One of the key geopolitical events in the Indo-Pacific thus far in 2020 has been the stepping down of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the transition to Yoshihide Suga following Abe’s initial announcement August 28. Given Abe’s significant role in the Japan’s development and regional geopolitics and the fact that this is the first leadership change in Japan in eight years, the development has produced a flood of commentary about the extent to which the world should expect continuity and change from Japan both domestically and internationally.
While there may be a tendency to focus first and foremost on the aggregate consequences of leadership change, it is also important to consider more granular aspects as well, including how this will affect companies and their interests. Here, the reality is more complex: though uncertainty in some minds will probably settle a bit more once the shape of specific policies becomes clearer, there are nonetheless some sources of inbuilt stability as well. As BGA Japan Managing Director Kiyo Aburaki recently put it in a note to BGA clients, a short excerpt of which was shared on BGA social media, “While Abe’s strong leadership will be missed, a new government is expected to invest more political capital to revitalize the economy and to strengthen U.S.-Japan relations as a prerequisite to winning the next general election of the Lower House.”
As Suga’s leadership takes shape, there will be a focus on some developments further down the road, including the next general election. More generally, though Japan faces a range of challenges ahead of it post-Abe, it also has some seasoned leaders who may be able to help it navigate through them, with Suga being a particular case in point. As Aburaki succinctly noted in a recent interview: “Nobody has had as long a tenure as Suga…He knows everything. He knows how government works. He knows how sectionalism has previously prevented change. That is a great asset for him.”