[Asia’s Next Page] Kishida’s foreign policy manifesto in 2022 and beyond
Fumio Kishida’s election as Japan’s 100the Prime Minister in October 2021 marked the start of a new era in Japanese politics.
Recognized as an uncontroversial consensus builder, Kishida led the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to a bigger than expected general election victory for the lower house of the National Diet.
With a track record as Japan’s longest-serving post-war foreign minister under former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Kishida pledged a steadfast hand of leadership, consistency and continuity, a strong determination to strengthen. Japan’s place in the region and beyond. It was seen as portraying a strong position for safeguarding Japanese national interests vis-à-vis China, and last but not least, relying on the Abenomics and Suganomics (along with Kishidanomics) to counter the economic difficulties of the Japan.
As Tokyo prepares for 2022, what will be the key tenets of Kishida’s foreign policy manifesto? What will be its main objective in the domestic field?
Restore confidence, credibility
Prime Minister Kishida took office at a critical time for the country, amid steadily escalating geopolitical tensions in the region and a worsening economic environment. Quickly, these obstacles turn out to be a test of Kishida’s national and international political maneuvers.
The unpopularity of Kishida’s predecessor Prime Minister Yoshihida Suga stems mainly from his administration’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis and the decision to move forward with the Tokyo Olympics in the midst of the raging pandemic.
On the other hand, Kishida has carefully built his reputation within the Party by avoiding controversial positions on sensitive issues, including, for example, the overhaul of social security. Its tendency is to refrain from making things happen within the PLD – which already suffers from a degraded image, internal divisions and frictions.
In fact, Kishida campaigned on her “special ability to listen to people” and on a “more open LDP” that would respond to complaints from people who felt ignored. Now, as he cements his position and nears his first 100 days in power, it is vital that he puts this narrative into action.
Interestingly, while Kishida was previously seen as an indecisive moderate leader, he has exhibited a much stronger and more daring leadership style since taking the leadership position.
For example, as fears over the new Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus grew, Kishida quickly seized the opportunity to show leadership and determination. In one of the world’s toughest responses to Omicron, Japan closed all of its borders with a strict lockdown that will last until 2022. The detection of the first such case in the country saw the prime minister toughen up further travel restrictions and quarantine regulations.
Restore economic confidence
Kishida’s national handling of the Omicron threat will have a direct impact on Tokyo’s international standing and fiscal power. Knowing this, the Prime Minister has sought to shorten the time interval between the second dose of vaccine and the third or the booster to bolster his credibility.
Securing a stable economic recovery is becoming critical to Japan’s foreign policy outlook, with Japan’s gross domestic product (GDP) contracting at a faster-than-expected rate due to lockdowns induced by COVID-19 – an annual rate of 3. 6% during the period July-September 2021. Against this background, Kishida’s unhesitating and resolute response helped to avoid criticism and restore public confidence in the government, with a strong message on how his tenure as Prime Minister will take shape in the coming year.
In 2022, rebuilding the credibility of the LDP and improving its failing image will be of utmost importance to ensure that Japan does not slide into another era of revolving-door leadership model. Notably, Kishida’s political transition to “secure” leadership, and her strong performance in dealing with the pandemic, has already triggered an upward trajectory for the Japanese economy, with investors and markets responding positively to the crisis. semblance of stability at the top.
In other words, Kishida has helped boost the country’s economy by presenting investing in a green and digital Japan as an attractive option.
At the same time, it also seeks to actively tackle persistent structural problems – such as the declining birth rate and socio-economic disparities – to enable a sustainable “virtuous growth cycle”.
In addition, Kishidanomics also involves a strong emphasis on economic multilateralism as part of its Indo-Pacific policy. The aim is to consolidate Tokyo’s trade partnerships through agreements such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (CP-TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), while demonstrating a greater leadership in international bodies such as the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Kishida’s Foreign Policy Perspectives: From Dovish to Hawkish?
Threats to traditional security continue to plague Japan. China – identified as Japan’s main threat in its 2021 Defense White Paper – and its “unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China Seas” are a cause of immense concern for Tokyo. According to the white paper, this includes the new “problematic” Chinese Coast Guard Law (CCGL.
