Japan’s new prime minister faces challenges

Rob Schmitz Dec 17, 2012

Yesterday, a transfer of power in Japan: Shinzo Abe will become Japan’s seventh prime minister in six years in what has become a revolving door of leaders trying to spice up Japan’s sluggish economy.

The newly-elected prime minister, who has told Japanese voters he’d take a tough stance on territorial disputes with China, may have Beijing on alert. The two countries have been sparring over a chain of islands in the East China Sea. But International relations professor Huang Dahui at Renmin University in Beijing thinks Abe will cool his rhetoric now that his party has won.

“Japan fully understands China is their most important trading partner,” says Huang. “If Japan wants to improve its own economy, it has to value its relationship with China.”

Huang says that means Abe should layoff on making territorial claims over what China recognizes as the Diaoyu Islands. In the past year, China’s government certainly hasn’t heeded that advice — it’s made threats and sent its Navy to the region, prompting dozens of anti-Japanese protests throughout China.

The dispute is already having an impact on trade between the two nations: Japanese automakers have cut production in China in half.




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