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Obituary for Japanese former PM Shinzo Abe

Updated: Feb 16, 2023

The news that Japanese ex-PM Shinzo Abe was shot whilst attending a political rally in Nara has shocked the world and will have caused disbelief and trauma within not only Japanese political systems but within society, given the low levels of gun crime and political dissent through extreme violence. I am making assumptions based on the reports that the perpetrator was a former member of the navy self defence force that the motive for such an awful crime was anger at Abe's foreign policies, possibly Abe's efforts to overhaul their pacifist constitution. However, this is pure speculation. However, what is clear is that this will severely rip through Japan's sense of domestic 'harmony' and this is such a tragic end for such an influential Japanese political figure, who was the longest serving post-war Japanese Prime Minister and who managed to push Japan onto a global stage at a time when the economy was stagnant and interest was moving away from Japan, despite the fact that they still had the world's third largest economy.

I started up my business around the time that Abe came back into power in 2012 (I still have a copy of the Economist with the picture of him dressed as Super Man), and launched his Abenomics fiscal, financial and structural policies to revitalise the Japanese economy, that catapulted him into global recognition and have formed the core part of my lectures on Japanese Business and Economy. I was lucky enough to attend a dinner with him in London when he visited the UK and listened to how he wanted to re-ignite the Japanese economy (and drank some superb sake from his home prefecture of Yamaguchi). There have been mixed reports on the economic impact of the three arrows of Abenomics, not least given the impact of the virus and subsequent supply chain issues, but they set important corporate governance changes in motion and Abe was a key player within the TPP and RCEP trade deal negotiations. He also managed to be the first visitor to the Trump Tower after Trump became president (once seen, no-one can forget the video of him shaking hands with Donald Trump). Within East Asia, he did manage to turn a frosty relationship with China into one of albeit reticent co-operation on the Belt and Road Initiative and he was active within the Russia Japan peace treaty.

I have been a critic of the effectiveness and motivation of the Womenomics policies his administration introduced in 2013 but they have undoubtedly placed an emphasis on gender equality within Japan. I was honoured to have been invited to a private lunch with his wife Akie Abe in London and she was delightful. We got to speak about gender equality and her activities to promote this. My heart goes out to her and their family and also to the people of Japan, who will be deeply shocked by this incident.

Sarah Parsons is Senior Teaching Fellow at SOAS where she lectures on the Business and Economy of Japan. She also teaches on the MA Global Diplomacy on the module about East Asia.

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