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The document – titled “Defense of Japan 2021” – was also Tokyo’s first official security-focused statement, with a focus on Taiwan.
Japan’s interest in Taiwan has grown steadily. Kishida, in a gesture that angered China, hailed Taiwan’s candidacy to join the PC-TPP during the PLD election campaign. In this regard, the possibility for Kishida to shed his dove image and gradually turn to China becomes clearer.
In an important recent development, comments against Chinese military action in Taiwan by former Prime Minister Abe – who still wields considerable political power in Japan – reportedly deteriorated Sino-Japanese relations. While some believe Abe’s remarks are personal, leaving him space to talk about what he couldn’t during his tenure as prime minister, other analysts have argued that it could be attempts on his part (and the PLD) to lock up the pro-Chinese tendencies of the Kishida administration.
Regardless, Kishida’s recent decision to formally assign a senior diplomat in Beijing to handle maritime disputes in the East China Sea (with a focus on Taiwan and the Senkaku Islands) came amid a growing animosity between the two countries.
Additionally, an ongoing debate regarding breaking with the occupation-era constitution and improving Japan’s defenses also actively flourished under Kishida. Such movements did not go well in Beijing. Following Kishida’s announcement at the Special Session of the Japanese Parliament that Japan will focus on strengthening defense and building strike capabilities, China’s state-owned newspaper Global Times issued a scathing review slow attempts by Tokyo to “carve out its pacifist constitution with slaughtering tactics”.
In addition, Japan had approved a defense budget of 5.34 trillion JPY (US $ 52.6 billion) for fiscal year 2021. However, in November 2021, Kishida’s cabinet approved a record supplementary budget. JPY 773.8 billion yen (US $ 6.7 billion).
China’s concerns have grown further amid reports that Japan plans to revise its national security guidelines at the end of 2022. The guidelines set out medium to long-term direction for foreign policy and national security. Intended to cover a 10-year period, a change in 2022 would mark the first time since 2013, when the current guidelines were issued by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Beijing is concerned that securing strike capabilities, Taiwan’s concerns, and broader security tightening in the wake of China’s aggression are the main focus areas of the revised guidelines.
Building on a sustainable international perspective
Meeting China’s challenge has highlighted the significance of multilateralism for Japan. Going forward, Kishida could focus on building closer cooperation with Japan’s alliance partners like the United States, Indo-Pacific partner states like India and Australia. , as well as with Western partners such as the UK and Europe. Here, the continued focus on “achieving a Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP)” remains a key priority, and Quad a critical aspect of that goal.
In his first foreign policy speech as Prime Minister, Kishida vowed to strengthen the Quad to achieve FOIP, while placing the US-Japan alliance at the heart of Japan’s foreign policy prospects.
Other multilateral companies, such as the India-Australia-Japan Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) are designed to protect value chains of critical materials such as semiconductor chips and energy. The Blue Dot Network (BDN) led by the United States, Japan and Australia, along with continued engagement with the Five-Eyes (FVEY) and maritime exercises like Malabar and JIMEX, are also of critical importance to present Japan as a powerful and growing regional player. .
In 2022, some of Kishida’s main foreign policy goals will follow those of his predecessors Suga and Abe, focusing on the Indo-Pacific with the other Quad states – the United States, India and Australia. Demonstrating his well-established expertise as a diplomat, Kishida is already ready to host the Quad Leadership Summit 2022.
While Washington is currently ruling out the possibility of Japan (or India) joining a larger AUKUS group, Japan is nonetheless a vital partner with the power to influence the dynamics of the region. Going forward, as Tokyo places more emphasis on defense revitalization, problem-based cooperation with AUKUS, whether bilaterally or through other multilateral platforms like the Five Eyes or the Group of Seven, could be further explored.
Kishida’s political and diplomatic balance in 2022 will shape Japan’s future role in the regional security architecture, and the leader appears ready to rise, albeit cautiously, to the challenge.
Author: Dr Jagannath Panda
Dr. Jagannath Panda is a researcher and center coordinator for East Asia at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defense Studies and Analyzes, New Delhi. He is also the series editor for “Routledge Studies on Think Asia”. Dr Panda is co-editor of the latest book, Quad Plus and Indo-Pacific: The Changing Profile of International Relations (Routledge: 2021).