Naoki Sakai: Populism, sexism and nationalism pair Trump and Shinzō Abe

Nov. 17, 2016 – Naoki Sakai, professor of Asian studies and comparative literature at Cornell University, and expert on Japanese nationalism, says while Abe and Trump – who are scheduled to meet today – have much in common, including their overt populism and nationalistic tendencies, Trump’s promises to withdraw from the region is a serious concern for the Japanese leader.

Abe and Trump are very similar: both populist, nationalist leaders who have simplistic ideas about the international situation. They both have a strong anti-intellectual tendency, and despite the almost negligible number of migrants in Japan, Abe shares Trump’s anti-immigrant and anti-minority platform.

The issue of sexism has confronted both as well, though in different ways. Abe lost his first post as prime minister in part due to his opposition to the movement to treat the use of comfort women in World War II as a wartime crime, soon after the U.S. House of Representatives resolution in 2007.

Abe is an anti-Communist ideologue, dreaming the glory of the Japanese empire while being concerned about the increasing military presence of China. But he is keen to change the postwar constitution and increase Japan’s military strength within the framework of the Cold War military domination of the U.S. in East Asia. He is essentially an agent for America in East Asia, so Trump wanting to reduce America’s financial support in the region worries him tremendously.

Japan’s parliament has been very positive toward the Transnational Pacific Partnership so one of Abe’s goals is to persuade Trump to change his mind about pulling out of the TPP. Because Trump is clearly for corporate interests, it’s possible he might change his mind in the long run, though he can’t afford to right now.

American hegemony is clearly declining in the region and can no longer be sustained by U.S. military domination alone; TPP is the last chance to maintain a Pax Americana in the region.

Biography: http://lrc.cornell.edu/asian/faculty/bios/sakai