous  course will only make matters worse for the ailing Japanese economy.






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