Webinar Video + Report - Issues at Home and Abroad – Japan’s Agenda for 2022
What is in store for Japan in 2022? This formed the agenda for the Japan Society webinar on 15 February, where Bill Emmott was joined by Noriyuki Shikata, Cabinet Secretary for Public Affairs under Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
In an insightful presentation, Shikata delved into the domestic and foreign priorities of Prime Minister Kishida for the new year, explaining in detail the three key agendas of his administration: overcoming the covid-19 pandemic, reviving the Economy through a “new form of capitalism”, and pursuing “realism diplomacy for a new era”.
Regarding Covid-19, Shikata stated that Japan has been making great progress in fighting the virus, as demonstrated by the slowing growth of cases. He highlighted Japan’s high vaccination rate, the implementation of “basic infectious disease countermeasures” (mask wearing and social distancing), and its future plans, namely accelerating the rollout of booster shots, expanding free testing, and improving the medical care system.
As for the now widely debated “new form of capitalism”, Shikata considered it as a response to the several challenges capitalism has faced in the last few years. Issues such as income disparities, climate change, and the decline of the middle class resulted in democracies becoming progressively less stable, therefore, building a new, more sustainable capitalism is crucial to tackle these concerns. To achieve this, the Kishida administration strives for the development of sound capitalism and democracy in the Indo-Pacific region, backed by cooperating with like-minded countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, and complemented with a “virtuous cycle of growth and distribution”. In addition, Kishida recognises some of the current shortcomings in the Japanese economy, and wants to “transform them into engines for growth”, which could be achieved by bringing together investments from both the private and public sector, and by investing in people through recurrent education, for example.
One of the growth strategies under the “new form of capitalism” is the concept of a Digital Garden City Nation. By implementing digital transformation in local regions, the aim is to solve the challenges those areas are facing, and by extension the entire nation, in the process contributing to a more sustainable socio-economical outlook. One example of this could be the introduction of unmanned delivery or transportation in rural areas, supporting the typically older population in the countryside. To make this plan a reality, the Government aims to set up digital infrastructure, such as 5G and data centres, employ regulatory reforms, as well as developing and securing human resources with digital skills.
Shikata concluded his presentation by expanding on the subject of “realism diplomacy for a new era”. The Kishida administration is aiming to promote universal values such as democracy and human rights, address the North Korea related abduction issues, and promote the concept of a “free and open Indo-Pacific”. Kishida is also committed to promoting high standard FTA’s (free trade agreements), including the CPTPP (comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-pacific partnership), and in pursuing a world free of nuclear weapons. Finally, Shikata commented on Prime Minister Kishida’s announcement of his intention to draft a new national security strategy, motivated by the growing North Korea threat.
Report by Gonçalo Navega