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Kishida’s “Golden Three Years” Tarnished: Why Japan’s PM is Drowning in Doubts

  The latest Kyodo News poll at the end of 2023 shows that the support rate of Kishida Fumio’s government is approaching the 20% “resignation water”. When Kishida came to power more than two years ago, he believed that he would not face major political elections in the next three years. He confidently hoped to make good use of the so-called “golden three years” to take over the mantle of Shinzo Abe and make a difference. However, Kishida failed to make positive policy adjustments that truly met Japan’s recovery and development needs. Instead, he pushed Japan’s politics to shift to the right, relied more on the United States, and accelerated the revision of the Constitution and the rearmament of Japan, causing Japan to fall into dual economic and security dilemmas at the same time. . At the end of 2022, Kishida’s approval rate was approaching the “dangerous waters” of 30%. In the following year, the Kishida government made many efforts and even reorganized the cabinet in September 2023, but they failed to effectively boost national support. The reasons are mainly as follows.
First, it is difficult for the public to accept the false prosperity of the economy.

  As one of the most heavily indebted countries in the world, Japan’s national debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio will reach 260% at the end of 2022. After Kishida came to power, he continued to implement “Abenomics” and continued to issue bonds to fill the fiscal deficit, further increasing the risk of Japan’s debt crisis. As the United States continues to raise interest rates and Japan’s domestic inflation pressure continues to intensify, the Bank of Japan has to buck the trend and maintain negative interest rates to stimulate the economy, causing the Japanese yen exchange rate to continue to depreciate. This brought temporary superficial benefits to the economy, mainly improving the international competitiveness of Japanese goods and forming GDP growth driven by net exports. Second-quarter economic data released by the Japanese Cabinet Office show that excluding the impact of price changes, real GDP grew by 1.5% quarter-on-quarter, which is an astonishing 6.0% annualized growth rate, far exceeding the 2.7% annualized growth in the first quarter. rate, exceeding market expectations. But on the other hand, as a country lacking natural resources, Japan needs to import a large amount of various overseas resource and energy products. The continued depreciation of the yen has caused imported inflation to increase and per capita GDP to shrink – after Japan’s per capita GDP was surpassed by Taiwan, China in 2022 , South Korea’s per capita GDP level is also likely to surpass Japan in 2023. Germany’s GDP in 2023 is estimated to fall by 0.5% in local currency, while Japan’s GDP in local currency is estimated to increase slightly by 2%. However, when converted into US dollars, Germany’s GDP is likely to surpass Japan again in 2023 after 55 years. As the world’s third largest reserve and payment currency after the US dollar and the euro, the Japanese yen will continue to suffer losses in its international influence even if its domestic currency settlement economic data shows “prosperity” if its actual purchasing power is allowed to continue to decline. fact. The Japanese people are well aware of the “prosperity decline” of Japan’s economy under Kishida’s rule, and do not buy into his boasts, and even hold a more pessimistic attitude.
Secondly, there is something wrong with the reform of the “Individual Number Card”.

  ”My Number Card” is a digital social reform measure promoted by the Japanese government. It started in October 2015 and is similar to the implementation of an electronic ID card system. The card consists of a set of 12-digit personal numbers and contains an IC chip. It can not only be used to prove personal identity, but also handle tax, social security, welfare payment and other functions. The Japanese government plans to replace the health insurance card used in the past with a personal number card in the autumn of 2024. In the future, it will also integrate information on various documents such as passports and driver’s licenses. However, the process of promoting Individual Number Cards has not been smooth. After eight years of hard work, there is still an uncompleted rate of 20%. The public’s biggest concern about applying for Individual Number Cards is the leakage of personal information, and the Kishida government is exactly where the people are most concerned. Mistakes often occur on issues. As of August 8, 2023, there have been 8,441 verifiable errors in binding health insurance cards, 140,000 errors in binding bank cards, 2,883 errors in binding handbooks for persons with disabilities, and 118 errors in binding pension information. The opposition parties believe that the Kishida government bears direct responsibility for this chaotic situation. Akira Koike, Secretary General of the Communist Party of Japan, said, “Promoting the integration of individual number cards with insurance cards involves personal medical information. Even a slight error will become a major issue related to life. Prime Minister Kishida bears a heavy responsibility for this.”
Third, insisting on discharging nuclear-contaminated water into the sea will deepen people’s distrust.

