Incumbent Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, Shinzō Abe is a prominent figure in Japanese politics. Prior to assuming the office of Prime Minister, Abe served as a Chief Cabinet Secretary and a Member of the House of Representatives.
Early Life and Education
Born on 21 September 1954, Shinzō Abe was raised in a political family – both of her parents were prominent politicians. Growing up in Tokyo, Abe went to Seikei Elementary School, Seikei Junior High School and Seikei Senior High School for complete early education.
After finishing up the high school days, Shinzō Abe joined Seikei University to do an undergraduate study in political science. He later did public policy at the University of Southern California, US.
Son of father Kan Abe and mother Yoko Abe, Shinzō tied a marital knot Akie Matsuzaki in 1987. Though the couple has happily lived together ever since, they do not have any children yet.
Abe’s wife, Akie, was a radio disk jockey and is often called ‘domestic opposition party’ because of political differences between the Abe couple. Likewise, Shinzō’s brothers Horonobu Abe and Nobuo Kishi are CEO at Mitsubishi Shoji Packaging Corporation and Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs respectively.
Shinzō Abe kicked off his professional career as an employee at Kobe Steel in 1979. Within the next three years at the job, Abe decided to move into politics and joined Minister for Foreign Affairs as an assistant, LDP General Council as a Chairman and LDP Secretary-General as a private secretary. Holding these prominent positions, Abe quickly rose to recognition in Japanese politics.
On 19 July 1993, Abe officially assumed the office as a Member of the House of Representatives after the winning the elections in Yamaguchi Prefecture. After serving Yamaguchi Prefecture for three years, MP Abe was again elected to serve in the same capacity in Yamaguchi 4th district. He held the office until 2006 and got elected as the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party.
Following the party elections, Abe assumed the office of Japanese Prime Minister on 29 September 2006 and formed a one-party government. While serving the first tenure, PM Abe was particularly vigilant about Japan’s foreign policies. While condemning North Korea for abducting Japanese citizens, Abe made efforts to improve relations with China, Taiwan, and South Korea. Moreover, he visited India and even launched Quadrilateral Security Dialogue with US and India.
As Abe had been a famous leader on international grounds, he and his party were losing grasp among the domestic voters and the members of Upper House. So, he had to resign on 26 September 2007 following numerous scandals attributed to Liberal Democrat leaders and the poor health condition of Abe. After the resignation, Abe returned to the House of Representatives by winning the 2009 elections from Yamaguchi 4th District.
After the parliament dissolution, general election was held on 16 December 2016. The Liberal Democratic Party won 294 out of 480 seats and formed a coalition government under the premiership of Shinzō Abe. This was the second chance for Abe to prove his actual ability as a leader of Japan.
As a PM, Shinzō Abe used full abilities of fiscal and monetary policies to keep inflation at 2% and stimulate the economy by spending 10.3 trillion yen. Likewise, Abe brought a surge of change in growth strategy and structural reform. He negotiated terms to enter Trans-Pacific Partnership and limited authority vested on JA-Zenchu, a body responsible for supervising and auditing agricultural cooperatives. Likewise, he increased consumption tax from 5 to 8 percent and helped revive the economy by spending 5 trillion yen. As predicted by the economists, Japan will increase by 1.5% in fiscal 2017.
To attract investments, Abe lifted off any regulations put on economic zones and vowed to drain out red tape from the economy. He also worked to uplift women’s standard and has set an objective of having 30% women in leadership positions by 2020. Moreover, PM Abe is also playing a significant role to encourage Japanese people to give birth and help the country increase its long-term labor force.
Unlike other Prime Ministers of Japan, PM Abe has been rather diplomatic and focused on reshaping foreign policy. In 2014, he invited American President Barack Obama and also met Indian PM Narendra Modi at G20 summit. Likewise, Abe also met Chinese President Xi Jinping at the APEC meeting. In November 2016, he had a rendezvous with Mauricio Macri, the President of Argentina. All these achievements collectively helped re-elect Abe as the Prime Minister of Japan in 2014 election at the House of Representatives.
Shinzō Abe started his second term more vibrantly and has already made a significant progress in further negotiating bilateral deals. He pledged $200 million non-military aid to the countries fighting ISIL. Likewise, he met newly-elected Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte and US President Donald Trump. Moreover, South Korea and Japan also held diplomatic talks in November 2015 and resolved a common obstacle called ‘Comfort Women’.
Awards and Honours
- Member Special Class of the Order of Abdulaziz Al Saud, April 2007 (Saudi Arabia)
- Grand Cross of the Order of Honour (Greece)
- Member First Class of the Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa Order, August 2013. (Bahrain)
- Grand Cross of the Ivorian Order of Merit, January 2014. (Ivory Coast)
- Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Orange-Nassau, October 2014. (Netherlands)
- Grand Collar of the Order of Sikatuna, Rank of Raja June 3, 2015. (Philippines)
- 2013 Foreign Policy Top 100 Global Thinkers, 2013. (USA)
- Herman Kahn Award, September 2013. (USA)
- Asian of the Year award, December 2013. (Singapore)
- Time 100 in 2014, April 2014. (USA)
Donald Trump and Shinzo Abe
US President Donald Trump and Japanese President Abe seem to be getting along quite well at the moment. Abe even accepted the US visit invitation from Trump and had a successful meetup. The two leaders have even proposed a program called ‘US-Japan Growth and Employment Initiative’ which is aimed at creating 0.7 million jobs and $450-billion market in the US.
During call with Japanese Prime Minister Abe @POTUS invited him to a meeting at White House on February 10th
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) January 28, 2017
While the relations are getting better now, they hadn’t been during the campaign. Trump accused Japan of unfairly treating the US, making the US uncompetitive in selling cars in Japan. He also said that the Japanese monetary policies are aimed at gaining an unfair advantage while trading.
Despite the ups and downs in the relationship between Abe and Trump, there are numerous reasons to expect the things to get better. Regardless of Trump’s attitude, Abe has been positive and is frequently commenting on how the US-Japan ties could be better in the coming days.