Abe's Final Act

Abe's Final Act

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to take the final step toward becoming Japan's longest serving post-war leader at a critical moment for his country. Tomorrow, Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) will likely elect him to a third term as party boss, enabling him to serve out another three years as prime minister.


To get this far, Abe had to beat back a series of summer graft scandals, but with three-quarters of the LDP now back in his corner, the vote should be a shoo-in. The upcoming term will likely be Abe’s last, and he has big ambitions for it.

Here are the three top items on Abe’s agenda:

Rebuilding his cabinet: Abe’s most immediate task will be to take care of lingering issues related to a corruption scandal involving the sale of public lands on preferential terms to an educational group with ties to him and his wife. He’ll aim to shore up support by reshuffling his domestic policy team. But Abe has to step carefully. Any early missteps on personnel could doom his ambitious third-term agenda at just the moment when his approval rating has recovered from record lows earlier this year.

More assertive diplomacy: After repeated snubs from Japan’s closest ally, the US, Abe will continue to look elsewhere for new diplomatic partners. In recent months, Japan has reached out a hand to China, with Abe planning next month to make the first official state visit of a sitting Japanese prime minister to Beijing since 2011. Tokyo sees an opportunity for closer economic ties to China and would like to find opportunities for Japanese companies to work alongside Chinese firms as a part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative. There has even been discussion of Abe meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, after being left out in the cold by the US on North Korea negotiations.

On economic diplomacy, Abe took big steps in his last term to deepen Japan’s global trade ties—signing a long-awaited free trade deal with the EU. He’s now focused on finalizing TPP-11, the modified trans-Pacific trade pact that excludes the US, which has so far only been ratified by 3 of the 11 signatories.

A new mission for Japan’s military: The top priority of Abe’s final term is to rewrite Japan’s constitution – which was drafted by the US after World War Two and still forbids it from taking military actions beyond self-defense. With the US pulling back from the region while China’s military ambitions expand, Abe wants greater freedom for Japan to use its military as it sees fit. But around 61 percent of the Japanese public oppose the move, and any permanent change would require majority support in a popular referendum.

The bottom line: Whether Abe starts off his third term on the right foot may well determine if he can deliver on the most ambitious proposal of his political career, amending Japan’s constitution—and one that would fundamentally refashion Japan’s role in the world.

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The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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Ian Bremmer is joined on GZERO World by artificial intelligence scientists Kai-fu Lee, who recently wrote about how AI will change the world over the next two decades, precisely to talk about AI's future. After this week's Facebook debacle, how can we align interest to regulate AI-driven algorithms? Will AI steal all our jobs? And what should we do to learn from AI to improve our lives before it gets smarter than us?

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Is a robot coming for your job? Kai-fu Lee explains AI

US elections officials have always persuaded losing candidates that they've, ahem, lost. Now it's worse because there's a new paradigm, according to former DHS and Election Assistance Commission official Matt Masterson, policy fellow with the Stanford Internet Observatory. Candidates that won't accept defeat regardless of the margin or evidence of fraud, he says, are undermining trust in the system — and election officials are ill-equipped to deal with this problem.

Matt Masterson made these remarks during a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Who's most responsible for spreading misinformation online? For Ginny Badanes, senior director for Democracy Forward at Microsoft, the problem starts with those who create it, yet ultimately governments, companies and individuals all share the burden. And she's more interested in what we can do to respond.

Ginny Badanes spoke at a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. In this video, watch Ian Bremmer's conversation with Lebanese journalist and author Kim Ghattas on GZW talking about the future of Lebanese politics and sectarianism in the county after the after the blast. It was originally published on August 19, 2020.

In Lebanon, "a majority (are) united in wanting a different future, a future that is non-sectarian, that is non-corrupt, that provides prosperity, justice, dignity for people," journalist Kim Ghattas told Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

In this interview, Ghattas discusses the opportunity that could arise from the tragedy of the Beirut explosion which killed 200 and injured thousands more. The Lebanese are "fed up" with the militant group Hezbollah, she tells Bremmer, and want to strive for a government that better resembles the diversity and cosmopolitan nature of its citizens.

Watch the GZERO World episode: Lebanon Post-Blast: Rage in the Streets of Beirut.

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. Below is our original piece on the Beirut port explosions published on August 5, 2020.


The twin explosions at Beirut's port on Tuesday were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

In the days ahead, more details will come to light about why a deadly cache of materials was haphazardly stashed at a port warehouse, and why Lebanon's government failed to secure the site. So, what comes next for crisis-ridden Lebanon?

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What does it actually mean to cut $1 trillion from the Democrats' $3.5 trillion social spending bill?

President Biden has proposed one of the most ambitious expansions of federal spending in recent memory. If he gets everything he wants, it would probably be the largest expansion of government since the Great Society, but he's not going to get everything he wants. Democrats have basically said they cannot do all $3.5 trillion in spending. They're probably going to end up around $2 trillion. So what gets cut? Well, we don't know yet. There's kind of two ways to go about this. They could either cut the number of programs that have been proposed, doing fewer things with more money on a permanent basis, or they could try to do more things, each program getting less money and potentially doing them on a temporary basis. So, a future Congress would have to extend it. What does this mean for you? Well, a lot of the money in here is designed to go directly to families, either in the form of cash payments, through the tax code, the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, or subsidies for things like child care, early childhood education, and community college. And if you cut these things back, it means less money is going to go out the door to the American people. It also means less tax increases to finance it. So the implications of what's being proposed could actually end up being a big deal for a lot of Americans who would qualify for benefits under these new programs.

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