Sunday 10 Oct 2021 | 12:22 | SYDNEY
Sunday 10 Oct 2021 | 12:22 | SYDNEY

Hatoyama: Enigma


Sam Roggeveen


3 September 2009 10:50

The Interpreter has carried a few pieces about the incoming DPJ Government in Japan. A theme running through the commentary has been caution about the implications of the election: the DPJ might not be able to implement its radical agenda, or its policies might not be so radical anyway. To an Australian who also watches US politics closely, that's a persuasive line; it's what we've seen in both those countries since their changes of government to a moderate but left-leaning party.

Still, reading Prime Minister-elect Hatoyama's own words — which I confess I had not done until finding this 27 August NY Times op-ed today via Gideon Rachman — you can't help but be struck by his rhetorical bluntness and his, well, courageous ideas:

  • He lauds the EU as a model for economic development and peace, wants an 'East Asian community' and a common Asian currency.
  • He says the US is guilty of 'the fundamentalist pursuit of capitalism' (he or his translators must know the political charge the word 'fundamentalist' carries in the post-9/11 era).
  • He questions the permanence of the greenback as the key global currency.
  • He says 'the era of U.S.-led globalism is coming to an end and that we are moving toward an era of multipolarity.'
  • He's resigned to Japan being surpassed by China and describes his country as 'caught between' a US-China struggle for dominance.
  • He says the 'military threat posed by our neighbor China' is a major factor driving regional integration.

As someone who read a lot of Burke and Oakeshott at university, I was also struck by Hatoyama's repeated invocation of tradition and his criticism of 'American-style free-market economics' as a 'universal and ideal economic order'. The veneration of tradition and distrust of abstract ideologies are both conservative touchstones. But then Hatoyama goes and allies that idea to the French revolutionary creed of 'Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite', which is precisely the universalist doctrine Burke argued against! So I don't know what to think.

Photo by Flickr user JanneM, used under a Creative Commons license.