My dialogue with Mark the Techie continues:
Why do you like Nakasone? And what do you think of his son, Hirofumi?
The elder Nakasone had—still has—a clear vision of his objectives as a statesman and held to it as best he could throughout his political life. For him, the political game was secondary. He understood the need to set his priorities accordingly, as can be seen from his handling of the Yasukuni controversy. He matched this purposeful approach with an eloquence that is sorely missing otherwise from post-WW II politics in Japan. He also put his personal stamp on administrative reform. He was a worthy representative of the LDP at the high watermark of the 1955 regime. His son appears to be an amicable, inoffensive representative of the more conservative elements of the LDP, nothing more, nothing less. He’s the son of a Prime Minister, yet has spent all his political life in the Upper House; go figure. I’d love to have him as a neighbor though.
In your original post, you seem to discount the power of the faction heads. But in your first reply, you claim that many younger politicians obey their elders. Who are these elders that have control of the younger politicians?
I haven’t done a good job of explaining myself, have I? Let me take another crack at this theme.
I am sorely disappointed with the genteel fifty-somethings who have failed to step up in the post-Koizumi years and instead allowed their elders to play the political game with the Prime Minister’s chair and senior party posts. (Remember that the generally untested Abe essentially had the Prime Minister’s job dropped in his lap by Koizumi.) Don’t they understand that politics is a blood sport? Yoshimi Watanabe id leave the LDP, but his new movement (with Kenji Eda) is unlikely to emerge as significant focal point in any post-electoral search for realignment. Pockets of youthful dissidence do flare up as the party leadership lurches from one crisis to another, but ultimately come to naught as their elders preach unity, leaving the impression of aimlessness and disarray in the face of pending disaster. The junior varsity for the opposition has an excuse; Ozawa, Hatoyama, and Kan are, after all, the founding fathers of the DPJ and its predecessors. Besides, Okada and—even more significantly—Maehara have taken their turns.
Faction heads and their deputies are not totally powerless, insofar as parliamentarians continue to see value in their faction membership. But Yoshiro Mori appears to maintain substantial influence over his faction although it has been some years since he yielded formal leadership. Within the same faction and possibly beyond, Yoshinao Nakagawa has emerged as a focal point for diehard reformists, precipitating a bitter intra-faction schism.
By the way, I find it curious that you separate foreign policy from economic policy. Based on the success of Japan during the post war period, I'd say a successful economic policy is the most integral part of a successful foreign policy. After the Iraq war, and after nearly a decade of a botched reconstruction effort in Afghanistan, it seems funny for an ex-MITI bureaucrat to split foreign policy and economic policy like that.
If your point is that a strong domestic economy is essential to achieving ambitious foreign policy goals, I can’t agree with you more.
Globalization? Is that what it's called? Interesting. But for the West, I think another word is more applicable. I think it's called de-globalization. Think of Gordon Brown and his "British jobs for British workers" spiel. Or think of Sarkozy and his admonition against exporting jobs to eastern Europe. Or think of the Buy American provision. But most importantly, think of GE. Nearly three decades ago, Jack Welch unleashed his shareholder value ideology. Good for shareholders. Not good for the current account. About a week ago, Jeff Immelt said the U.S. had outsourced too much, and needed to have a stronger manufacturing base. Quite a difference, wouldn't you say?
The economic downturn has created a backlash. Let’s see what happens other than Buy American provisions in Obama’s economic package (which the other OECD member countries are opposing) that goes beyond rhetoric. For example, will Sarkozy propose limitations on the free movement of labor and capital within the EU? Suspend Poland’s membership?
I'm sure Japan's continued support for the IMF gives some relief to the U.S. and Europe, but I would note that since the crisis began, it seems like Japan has been most active through the institutions it controls - the ADB, JBIC, etc.
Japan was the first to extend a substantial amount of money to the IMF during the current crisis. JBIC is basically the lender of last resorts for Japanese exports and foreign investment. It’s going into action as part of the government-sponsored emergency financing efforts. Nothing unusual in that. I don’t know what we’re doing with regard to ADB right now, but I doubt there’s anything new there as well.
I don't know what happened in Australia for most of the 20th century and I don't really see why Australia's switch to the Asian Football Federation is particularly important. On the other hand, I would note that Kevin Rudd seems to be a big advocate for this Asia-Pacific thingy. I wonder why? Also, I believe his budget calls for buying lots of military equipment for defense against China. Presumably, he will buy this equipment from the U.S. In addition, Australia continues to pester Japan on whaling. Furthermore, it recently killed the Rio Tinto deal with Chinalco. Throughout that process, I heard many voices in Australia who expressed concern about Chinese investment. Frankly, his recent actions have made me wonder if Kevin Rudd's professed affection for China was more a stunt to attempt to panic Japan - a stunt that backfired because Japan itself wants to get closer to China.
In 1972 Gough Whitlam came to power and started the process that transformed Australia, which till then had drawn a neat racial parallel with the far more malignant regime in South Africa. Essentially, White Australia decided to become Asia(-Pacific) Australia. Australia’s switch to the Asian Football Federation is a cultural symbol of this transformation.
As for relations with China, remember that when Rudd came to power, China was still the new black. I don’t think it had anything to do with Japan, a mature market as far as Australia’s natural resources and agricultural industry were concerned. But it’s easy to get worked up over natural resources when they’re still in the ground. I think that’s silly—unlike factories, no one can dismantle a mine and cart it off out of your national jurisdiction—but that’s the way the world works. In any case, China national champions and state investment vehicles, unlike say Norwegian or Qatar sovereign wealth funds, are more likely to follow the dictates of non-commercial interests. Connect this to the not unrelated authoritarian nature of China’s political regime and more or less inchoate fears about rising Chinese dominance, and I can understand where the public outcry was coming from.
I don’t know what exactly triggered the perceived shift in Australia’s defense posture. Maybe the strategic implications of a growing Chinese blue-water navy pushed the Australia’s national security establishment past the tipping point. I happen to think that the threat is greatly overestimated, but I can see how things might look quite different from a Southeast Asia/South Pacific perspective. I’ll believe it when I see an Australian aircraft carrier.
The “research” whaling issue, if I understand it correctly, addressed a highly emotive concern of a particular Labor Party constituency. I believe that the Rudd administration has become considerably more subdued since the kangaroo slaughter controversy—total nonsense in my view, but I don’t have a vote on this.
I agree that the U.S. is becoming less white, though I think the financial crisis could alter that trend somewhat. You say this will have powerful cultural and social implications. What are they? What changes will result? I am very interested in hearing what you have to say on this issue.
Note that I wrote in the present tense. There’s a natural progression from blackface vaudeville routines to the Jack Benny Show to I Spy to Eddie Murphy. Then there’s the greatly expanded role of Hispanics in pop music. These are just a couple of examples of profound changes in U.S. popular culture. (And what high culture exists that was once not popular?) Social change: public acceptance of mixed race couples. Basically, cultural and social barriers of all sorts are coming down in a browning of America.
Since America is by far the greatest post-WW II exporter of cultural and social constructs, this change affects the rest of the world—a world where Al Qaeda uses rap video to recruit terrorists. In a thousand years, unless humanity fcuks up royally (there’s a not insignificant chance of that happening), they’ll all be subscribing to variations of a global culture using variations of a language vaguely resembling English—and it’ll be America’s fault.