Problems outlined earlier in this blog have, to me surprisingly, led to Yukio Hatoyama’s sudden resignation as Japan’s prime minister. He couldn’t solve the Okinawan base problem, opting to give in to the American demand for a continued Marine air base on the island in the aftermath of North Korea’s tension-raising sinking of a South Korean navy vessel in waters close by.
Caving in to Americans cost Hatoyama his majority in Japan’s upper house. With elections due next month for half the upper house seats, the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) couldn’t afford the Okinawa-related crisis on top of its lingering corruption problems linked to Hatoyama and the DPJ’s shadow ruler, Ichiro Ozawa. The Hatoyama cabinet’s popularity is down to a highly dangerous 17%. Hatoyama’s resignation will help the DPJ. But Hatoyama’s final act as PM will help even more—he forced the wily, shady, political genius Ozawa to quit along with him. Ozawa’s out as party chief and Japan’s de facto #2.
Hatoyama’s likely successor, Finance Minister Naoto Kan [picture], breaks the mold of Japanese prime ministers being descendants of previous prime ministers. Kan is self-made, and as health minister in the 90s, uncovered the scandal of HIV-infested blood being used in transfusions.
Gordon Chang, writing on the “Pajamas Media” website, identifies Japan’s more serious problems: “Their numbers are shrinking, their political system is disintegrating, and their ambitions are narrowing. While this is happening, they are being overtaken by the Chinese, whom they both fear and admire.” It does seem that Japan, in contrast to a U.S. that continues to grow through immigration, is suffering because of its declining population, and China’s strength does grow daily. But Chang, author of the 2001 book The Coming Collapse of China, may lack some credibility when it comes to forecasting.