Shinzo Abe didn’t tell his British audience at London’s Guildhall anything
new about Abenomics, his programme to reflate Japan’s economy back to
health. But it is worth listening once again to the impassioned language
with which he endeavoured to sell it.
Not since Junichiro Koizumi, the last prime minister to promise radical
reform, has Japan had a leader so obviously energized by a sense of his own
destiny. Mr Abe does not possess the charisma of the Elvis-loving Koizumi,
but what he lacks in appeal he makes up for in zeal.
Mr Abe pledged to be “a drill bit that will break through [the] bedrock” of Japanese regulations. He promised to be “afire, burning with all the political strength I can muster”. To allow Japan’s economy to shrink would not just be unfortunate, he said,
it would be nothing less than a “cardinal sin”. (In nominal terms, at least,
Japan has evidently been a sinful place in recent years.) Read more
Shinzo Abe in Washington on February 22 (Getty)
It’s rare that the sequel is better than the original movie, but so far Shinzo Abe II is doing much better at the box office than its ill-fated prequel. As we approach the first 100 days in office mark, here are five differences (and a few similarities) between Shinzo Abe I and Shinzo Abe II.
1. Shinzo Abe I had a dull subtitle. Constitutional Amendment failed to excite the public and never got anywhere. Deflation Slayer, on the other hand, the subtitle for Shinzo Abe II, has got everyone talking, from bond traders and currency speculators to ordinary Japanese fed up with economic drift.
2. It is often forgotten that Shinzo Abe I, released in October 2006, had a strong opening. Abe travelled to Beijing and mended relations with China. But the movie quickly trailed off as the plot foundered on a boring and jerky narrative involving disappearing pension records and a series of ministerial scandals. Shinzo Abe II was strong even before the opening credits rolled. Many audience members were so excited that shares soared and the yen weakened even before Abe appeared in the opening scene.
3. The plot of Shinzo Abe II is intriguing. It starts off as a story about a bold economic experiment, but no one knows how it will end. Will the Japanese economy at last gain some traction after 20 years in the doldrums? Or will the gamble end in catastrophe with hyperinflation and capital flight? Read more
The architecture world’s most prestigious award – the Pritzker – was announced on Sunday, and the winner was Toyo Ito – an acclaimed Japanese architect whose works include the Sendai Mediatheque, the temporary Serpentine Gallery pavilion in London’s Hyde Park, and the amazing solar-powered World Games stadium in Taiwan.
Born in 1941, Ito studied at Tokyo University’s Department of Architecture before founding his own studio in 1971. His projects range from public, multipurpose buildings like the Mediatheque, to commercial buildings like his Tod’s outlet in Tokyo, and also include deeply personal, intimate spaces such as the “White U” house that he built for his recently widowed sister in 1976.
In awarding the prize, the jury said:
Toyo Ito’s personal creative agenda is always coupled with public responsibility. It is far more complex and riskier to innovate while working on buildings where the public is concerned, but this has not deterred him. He has said that architecture must not only respond to one’s physical needs, but also to one’s senses.
We’ve put together a slideshow of some of his most stunning works from throughout his career (and a picture of the prizewinner himself, of course). Read more
Japan’s Abenomics and the world economy
Japan is still the world’s third-largest economy, but has also been stagnating and idling for twenty years. Now a new government led by Shinzo Abe has come to power pledging to take dramatic steps to turn the situation around. The potential rewards of this policy are high, but so are the risks – and not just for Japan but the whole world economy. Martin Wolf, the FT’s chief economics commentator and Jonathan Soble, Tokyo correspondent, join Gideon Rachman to discuss the consequences of Abenomics. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
The flickering black and white films of men going “over the top” in the first world war seem impossibly distant. Yet the idea that the great powers of today could never again stumble into a war, as they did in 1914, is far too complacent. The rising tensions between China, Japan and the US have echoes of the terrible conflict that broke out almost a century ago. Read more
The FT’s world news desk brings you their picks of the day… Read more
The past week has offered a unique chance to compare politics in the world’s two biggest powers. The opaque formality of the Communist party congress in China makes an almost comic contrast with the made-for-television razzmatazz of the US presidential election. Read more
Protesters in Shenzhen burn a Japanese flag during a demonstration over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands (Peter Parks/AFP/GettyImages)
Just when the Japanese thought it was safe to get back in the water, the news that high-level Chinese delegates have stayed away from the IMF meetings in Tokyo has underlined the fact that China is not letting go of the dispute over the islands variously known as the Senkaku or Diaoyu.
It is not just China that is the problem. In recent months, Japan has also clashed with Russia and South Korea over disputed islands. Japanese nationalists always demand a strong response in these cases. But even more moderate voices in Tokyo are worrying that the country’s neighbours now see Japan as weak – and liable to be pushed around. Read more
Anti-Japan protesters outside the Japanese embassy in Beijing. Photo AP
In the midst of the anti-Japanese sound and fury that has erupted
across China in the last week there is also a quiet but clearly discernible undertone not heard in previous similar outbursts – call it the ballad of the Chinese middle class.
For decades, anti-foreign protests have been the only ones the Communist Party has condoned, periodically whipping them up through provocative state media coverage and even providing logistical support. Read more
Here’s what piqued our interest today: Read more