Princeton University Library Catalog

THE TWO ABE ADMINISTRATIONS AND THE MISSING YEARS OF 2007-2012: Would Japanese Foreign Policy have changed if Abe had stayed in power?

Hirose, Taisuke [Browse]
Senior thesis
Milner, Helen [Browse]
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs [Browse]
Class year:
96 pages
Summary note:
Journalists and popular news sources have often liked to attribute recent changes in Japanese foreign and security policy to the nationalistic personal ideology of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. On the other hand, many scholars have focused on the role of external factors, such as the rise of China. Placed within such debates, this paper seeks to draw connections between the two sides by exploring the answer to the hypothetical question of what would have happened had Abe stayed in power during his first administration instead of resigning in September, 2007. This paper places Abe’s policies within the context of historical political trends, the external environment that Japan faces, and the administrations in the years between Abe’s first and second time in office. The findings support the argument that a realism response to an increasingly serious security environment primarily explains Japan’s current policy trajectory. At the same time, we can still conclude that the changes in policy we see today are likely to have happened earlier had Abe remained in office in 2007. This is not because Abe’s ideology would have driven the policy changes. It is instead because there was a stagnation in policy during the in between years as a result of a high turnover rate of prime ministers and vacillating policy positions. By staying in office, however, Abe would have provided political stability and prevented such stagnation from occurring. Such findings suggest that Abe will only be able to advance his own personal ideologies in so far as they are consistent with the demands of realism. The findings also highlight the importance of taking domestic politics into account when thinking about foreign policy, for a mismatch between the ideologies of the leadership and the dominant IR theory guiding international relations may create a time lag between expected policy and actual policy.