22nd September 2021

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Personality of this week: Yoshihide Suga

Yoshihide Suga; The new leader has worked for decades as a shadow power in Japanese politics. Among the few definitive things that can be said about the new Japanese prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, is that he doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve.

  • As the right-hand man to his predecessor, Shinzo Abe, Suga has been answering questions from the press almost daily for years. And yet, despite his public role, he has revealed little about himself other than gnome nuggets such as his fondness for pancakes and peaches. But while his inner world remains enigmatic, his ability to distract himself, his ability to work hard, and his unwavering loyalty to Abe have proven enough to propel him to the head of the nation.
  • Mr. Suga’s journey to the top of politics has been on a very different path than his mentor. While Mr. Abe’s lineage was so robust that it gave his ascension almost a sense of inevitability (his maternal grandfather and great-uncle were former PMs), Suga, 71, is a man who was made for himself.
  • The son of a strawberry farmer, he was born in the snowy twilight of rural Akita province in northern Japan. To complete his university studies in Tokyo, he had several odd jobs, including in a cardboard factory and a fish market.
  • His friends at school say it would have been difficult for them to imagine his future success. Hiroshi Kawai, a high school classmate, told the New York Times: “We have sayings like ‘great talents take a long time to mature’ and ‘a wise hawk hides its claws.’ Now I have realized that these words were created for Mr. Suga.”

Entrance to politics

After graduation, Mr. Suga joined an electrical maintenance company, but quickly left salary life to become secretary to a parliamentarian.

  • More than a decade later, he won a seat in the Yokohama City Assembly Harbor, but it wasn’t until 1996 that he made a breakthrough in national politics by being elected to the House of Representatives with a candidacy from the Liberal Democratic Party.
  • His most cunning maneuver was to tie his luck to the star of fate in the political firmament Shinzo Abe. During Mr. Abe’s two terms as Prime Minister, between July 2006 and September 2007, and from December 2012, Mr. Suga was by his side, maneuvering behind the scenes, executing policies and helping to line up bureaucrats hard drive.
  • It appeared as the yin of his boss’s yang. Where Mr. Abe was charismatic, Mr. Suga was modest, even severe. Abe operated under the spotlight; Mr. Suga was comfortable in the shadows.
  • Abe had a clear (but fruitless) vision of his country. Mr. Suga avoided grand visions of practical goals, such as renewing regulations on the use of dams to better prepare for natural disasters.
  • But what he lacked in dynamism he made up for with fierce determination. Your daily regimen for the past eight years is a window into that tenacity.
  • It is known that Mr. Suga woke up every morning at 5 a.m. M. Walk 40 minutes, followed by 100 sit-ups. He arrived at the office at 9 a.m. and he attended two dozen daily meetings, in addition to holding press conferences. I preferred to eat soba noodles for breakfast, which are easy to drink, to cut down on the time spent eating. For a drink (Mr. Suga is a teetotaler), he completed another 100 sit-ups.
  • His achievements as Abe’s chief secretary, among other things, have led telecommunications companies to cut expensive cell phone prices and open borders to more foreign workers.
  • He also helped negotiate a major trade deal with the EU and keep the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade zone alive despite America’s abrupt withdrawal under Donald Trump.
  • But as prime minister, Suga will have to lead, rather than implement, his professional specialty until now. He has promised continuity and stability, and most analysts do not expect him to break significantly from Abe’s policies.
  • But the formidable challenges Japan faces require new ideas. Mr. Suga assumes command at a time when the management of the administration of the COVID-19 pandemic is seen as confusing and the Japanese economy is in dire straits; all this in an aging demographic and unpredictable geostrategic context in the face of an assertive China, a belligerent North Korea and an unpredictable America.
  • It’s unclear whether Suga will choose to hold Abe’s remainder of term until next year, or go to the polls earlier to win a popular term. Absent an election, he’s unlikely to rock the boat with a bold policy.
  • What is less predictable is Suga’s final fate in the history books: will he join the vagueness of the forgettable and fleeting prime ministers who have been a standard feature of the Japanese political landscape, or will he emerge? he like a hawk whose claws will be sharp? enough to make your mark?
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