Japan’s Glacial Ascendance

Almost-great power status is Japan’s sweet spot – so long as the U.S. sticks around.

For such a historic transition of power, the handover from Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest-serving and most powerful postwar prime minister, to Yoshihide Suga was always going to be short on drama. Suga, Abe’s longtime chief of staff, faced only token competition from a handful of other ruling party bigwigs. His ruling Liberal Democratic Party commands large majorities in both houses of the Diet and doesn’t need to call for elections right away, diminishing any need to win over the public with platforms calling for sweeping change. And there’s no real reason to think Suga, a proudly uncharismatic septuagenarian technocrat without an independent power base, is especially interested in or capable of steering the country in a new direction. After all, he was instrumental in both crafting and implementing his boss’ agenda for tackling Japan’s biggest problems: its decadeslong economic stagnation, demographic decline and the rapid rise of China. This agenda remains unfinished – and bedeviled by constraints that, under Suga, will grow steeper as Japan reels from the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. In other words, continuity is once again the theme of the day in Japan – a fitting fate since the country is basically locked into its […]

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Phillip Orchard
Phillip Orchard is an analyst at Geopolitical Futures. Prior to joining the company, Mr. Orchard spent nearly six years at Stratfor, working as an editor and writing about East Asian geopolitics. He’s spent more than six years abroad, primarily in Southeast Asia and Latin America, where he’s had formative, immersive experiences with the problems arising from mass political upheaval, civil conflict and human migration. Mr. Orchard holds a master’s degree in Security, Law and Diplomacy from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, where he focused on energy and national security, Chinese foreign policy, intelligence analysis, and institutional pathologies. He also earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He speaks Spanish and some Thai and Lao.