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Special Report: Shinzo Abe's Legacy

The lasting influence of the man who defined Japan's politics for decades.
Special Report: Shinzo Abe's Legacy

Shinzo Abe was a political blueblood groomed for power. Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, he was also perhaps the most polarizing, complex politician in recent Japanese history, writes the Los Angeles Times.

“He’s the most towering political figure in Japan over the past couple of decades,” said Dave Leheny, a political scientist at Waseda University. “He wanted Japan to be respected on the global stage in the way that he felt was deserved. He also wanted Japan to not have to keep apologizing for World War II.” Abe believed that Japan’s postwar track record of economic success, peace and global cooperation was something that “other countries should pay more attention to and that Japanese should be proud of,” Leheny said.

Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest-serving leader, leaves a polarizing legacy (Los Angeles Times)

Excerpt from the Los Angeles Times: Abe angered both liberals at home and World War II victims in Asia with his hawkish push to revamp the military and his revisionist view that Japan was given an unfair verdict by history for its brutal past. At the same time, he revitalized Japan’s economy, led efforts for the nation to take a stronger role in Asia and served as a rare beacon of political stability before stepping down two years ago for health reasons. Abe was a darling of conservatives but reviled by many liberals in Japan. And no policy was more divisive than his cherished, ultimately unsuccessful dream to revise Japan’s war-renouncing constitution. His ultra-nationalism also angered the Koreas and China, both wartime victims of Japan.
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According to CNN, Abe served two separate terms as Japanese leader for the right-leaning LDP -- the first from 2006 to 2007, then again from 2012 until 2020. His second stint was the longest consecutive term for a Japanese head of government. Abe will be remembered for boosting defense spending and pushing through the most dramatic shift in Japanese military policy in 70 years.

Shinzo Abe, Japan's longest-serving prime minister, defined politics for a generation (CNN)

Excerpt from CNN: In 2015, his government passed a reinterpretation of Japan's postwar, pacifist constitution, allowing Japanese troops to engage in overseas combat -- with conditions -- for the first time since World War II. Abe argued the change was needed to respond to a more challenging security environment, a nod to a more assertive China and frequent missile tests in North Korea. During his term, Abe sought to improve relations with Beijing and held a historic phone call with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in 2018. At the same time, he tried to counter Chinese expansion in the region by uniting Pacific allies. After leaving office, Abe remained head of the largest faction of the ruling LDP and remained influential within the party.
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By the time he resigned because of illness in August 2020, Abe had become modern Japan’s longest-serving prime minister. His tenure exceeded that of his grandfather Nobusuke Kishi, who led Japan from 1957 to 1960. His center-right Liberal Democratic Party has dominated Japanese politics since it was founded in 1955, reports The Washington Post.

Who was Shinzo Abe, the former Japanese leader killed in a gun attack? (The Washington Post)

Excerpt from The Washington Post: Scandal marred his brief first term as prime minister. But he found more success redirecting the nation’s course after returning to power in 2012. The economic policies he pursued, dubbed “Abenomics,” were intended as shock therapy for an economy that had become stagnant after a lengthy postwar boom. Abe’s “three arrow” strategy called for a combination of monetary easing — which he convinced the Bank of Japan to support — increased government spending and other economic changes aimed at ending more than two decades of lost growth. Debate over whether the strategy worked is not settled, though few structural changes were enacted and the cycle of hyper-low inflation was not broken.
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