Japan Prime Minister KanDavid Abraham

Late last month, Japanese PM Kan proclaimed 2011 to be the “third opening of Japan”, equating his agenda to the great waves of transformation that swept the country in the mid-19th century and in the years after World War II. That will sound hyperbolic to anyone familiar with economically moribund, politically fragmented Japan, but his aspirations should not be dismissed out of hand. Kan can reopen his nation’s economy–the world’s third largest–to competition, and Kan has shown that he understands Japan’s competitiveness problem and has managed to push forward some substantive changes. This suggests that Kan has at least some capacity to address it.

Abraham is a Hitachi international affairs fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and previously worked as a sovereign analyst at Lehman Brothers.

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