There are two schools of thought around how Japan-China relations will fare under the second Abe administration. Some point to his “nationalist” inclinations—actually quite moderate, and moderated, compared to anything that the Chinese or even mainstream US political spectrum offers; I’m using that term in a Japanese context—and think that he will exacerbate it while others think that he won’t, pointing to his past behavior as well as some very real constraints. I’ve always been in the second camp, but I do acknowledge that Abe has a strategic vision around concern over China’s regional presence and the reasons for that concern has certainly grown since his last tour. Moreover, the likelihood of an unplanned incident around the Senkaku Islands is growing, an incident that is sure to elicit a stronger response from Abe than from any of his seven predecessors, including Abe 1.0, with the attendant potential for escalation. I’ve looked to what appears to be superior second-track and backdoor diplomacy resources to help contain the spillover. But it so happens that three significant LDP figures in the pro-China wing are retiring, willingly in the case of former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and former Secretary-General (Koizumi’s right-hand man) Hidenao Nakagawa, or not, in the case of former Foreign Minister Koichi Kato, who lost in his single-member district election and was denied the proportional-regional-district zombie insurance because of his advanced age. Out of diedt does not mean out of mind, but they will no longer have a personal power base, carrying less authority and disadvantaged as it were to demand the ear of what may be a prime minister that would be reluctant to listen to their more constraining voices. This may be an avenue worth pursuing.
Okay, back to work.