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The Political Economy of Japan under the Abe Government

Evaluating the long-term implications of Abe’s policies for Japan and its region

Change and continuity in Japan under Abe

How effective are Prime Minister Abe’s policies? What are their implications for Japanese politics, economy, and society, and for the broader region?

Research Focus

The Abe government, which has ruled Japan since 2012, increasingly appears to represent a major turning point in postwar Japanese political economy. Among other things, the Abe government has introduced significant macroeconomic policy shifts, implemented a host of economic and political reforms, and pursued a pragmatic foreign policy that surprised many observers who expected a greater emphasis on nationalism. On the other hand, Abe has been criticized by some for his approach towards the media, history issues, energy policy, and international and domestic security. With a major election victory in 2017, Abe is likely to become the longest-serving Japanese Prime Minister in history.

Undertaking a comprehensive analysis of continuity and change, The Political Economy of Japan under the Abe Government research project investigates the long-run trajectory of Japanese political economy and assesses the Abe government’s long-term implications for Japan.

Some of the questions this study addresses are: Does the Abe government represent a return to the postwar pattern of Japanese politics, or are we witnessing a new political equilibrium based on Japan’s reformed political and economic institutions? Is Japan now a two-party system, or essentially a one-party system dominated by the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP)? How effectively has the Abe government been able to overcome the LDP’s traditional support base, which has often resisted economic reforms? Have policies associated with the “three arrows” of Abenomics—macroeconomic policies, fiscal policies, and structural reform—achieved success? What is the administration’s track record in various initiatives such as the promotion of women in the workplace under the banner of “womenomics,” innovation and technology policy, and corporate governance reform? How will the run up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics affect the remaining years of Abe’s tenure?

The project focuses on three themes:

First, an assessment of the objectives, accomplishments, and efficacy of Abe’s policies.

Second, a study of the impacts of the Abe government on longstanding debates about Japanese politics. After years of political transition and instability, has Japan finally settled on a stable political model? How was Abe able to avoid the mistakes of his numerous predecessors, including himself, who were ousted from power quickly? Are bureaucrats enjoying a resurgence with the decline of the Democratic Party of Japan and a return to stable rule by the LDP?

Third, an examination of Abe’s foreign policy and its implications for the broader region. What enabled Abe to achieve important breakthroughs, such as the “comfort women” agreement with Korea and President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima? How has Japan’s policy towards international organizations evolved? What are the long-term implications of the 2015 security legislation?

In addition to a new body of research on these topics by the project’s Principal Investigators Takeo Hoshi and Philip Lipscy, a major component of the project is a two-day conference, which was held in February 2018 and brought together top scholars to present and discuss new research on the political economy of the Abe government. The conference papers will be collected in a published volume.

 

Lead Researchers

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Takeo Hoshi

Shorenstein APARC Japan Program Director
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Takeo Hoshi

Shorenstein APARC Japan Program Director
Henri H. and Tomoye Takahashi Senior Fellow in Japanese Studies, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
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Phillip Y. Lipscy

Shorenstein Asia Pacific Research Center Thomas Rohlen Center Fellow
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Phillip Y. Lipscy

Shorenstein Asia Pacific Research Center Thomas Rohlen Center Fellow
Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science

Publications

 

The Politics of Energy and Climate Change in Japan under Abe: Abenergynomics (with Trevor Incerti)
Asian Survey, August 2018

Has Abenomics Succeeded in Raising Japan's Inward Foreign Direct Investment?
Asian Economic Policy Review, January 2018

Capital Market Regulation in Japan after the Global Financial Crisis
World Scientific in International Economics, December 2015

Implementing Structural Reforms in Abenomics: How to Reduce the Cost of Doing Business in Japan
National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper 21507, August 2015
For a summary of media citations of this paper, see APARC News

Institutional Foundations for Innovations-Based Economic Growth
National Institute for Research Advancement Report, July 2015

News Articles and Opinion Pieces
 

Trump and Abe are Natural Allies
The Diplomat, February 2017

Conference Explores How Japan- and the United States Can Close the Gender Gap
APARC News, November 2016

Stanford Economist Evaluates Japan’s Monetary Policy Assessment
Nikkei Shimbun, September 2016

The Third Arrow of Abenomics
Nikkei Shimbun, January 2015


Photo credit: Unsplash user Ryoji Iwata