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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 24-Sep-07
Japan's leadership under Yasuo Fukuda reverts to an older generation

Web Log - September, 2007

Japan's leadership under Yasuo Fukuda reverts to an older generation

After a year of governmental near-paralysis under 53 year old Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party has selected 71 year old Yasuo Fukuda as the party's new leader. The Parliament is expected to elect Fukuda as Japan's new Prime minister on Tuesday.

The selection of Fukuda follows the resignation of 53 year old Shinzo Abe, who took office a year earlier as Japan's first Prime Minister born after World War II, in Japan's "Baby Boomer" generation.

Abe had taken office with ambitious plans for economic reform and to increase Japan's role in worldwide diplomatic and military affairs, including plans to beef up Japan's military defense. However, the administration was riddled with scandal, and popularity plummeted.

In other words, Abe's administration followed the typical paradigm, very apparent in the U.S. Congress, of saying a lot of stuff, arguing with a lot of people, but getting nothing done in the end.

By contrast, Fukuda is already exhibiting the qualities of compromise that mark the typical behavior of someone who grew up during the previous crisis war (WW II). The generation of children that grow up during a crisis war, when they're constantly surrounded by the death, destruction and other horrors of a genocidal war, suffer a kind of "generational child abuse." Like any child abuse victim, they grow up to be sensitive and indecisive, which is why William Strauss and Neil Howe, the founding fathers of generational theory, call them "Artists." In America, the Artist generation that grew up during WW II was named the "Silent Generation" during the 1950s, because they never complained about anything.

Recall that on a number of occasions I've contrasted today's U.S. Congress, which is incapable of doing anything except whine and complain, with the 1980s Congress, where the Republicans and the Democrats cooperated with each other to change the Social Security system to make it a sounder system, and then cooperated again to specify new rules to control the budget deficit. That kind of cooperation is completely impossible with the Boomers and Generation-Xers running Congress today.


Yasuo Fukuda bows his head after election victory <font face=Arial size=-2>(Source: Japan Times)</font>
Yasuo Fukuda bows his head after election victory (Source: Japan Times)

Fukuda is following the "Artist" archetype pattern. He has vowed to work for compromise with other party leaders, something that Abe didn't do.

In fact, Fukuda has even replaced younger people in top leadership position in Abe's administration with older generation people (former Minister of Finance Sadakazu Tanigaki, 62, Education Minister Bunmei Ibuki, 69, and former Trade Minister Toshihiro Nikai, 68).

Fukuda has not yet announced specific policies of his new administration, except that he's going to be seeking compromise and reconciliation with other politicians and other nations, including North Korea and China.

However, a nation's policies are not determined by just one man, but by the actions and behaviors of large masses of people. For that reason, Fukuda's more conciliatory approach may accomplish no more than Abe's confrontational approach.

Here's how a Japan Times commentary described the situation:

"New Liberal Democratic Party President Yasuo Fukuda is known as an advocate of relatively conciliatory policies, so after a year with the hawkish Shinzo Abe in power the public may be expecting a major shift in various policy areas, including diplomacy and the Yasukuni Shrine issue.

Political analysts, however, are doubtful there will be much of a drastic change now that Fukuda has been elected head of the LDP and is set to become prime minister on Tuesday.

"What one prime minister wants to do personally and whether or not he will be able to move forward with his policies are two different things," said Takeshi Sasaki, a political science professor at Gakushuin University. "A perfect example of this is Abe himself."

Abe pushed forward his conservative ideas by ramming a controversial bill through the Diet to revise the Fundamental Law of Education to instill patriotism in the classroom, and he stressed his vague but conservative ideology for a "beautiful country." But at the same time, Sasaki pointed out, Abe suppressed much of his hawkish tendencies. ...

Political observers say Fukuda will have difficulty pushing his dovish policies because he is likely to face strong opposition from conservative forces within his own party.

"Fukuda has the motivation (to push dovish policies) . . . but whether he will actually be able to act on his convictions is the issue," Sasaki said. "As long as Abe was able to (control) the LDP's hawks, it was all right but that is not possible anymore. So Fukuda will be faced with raw" demands from hawkish LDP lawmakers."

So, in terms of results, Fukuda may fare no better than Abe did.

Nonetheless, his exceptionally conciliatory attitude, when contrasted with the much more confrontational approach of Shinzo Abe, marks both men as being typical of their respective generations, one growing up during World War II, and one born after the end of the war. (24-Sep-07) Permanent Link
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