Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s Sept. 3 announcement that he will not run for re-election as the head of the governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) surprised some and relieved others as he leaves behind a mixed legacy during a tumultuous year in office.

Suga’s successor will encounter an overtaxed health care system struggling with COVID-19, a recalcitrant Xi Jinping and a damaged economy facing headwinds. Other immediate challenges involve addressing the country’s demographic crisis, reinvigorating private sector companies and managing critical geopolitical relationships that are key to collective security.

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