Kan needs time: China scholar

by Ko Hirano

Kyodo News

BEIJING — Frequent changes of leaders in the past four years have given Japan a negative image abroad, so Prime Minister Naoto Kan should continue in his post despite the ruling party’s setback in Sunday’s Upper House election, according to a Chinese scholar.

“Japanese politics looks very unstable. Japan would not win confidence internationally if its prime ministers keep changing every year,” Zhou Yongsheng, a professor of Japanese studies at China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing, recently said.

“A prime minister would need to serve for at least three years if he were to achieve a certain result,” Zhou said. “I think it is time for Japan to consider reforming the (political) system to make a prime minister serve for a relatively long time.”

Zhou voiced hope that despite Kan’s Democratic Party of Japan-led coalition losing a majority in the House of Councilors, the prime minister, who took office only last month, will be able to run his government in a stable manner.

Zhou said China welcomes Kan being prime minister because he, just like his predecessor, Yukio Hatoyama, puts emphasis on relations with Beijing, and he has striven to boost friendly ties.

Asked why the DPJ lost the election, the professor said Kan made a mistake by abruptly referring to a possible consumption tax increase without fulfilling promises his party made in last summer’s House of Representatives election.

“We ended up seeing no difference between the DPJ and the (main opposition force) Liberal Democratic Party during the election campaign after Mr. Kan spoke about the possibility of raising the consumption tax from the current 5 percent to 10 percent, the same rate already proposed by the LDP,” he said.

Zhou said public support for the Kan government could have risen if Kan had presented different measures to restore the financial system to health, such as preferring growth to tax hikes or raising the income tax for the rich and increasing the sales tax only for luxury goods.

Though it is uncertain whether the Kan government will be able to cope with a divided Diet — in which opposition parties control the Upper House and the ruling coalition the Lower House — the latest election result is unlikely to affect Japan-China relations, he said.