Japan Update 2020: Japan's Choices Beyond COVID-19 — Summary

The Japan Update 2020: Japan’s Choices beyond COVID-19 was held on 8-10 September via webinar. Against the uncertain backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and prime minister Shinzo Abe’s sudden resignation, this Update featured a number of world-leading experts who shared their insights and latest research on Japan’s politics, economics, public policy and foreign policy.

The Update is the flagship conference of the Australia-Japan Research Centre (AJRC) in the Crawford School of Public Policy and the Japan Institute at The Australian National University. Bringing together experts from Australia, Japan and around the region, this Update explores the latest research and debates on how Japan will navigate the policy challenges of the post-COVID-19 world.

Holding the Update as a webinar provided our speakers with the unique opportunity to reach an audience that extended far beyond Canberra, with members of industry, business and academia from Japan, Australia and across the region in attendance.
The 2020 Update featured three panels via Zoom webinar, each focussing on Japan’s COVID-19 response, economic crisis and recovery, and foreign and security policy.

Dr Sanjaya Senanayake (ANU) chaired the first panel on Japan’s health response to COVID-19. Professor Haruka Sakamoto (Keio University) outlined Japan’s evolving strategy for handling COVID-19, highlighting the challenges associated with Japan’s vulnerable communities, particularly its ageing population. Professor Hiromi Murakami (National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies) discussed Japan’s leadership response to COVID-19, and links the Abe administration’s falling approval ratings to unclear and late decision-making, inconsistent policies, and the lack of a long-term strategy to combat the pandemic. Professor Sota Kato (The Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research) explores the reasons behind Abe’s falling popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite Japan’s initially successful COVID-19 response.

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Co-hosted with the Crawford Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis (CAMA), our second panel was chaired by Professor Ippei Fujiwara (ANU) and focussed on Japan’s economic crisis and recovery strategy after the pandemic. Professor Toshitaka Sekine (Hitotsubashi University) outlined the current state of Japan’s economy and suggested a 4-stage recovery strategy for the post-COVID-19 era. Professor Sagiri Kitao (University of Tokyo) explores the impact of COVID-19 on Japan’s labour market and evaluates the welfare effects on Japan’s most vulnerable communities.

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Dr Lauren Richardson (ANU) chaired the final panel on Japan’s foreign and security policy. Dr Yoshihide Soeya (Keio University) explores Japan’s current strategic environment in Northeast Asia, reflected on Abe’s foreign policy, and the Indo-Pacific concept amidst increasing Chinese assertiveness. Professor Rikki Kersten (Murdoch University) explains how COVID-19 has impacted Japan’s security thinking, and looks at the challenges and opportunities for making security policy post-Abe landscape. Dr Tomohiko Satake (National Institute for Defense Studies in Tokyo) discussed Japan’s search for greater autonomy in its security environment, and the impact of US-China tensions on Japan and the region.

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The Japan Update 2020 was supported by the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific and the Crawford Centre for Macroeconomic Analysis (CAMA).

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