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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe puts a rosette on a board showing candidates' names at the LDP headquarters in Tokyo on Oct. 22. (Photo by Rie Ishii)
Politics

China's congress-focused media keep Japan election on radar

Shanghai outlet warns of constitutional 'nightmare' after Abe triumph

KENJI KAWASE, Nikkei Asian Review business and market news editor | China

BEIJING -- Chinese news outlets swamped with stories on the Communist Party's twice-a-decade congress kept one eye on Japan's election, with at least one party mouthpiece warning of the implications of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's victory.

The state-owned Xinhua News Agency issued a brief report early Monday morning, simply noting that the coalition of Abe's Liberal Democratic Party and partner Komeito had won a majority exceeding two-thirds. 

An English-language Xinhua report went deeper, describing the result as a "supermajority" for the ruling camp and explaining that a split opposition played a big role, referring to a comment by former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. The story also noted the impact of Typhoon Lan hitting Japan on election day, which affected turnout. 

The Monday morning edition of the Shanghai-based Liberation Daily carried an analytical piece as its top international news story. The article talked about how Abe's "big political gambling" had paid off, possibly paving the way for him to become Japan's longest-serving postwar leader. This has bearing on China's primary concern: Abe's push to revise Japan's pacifist constitution. 

The Shanghai Communist mouthpiece quoted Wu Jinan, a senior adviser to a public think tank called the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, as saying that revising the document was Abe's "original intention." Now that he has maintained enough seats to propose changes in parliament, he is "definitely going to accelerate the revision process, riding on the momentum," Wu said.

With two key opposition parties -- Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike's Kibo no To, or Party of Hope, and Nippon Ishin no Kai, or the Japan Restoration Party -- "further in the right," the story pointed to a "nightmare of constitutional reform." This, it said, would pose the "largest threat to the postwar peaceful system, and may bring about a serious turning point in Japanese politics."

The article did include the opinion of Wang Shaopu, director of the Japan Study Center at Shanghai Jiaotong University, who suggested things might be more complicated. Wang noted that the anti-revision opposition has maintain a certain amount of ground, and that international conditions are not ripe for constitutional change in Japan.

Even if a proposal for a referendum on constitutional reform were to pass both Diet houses, the article pointed out that the public might still be a hurdle. Not everyone in Japan supports revising the seven-decade-old document, and Wu conceded that many citizens are more concerned about livelihood issues.

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