Autori: Corey Wallace, Giulio Pugliese
In: Asia Maior. XXXI/2020

Like elsewhere, the COVID-19 pandemic caused substantial disruptions in Japan. While generous fiscal spending mitigated the pandemic’s economic fallout, and Japan is poised in 2021 to rebound from its year-on-year 4.8% fall in GDP, there was significant political fallout in 2020. The postponement of the Olympic Games, the Abe government’s perceived inability to tackle the pandemic, and the (re)surfacing of political scandals led to Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister popularity plummeting. The re-emergence of Abe’s health problems then precipitated his abrupt resignation. This ushered in the premiership of Suga Yoshihide, who promised to enact structural reforms and ambitious digitalization and environmental programmes, while also promising to continue significant elements of Abe’s policy agenda. Internationally, COVID-19 accelerated US-China tensions and, in connection to that, China’s regional assertiveness. This perceived assertiveness as well as China’s political involution and human rights violations in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, in turn, hardened the Japanese government’s position vis-à-vis Beijing. This happened despite Abe’s early 2020 efforts towards hosting a state visit by the Chinese president. Instead, the year ended with a «Quad» meeting at the ministerial level, hosted in Tokyo, rather than an entente with China. At the same time, Japan deepened its «Indo-Pacific» engagement with important European nations as well as the European Union itself. It did so while doubling down on economic security initiatives that strengthened supply chain resiliency and provided telecommunication alternatives to Chinese initiatives, thereby restraining Chinese strategic influence. Security cooperation with the United States – through joint development of weapons systems, such as a new Japanese fighter, and close coordination in space, cyber and electromagnetic warfare – continued unabated in 2020.

Keywords – COVID-19, Suga Yoshihide, Free and Open Indo-Pacific, Japanese foreign and security policy, economic security, O-RAN

Corey Wallace | Kanagawa University |

Giulio Pugliese | University of Oxford and European University Institute |