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Abe cannot afford to play to the galleries

Fresh mandate for the Japanese leader must not be construed as a licence to push for territorial claims against China

Gulf News

Japanese voters have given Shinzo Abe a huge majority in the lower house, allowing him to act without reference to his nation’s upper chamber. The majority for the Liberal Democratic Party came, not for its economic policies, but for its hawkish outlook in dealing with regional issues and neighbours.

Abe should not view his mandate as a free hand to push with Japan’s territorial claims to disputed islands contended by China. Within hours of his victory, Abe said China needed to “think anew” over its relationship between the world’s second and third largest economies.

Abe should consider that his country is mired in its third prolonged recession in less than two decades. Over that time, Japanese manufacturing giants such as Toyota and Sony have set up factories on China’s mainland. Any escalation of the dispute over the Senkaku and Diaoyu islands will only result in Japanese corporations suffering.

The past year has shown that China’s middle class has the ability to vote with their wallets, boycotting goods from companies that pay corporate taxes in Tokyo. Abe must act with caution.