Friday 08 Oct 2021 | 05:13 | SYDNEY
Friday 08 Oct 2021 | 05:13 | SYDNEY

Japan: The day after


Malcolm Cook

31 August 2009 13:51

The DPJ, with its slogan 'Japan will change!', has won a landslide victory in an election that saw over 70% of the electorate come out despite an approaching typhoon. The Japanese clearly want change and the DPJ now has to deliver.

When it comes to thinking about Australia-Japan-US triangular relations, four thoughts come to my mind:

  1. It is good that Australia, the US and Japan have all recently witnessed changes of government to more left-leaning but still centrist parties after long rule (especially in the case of Japan) by conservative parties. All three leaders see themselves as a new breed of politician distinctly different than those they took power from. South Korea and New Zealand have also recently had changes of government, but in the opposite partisan direction.
  2. As with the new Rudd and new Obama governments, the Hatoyama Government will likely spend the next few months struggling with voter expectations and the array of promises it has made to the electorate in order to gain office. As with Australia and the US, climate change policy may prove to be one of the most difficult issues, as the DPJ is promising cuts of 25% in greenhouse emissions by 2020 based on a 1990 baseline year. This is much more ambitious than Australia's CPRS, especially given the differences in baseline years. The awesome scope of what the DPJ is promising and Japan's fiscal nightmare mean that there may well be many more 'non-core' promises that fall to the wayside in Japan than in Australia or Washington.
  3. As in Australia, and less so in the US, the new opposition party, the LDP, will likely go through a long bout of internal wrangling and post-traumatic shock meaning that the DPJ may not face a serious opposition threat even if the Hatoyama Government does not live up to expectations.
  4. The main foreign policy challenge of the Rudd Government was to get the balance of relations between Washington, Tokyo and Beijing correct and to ensure all three capitals that the change of government in Canberra was a good thing for the respective relationship. The Rudd Government certainly failed with Tokyo early on. For the Hatoyama Government, the key will be balancing relations between Beijing and Washington and ensuring them that the change of government in Japan is a good thing. Not sure where Australia will fit into Japan’s new foreign policy thinking.