By Sau Fong O’Fallon
The recent assassination of Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe while campaigning on July 8, 2022, may likely fortify his strong, tough stances and increase his popularity. Abe may finally affect Japan away from pacifism to the great regional threat of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and draw attention to his attempts to put Japan on a greater role on the global stage.
While China and Japan have had centuries of conflicts leading into two Sino-Japanese Wars, Abe’s recent efforts have been largely focused on Taiwan, the country most immediately threatened by the CCP. Abe recognized how catastrophic it would be not only for Japan and the region — but for the world — should China successfully invade Taiwan. Described by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen as Taiwan’s staunchest ally, Abe called for the United States to “make clear that it will defend Taiwan against any attempted Chinese invasion.” The former prime minister spent recent months publicly warning the CCP of “economic suicide” were they to invade Taiwan, and China’s leader Xi Jinping may now understand that they will find themselves dealing with the U.S. and Japan.
Abe demonstrated to be a ‘thorn in the side’ for China, as he was one of the key figures in getting Japanese firms to diversify their supply chains away from China, and pressured the EU to recognize the dangers of the CCP’s Belt and Road Initiative. Abe was the key architect of the “Quad”—an intermittent alliance with Australia, India, and the US, intended to counter the influence of the CCP. As Chinese state media has not been noted to gloat over Abe’s death, it instead it is expressing concerns that “Japanese right-wing forces” will now be galvanised to further promote the free and open Indo-Pacific concept, leading to “security risks.”
The CCP leaders sense danger, and may be justified in their concerns. As Abe was a powerful presence in Japanese politics even after retirement, Abe will now loom larger than ever in his death. Japan’s dutiful son, the man who stood up to the CCP, is shining brighter than ever.