Shinzo Abe: A bold leader at home and abroad

He asserted his country’s position in the most emphatic manner at the global stage
File Photo of former, now dead, Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe.
File Photo of former, now dead, Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe.

The assassination of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has shocked the world, but a bigger shock is that it happened in a country alien to gun culture and political killings.

A deep running fear has come to fore with this assassination as the motive for the murder is not known as yet. There have been certain instances of violence in the past when the individuals, devastated by their personal frustrations and failures sought to kill the people.

The observers of Japanese politics are yet to find a reason for the suspected assassin to do what he did, eliminating a super star of Japanese politics.

That Abe was assassinated in Nara city where he was speaking at a campaign event, speaks a lot about the polity that Japan has where the political leaders are not separated by huge barricades and barbed wars, perhaps there is no blue book and the security detail because no need is felt for that. It may change now.

But what will not change is that Abe was a brave leader at home and in the rest of the world; he took bold steps without taking refuge in the contrived and squeamish narratives.

He asserted his country’s position in the most emphatic manner at the global stage. Abe was not afraid of aggressive China, he had his own response, and quite a bold one.

Why should Abe be remembered? It is being observed in almost all reports after his assassination that Abe was the longest serving prime minister of Japan.

“Longest serving prime minister”, in itself says two things – one, that the leader was popular and he had done something endearing him to the people; second, it underlines the political stability that he brought to the Japanese politics, where frequent elections had become a norm.

That way, he changed the political spectrum of the country’s politics and established that a leader can stay at the helm of affairs by his work and vision.

That happens only when the work and vision go together in the real time, much different from the empty rhetoric and the unabashed personality cult, the kind of which the Americans witnessed during Trump era, and now Pakistan is experiencing the same before and after the fall of the Imran Khan government. The list is long, but the space constraint doesn’t allow to name them all.

Abe has left behind a legacy; like all powerful leaders. There is a difference in determining the legacy feature, one those who die natural death and the ones who fall to bombs and bullets.

In fact, the complete wok of the assassinated leaders is not complete, hence the analysis is different, for it remains in the realm of speculation as to what more could have they done if their lives were not cut short by their killers.

We would never know that what Indira Gandhi, who was shot by her body guards, could have achieved had she lived on, nor do we know that whether Rajiv Gandhi could have brought better results had he survived the attack in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu on May 21, 1991, after the country had witnessed chaos and confusion during the V P Singh government. India is still paying the price for the feral turn the Indian politics took during his rule.

Abenomics, the economic vision document, reveals that how much committed the leader was to his countrymen as also how he wanted to place Japan at the global stage.

The Abenomics was technology driven, but the essence revolved around the human development in all respects, mixing the conventional ways with the new ones.

It is a perfect blend of vision and reality, which only leaders like Shinzo Abe could do. The fundamentals of his economic theories, which he put into practice, to reverse the reverses that the Japanese economy had suffered. But he aimed at looking at future without going back to past time and again.

That was a dynamic approach and spoke of the mind of the person and his ideas about the nation-building and finding a unique place for Japan in the world.

His guiding vision, when Abenomics first came out in 2017, was that “we should look to the future, rather than worry about the present. Japan may be ageing. Japan may be losing its population.

But, these are incentives for us.” This, if decoded, shows that the man knew what he was talking about, he was not decrying the past, recognised the challenges that present had thrown at Japan which was once a booming economy – even when Japan was hit by crisis, it was hailed as a sound economy in comparison to the western economy.

He knew that future was beckoning Japan, and that is what Abenomics is all about.

The essentials of Abenomics can become economic guide for any nation, as some of these are based on the shared vision for the world: change the way how work is done.

Increasing productivity and labour population were listed as keys to sustaining growth under the demographic change that Japan was experiencing; embracing diversity, involving women, senior citizens and expatriates into the economic growth.

Alongside, there was focus on leveraging society which sought to add new dimensions to the conventional four stages:

(a) hunter-gatherer, ( b) agricultural, (c) Industrial and (d) information’ that is “Realise Society 5.0.” It is related to the development of automated driven technology, legislative systems .

This also included in expanding the health care market from 16 trillion to 26 trillion yen by 2020, and creation of a framework for private firms to provide medical-related services not covered by public insurances in cooperation with insured medical services for integrated care, double the integrated market value, accelerate the restructuring in the material production business (e.g. fertilizer, feed) and also in the distribution business.

The Abenomics’ vision is more relevant now than ever before as it laid stress on tapping international opportunities – free trade and investment in infrastructural projects across the globe. That was his economic outlook, the legacy of which would live on forever.

It should serve as an inspiration for all those who really want to do something for their people. The Abenomics was a solid economic vision not the populism which has now acquired an art form used by many leaders across the countries giving a damn to the ruin it causes to the economies.

Abe would also be remembered for revising the security apparatus of his country, shedding the pacifist role that it played in the post-World War II. He wanted to reverse the past.

Tobias Harris, the political researcher who wrote Abe’s biography,The Iconoclast : Shinzo Abe and the New Japan, saw in him a unique leader who wanted to place Japan in the focus of the world as power it enjoyed before the World War-II.

Abe was very clear in his thoughts about the security of his country and the contributions that it should be making at the global stage, particularly against an aggressive China with which it has a perennial dispute over Senkaku Islands.

In his own words, as he outlined the security vision in an interview with Wilson Center in March this year: “ if the U.S. and Japan show the firm stance that we do deal with the ( Russian invasion of Ukraine ) situation with strong measures, then of course China will hesitate and refrain from making any moves.

If both the US and Japan take a position that we sit here just observing the situation from the sidelines and doing nothing, it will lead to a situation where China may take a step to use military force to achieve unification (with Taiwan) .

That is why we have to reach a national consensus on the need to clearly show our positions.”

These are the words which only brave and bold leaders can say. Abe was one of the few of this creed.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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