  The Kishida government insists on treating the Fukushima nuclear-contaminated water by asking the whole world to “pay for it”. It began to discharge the nuclear-contaminated water into the sea on August 24, 2023, and has successively discharged three batches of nuclear-contaminated water totaling approximately 23,400 tons. This move triggered strong opposition and protests from the international community and Japanese people. China, South Korea, and Russia, as Japan’s neighboring countries, made it clear that they made serious representations to Japan and took corresponding countermeasures. Japan itself has suffered a huge backlash from the discharge of nuclear-contaminated water into the sea, which not only caused the collapse of its long-term carefully cultivated image of an “advanced environmentally friendly country”, but also severely damaged the aquatic products industry, causing aquatic products industry companies and practitioners to be extremely dissatisfied with the Kishida government. . Moreover, the Kishida government has adopted an arrogant and tough attitude towards the international community and the domestic public on the issue of discharging nuclear-contaminated water into the sea. This has led many people to believe that it was too hasty and irresponsible in handling the matter, and they suspect that there are hidden agendas or interests. exchange. Since then, although the Kishida government has spent 70 billion yen as “public relations expenses”, Kishida himself has personally led officials to Fukushima to taste seafood in public, and also promoted the US military stationed in Japan to purchase aquatic products locally, but it still failed to gain public understanding. On September 19, Kishida announced in his speech at the general debate of the 78th United Nations General Assembly that Japan is committed to promoting the realization of the so-called “nuclear-weapon-free world.” However, his policy slogans and propositions run counter to actual practices, and the international community has responded to Kishida’s remarks. More suspicions arise about character and motives.
Fourth, focusing on the security and military fields, Kishida’s self-proclaimed “diplomatic ability” has transformed into the pursuit of “combat ability.”

  Kishida’s domestic and foreign policies generally inherited the ruling line of Shinzo Abe. After Abe’s assassination, Kishida’s power in charge of Japan’s national affairs was greatly enhanced. He should have been more able to handle the diplomatic issues he was good at, but instead accelerated the integration of diplomacy and security. The core topic of Kishida’s shuttle diplomacy to various parts of the world is to seek to strengthen security cooperation with the West as the focus. The strategic purpose is to artificially create a tense atmosphere in East Asia and introduce Western forces into the “Indo-Pacific” through the promotion of security diplomacy. Accordingly, Kishida not only continues to promote the strengthening of the Japan-US alliance mechanism, but also points the finger at the so-called “common security challenges posed by China, Russia, and North Korea to the United States and Japan”, especially emphasizing that China poses a “core challenge.” It is not difficult to understand why Kishida would rather risk the world’s disapproval to hold a state funeral for Abe in 2022 to express his ambition. At the end of the year, he led the cabinet meeting to review and adopt the “Three New Security Documents.” According to the three documents, Japan will double its defense spending in the next five years and will also improve the performance of its weapons and equipment to have the ability to attack “enemy” bases. Kishida, as the chairman of the stable and dovish Hongike Kaikai, does not adhere to the pacifist development path. Instead, he has made great strides in completing the national military transformation that even right-wing leaders such as Junichiro Koizumi and Shinzo Abe have failed to complete. In the current economic situation of Japan, Under bad circumstances, the only way to increase defense expenses is to increase corporate income tax and tobacco taxes, which will naturally fail to gain public understanding and support.
  After experiencing the “lost 30 years”, people have concluded that Japan’s overall decline and domestic and foreign policies have become right-leaning and conservative. The Japanese people originally hoped that the Kishida government could promote real reforms in the fields of economy and people’s livelihood, and strengthen the national independent strategy on the premise of building a stable surrounding diplomatic environment. However, the Kishida government, as always, lacks a sense of policy balance and has been unable to do so since it came to power. Meeting public expectations and low support rates will eventually lead Japan’s political situation into an even more uncertain future.

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