What does Japan's new prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, think of the challenges that Japanese society faces?
Prime Minister Suga says that the society he aspires to is one of "self-reliance, mutual assistance, and public support." It sounds very much like the perspective of a self-made man that had to work hard to get to where he is now. But there are people in the world who are not rewarded for their efforts. We live in a society in which it is fairly difficult to get back on track once one strays from the path. I hope Suga will stand in the shoes of people like that. That would be making the most of what he has.
In terms of domestic politics, the administration of previous Prime Minister Shinzo Abe set policies that were pseudo-leftist. But they did not reduce the gaps between the haves and have-nots. An extreme promotion of self-reliance could result in an extreme call for individual accountability. The novel coronavirus pandemic has unwittingly exposed the stalemate caused by the neoliberal track. How are we to narrow the gap between the wealthy and the poor that has widened? Figuring that out is the role that the public wants the government to take on.
There is an expression that Suga used during his days as chief Cabinet secretary in the Diet and at news conferences that we found disturbing: "That point is invalid." At times when we deserved careful explanations, whether it be about the Moritomo Gakuen and Kake Educational Institution favoritism scandals linked to then Prime Minister Abe, the allegations surrounding the state-funded annual cherry blossom-viewing parties hosted by Abe, or the issue of extending the retirement age of the superintending public prosecutor, Suga used that phrase.
In a democracy, the government's transparency and accountability are crucial. The top leader of a country is expected to have a high capacity for dialogue with the public. We also ask that the management of public records be improved.
In terms of Japan's relationship with the U.S., since Suga has been working on reducing the burden of U.S. military bases on Japan's southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, we would like to see the revision of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement be laid out as an agenda item. Seventy-five years have passed since World War II ended. In order to maintain a stable Japan-U.S. relationship, it is time to lend an ear to Okinawa and to cities, towns and villages where military bases are located.
China and South Korea are countries that will always be our neighbors. In particular, our relationship with China, which has become a major superpower, will be a difficult one. There is also the new Cold War between China and the U.S. Now, with the international order changing greatly, we must improve our relations with and public sentiment toward our neighbors.
Suga has emphasized that he aims to break down vertically divided bureaucracy, vested interests, and bad precedentism, and to conduct regulatory reform, but all those are means, and not the content of policy. By breaking down maladies, what does he actually want to accomplish? Suga says he wants to "keep working." There are rumors that the House of Representatives will be dissolved and a snap election will take place soon, but first, we want to know what big vision Suga has for Japan.
(Japanese original by Tamotsu Takatsuka, Managing Editor, Editorial Division)