Prediction is a game we all can play. Whether experts play it better than astrologers, palm readers, tea-leaf readers or the rest of us who simply flip coins is hard to say. Either way, Shukan Gendai (Dec 31 – Jan 7) turns to the experts for educated guesses as to what the dawning Year of the Rooster will sound like.
You don’t need expertise to foresee two things looming large – technology and the U.S. presidency of Donald Trump. Trump’s telephone chat early last month with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen defied a protocol in effect since 1979, when the U.S. broke off official relations with Taiwan to recognize China. The conversation may have been bland, but the implied message wasn’t, and China, predictably, was provoked. Here was the president-elect igniting a potential crisis more than a month before taking office, says Shukan Gendai. Where might it go from here? “If President Trump makes continuation of the one-China policy conditional upon Chinese trade concessions, Chinese President Xi Jinping will soon break off relations,” the magazine hears from a Beijing-based journalist. Could it mean war? Probably not, the journalist says, but if it does, given the massive population imbalance in China’s favor, “the U.S. would be the first to back down.”
Technological breakthroughs will propel driverless cars, the Internet of Things and so on closer and closer into our increasingly futuristic daily lives. Look for Japan’s first on-road experiments with driverless buses in 2017.
There is a puzzling paradox between technologically avant-garde Japan and its deeply conservative leadership. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe finds himself in the rather odd position of being more conservative than the reigning emperor, whose postwar demotion to “symbol of the state and of the unity of the people” rankles rightists nostalgic for his prewar divine status. When Emperor Akihito announced in August his desire, owing to his advanced age, to abdicate, Abe and his closest advisors termed the situation “difficult.” There is no precedent for an imperial abdication. One unprecedented development may provoke others – female succession, for example; anathema to the right wing which sees in Abe their reflection and representative. “A decisive confrontation” looms between emperor and prime minister, predicts Shukan Gendai.
Abe’s name immediately suggests “Abenomics,” the economic reform package he said four years ago would turn Japan’s economy around. Economist Noriko Hama, long one of its bitterest critics, renamed it “Ahonomics” – “aho” meaning fool. “You might say it’s already at a dead end,” she tells the magazine. The shapeless, ad hoc nature of the program doomed it from the start, in her view. Could 2017 be the year in which the whole shaky edifice comes crashing down? Unfortunately, yes, she says.
Not everyone sees it that way. Economic analyst Tsukasa Jonen sees a two-thirds chance of the economy strengthening in the new year. Among the favorable omens is Trump’s presidency – Trump’s economic thinking seems to have much in common with Abenomics, suggesting the possibility of the two economies prospering in tandem. There’s one condition: “that Japan’s foreign ministry doesn’t screw up.”
When Abe feels he’s riding a wave, he calls elections. The legislative flurry of 2016 climaxed with the prime minister’s historic visit to Pearl Harbor on Dec 27. However you feel about his ideology and policies, his energy and activism are beyond question, and much admired by an electorate too long numbed by the seeming do-nothingness of too many of his predecessors. Shukan Gendai sees an 85% chance of the Diet being dissolved in January, followed by elections which, whether or not he wins big, Abe “can’t lose.” That would free him from poll worries until 2018, when his term as Liberal Democratic Party president ends.© Japan Today