TIPP: Farewell, Shinzo Abe

By TIPP EDITORIAL BOARD, TIPP Insights

Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister has been laid to rest.

Hailing from a political dynasty, Shinzo Abe took over the reins of a country that had been in economic doldrums for years. His ambitious plans to infuse growth and revitalize the economy injected hope in many. Though many of his policies yielded mixed results and some of his dreams remain unfinished, Abe’s political career has changed his country’s stature.

Abe chose to look ahead and not dwell on the past. A daring nationalist, he chose to shun the legacy of the Second World War and reshape Japan’s standing on the international stage. As the Prime Minister, he undertook numerous foreign trips, forging new partnerships.

His plans for Japan on the world stage were crystal clear – to form alliances that could offset potential troubles posed by a rising China and to boost the Japanese economy with defense, trade, and energy deals. But above all was his most cherished ambition – to gain international support for when Japan would shed its defense shackles imposed by its pacifist constitution.

Like his grandfather and former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, Abe dreamed of revising Japan’s “peace constitution.” The war-renouncing charter was adopted, in 1947, when Japan was under U.S. occupation. Article 9 of the constitution prohibits Japan from possessing “war potential” but allows the country to maintain forces for its “self-defense.” Today, the island nation has a well-equipped, modern army, navy, and air force but is forced to abstain from first-strike capabilities.

Though domestic support of the pacifist constitution remained high, Abe diligently pursued his agenda. He refused to turn a blind eye to the changing tide. China’s growing power and ambitions and North Korea’s unchecked nuclear program threaten the region’s stability. Abe’s dream was not realized in his lifetime, but the debate and discussions surrounding the proposed changes continue.

As Japan’s leader, he believed that his country must play an active and vital role in maintaining peace and accord on the international stage. A sophisticated politician, he put aside the past and cultivated a strong friendship with America. In a landmark moment during his second term, Abe accompanied President Obama to Hiroshima, the first U.S. president to visit the site of the atomic bombing.

Though ill health and scandals forced Abe to quit the prime minister’s office the first time, his second innings saw him bring political stability to Japan. His period in office from 2012 to 2020 saw him steer the country through many significant events.

Though Abenomics did not fulfill all its goals, Japanese exports rose, and unemployment numbers dropped drastically. Once again forced to leave office due to health concerns, Abe remained a strong voice and influential figure on the Japanese political scene.

Ironically, a Japanese political leader was assassinated in the country. Japan is known for its peaceful society and strict gun control laws. Shinzo Abe’s death by an assassin’s bullet left the nation shocked and reeling. In the end, like his political career, the political assassination will leave an indelible mark on Japan, as his policies and dreams did.

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