Shinzo Abe at United Nations conference. UN ISDR/Flickr

Het lot van Abe’s Japan

TOKIO – Wanneer Shinzo Abe deze week in Seoul bij de Zuid-Koreaanse president Park Geun-hye en de Chinese premier Li-Keqiang zal aanschuiven doet hij dat als leider van een land dat veel mensen op de wereld nu ernstig onderschatten. En deze dynamiek zal tijdens de eerste top van de drie grote noordoost-Aziatische machten sinds 2012 zeker ook een rol spelen.

Drie decennia geleden zaten velen er volledig naast in hun voorspellingen over Japan. Veel Amerikanen vreesden ingehaald te worden nadat het Japanse per capita inkomen dat van de Verenigde Staten voorbijging, de Japanse productie de internationale standaard ging bepalen, en sommige boeken zelfs een oorlog voorspelden met een nucleaire Japanse supermacht. Zulke visies kwamen voort uit de indrukwekkende Japanse economische groei van na de oorlog. Vandaag de dag, na meer dan twintig jaar van malaise, is daar weinig meer van over dan dat ze ons weer eens op gevaar van lineaire projecties wijzen.

En dat gevaar blijft bestaan. In antwoord op de snelle opkomst van China en de assertiviteit van het leiderschap van de Communistische Partij is de gangbare opvatting dat Japan een land van secundair belang is – maar dit is net zo min het geval.

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