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UPDATED: July 29, 2013 NO. 31 AUGUST 1, 2013
Japan at a Crossroads

The news of the Japanese parliamentary election results has been closely followed in China. That's not only because Japan is a major economic power in the region, but also because of the possible impact on bilateral ties at a time when tensions between the two countries continue to linger.

In the July 21 upper house elections, the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won 76 of the 121 seats up for grabs, seizing an overwhelming majority in the upper house. The victory enabled Abe to control both houses of the parliament, a first for a prime minister in six years.

Japanese voters gave Abe this mandate in the hope that he will persist in his new policies designed to reinvigorate Japan's economy. Over the past years, political volatility that has been epitomized by the "revolving door" of prime ministers that has resulted in a lack of policy continuity and jeopardized Japan's economic prospects.

Alongside expectations of an economic recovery are concerns that Abe may take advantage of bicameral support to pursue a nationalist agenda. Since taking office late last year, Abe has added fuel to territorial disputes with China, gone out of his way to whitewash Japan's wartime history and vowed to amend the country's pacifist Constitution.

If he spends much of his newfound political capital in boosting these right-wing pursuits, Abe may cause a greater rift with neighboring countries, including China. Official Chinese statistics show that from January to May, China's imports from Japan fell 13.3 percent year on year. The ongoing stalemate in China-Japan relations is believed to be one of the prime reasons for the drop.

Chinese people are watching closely to see which direction Abe will take after securing his position with the election victory. They expect him to take the initiative in easing bilateral tensions, as it will be nearly impossible for Japan to achieve a full economic revival if its relations with China, its largest trade partner, remain tense. By clinging to a hard-line stance, Abe would disappoint Chinese well wishers as well as supporters of Abenomics back home.

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