GZERO Media caught up with Japan's Permanent Representative to the UN Kimihiro Ishikane during the 2020 UN General Assembly. In an interview with Eurasia Group Vice Chairman Gerald Butts, Ishikane talked about pandemic response, and how it has impacted the broader picture of US-China relations. Regarding a global fissure potentially caused by the world's two biggest economies, Ishikane said: "China is not like the former Soviet Union. Our system is completely intertwined, and I don't think we can completely decouple our economy and neither is that desirable." He also discussed the legacy of Shinzo Abe, Japan's longest-serving prime minister, who stepped down recently due to health complications.
Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:
We've got coronavirus still going on, you wouldn't know that from watching the American media right now. A lot more focus on social violence, on Kenosha, on Portland, but certainly coronavirus.
And the pandemic remains by far the most important issue, both for the United States and globally, not only because there are over a 180,000 dead in the US, but also the extraordinary economic impact and the fact that it is going to stay with us and have such a big impact on lives of the average Americans, on lives of the average citizens globally as we fight to reopen economies, get people back to work, get kids back to school, get a vaccine, or vaccines, that we can trust and we can take. And it's important to understand that even though the election is going to distract us maximally and hopefully engage us maximally over the coming two months and more, because I don't think it's over on November 3rd, that that's still we are dealing with the biggest crisis of our lifetimes and it's going to be with us for a lot longer than this election.
Having said that, getting away from the United States a little bit, there's a lot of news happening. And I thought I talk about a couple of those things. One is that the longest standing prime minister in Japanese history, Shinzo Abe, is stepping down, the second time he has stepped down for health concerns. This time, I would say it is for good. The good news is that Japan is very stable. The Liberal Democratic Party is very entrenched. There's not a lot of inequality in Japan. There is not a lot of individual upset or dissent with the idea that elections are rigged, or institutions are illegitimate.
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Shinzo Abe, Japan's longest-serving prime minister, announced last Friday that he would be stepping down due to ongoing health issues. His abrupt departure comes as the world's third largest economy finally regained what Abe perceived to be its rightful place in global affairs.
Whoever assumes the top job now will face tough challenges on both the foreign and domestic fronts. Here are the main issues.
How sick is Shinzo Abe? On the day that he became the longest-serving prime minister in Japan's history, Shinzo Abe went to the hospital. His visit on Monday to the Keio University medical center was his second in little more than a week, and while Abe says it was just a follow-up to go over earlier tests, concerns about his health and political future are now swirling in Japan. Abe is known to have a chronic intestinal condition called ulcerative colitis — back in 2007 the disease flared up so badly that it forced him to quit after a year in office. He was elected again in 2012 and has stayed in power ever since. But recently, his aides say, Abe has become badly fatigued as the Japanese government struggles to manage the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The economy has just suffered its worst quarterly contraction on record, and Abe's approval ratings have been sinking for months. His term is set to end next October, but if the leader of the world's third largest economy can't make it that long, his deputy would take over as caretaker, setting off a furious succession struggle within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
Japan mulls state of emergency: Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe is poised to declare a "state of emergency" because of the coronavirus pandemic, giving some local governments the authority to request people stay in their homes, and shutter businesses and schools. Japan has so far managed the crisis without the kinds of sweeping lockdowns seen elsewhere, but a surge of new cases in recent days – particularly in Tokyo – has put pressure on the government to do more. Japan has one of the world's oldest populations – a third of its people are older than 65, the demographic most vulnerable to COVID-19. The emergency decision comes at a tough time. Japan's economy has been hurting for several months now, as China's massive lockdowns in January and February cratered demand for Japanese exports. In order to deal with the fallout that comes with putting his economy on life-support, PM Abe said the government would push through a 108 trillion yen stimulus package.