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Survey of newspaper editorials on Trump’s victory

On the afternoon of Nov. 9 Japan time, the “Trump shock” shook the world. Following the surprising victory of Republican candidate Donald Trump over his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, in the U.S. presidential election, major Japanese newspapers put their editorials, saying, “We cannot help being surprised,” “It’s a political earthquake that shakes the postwar international order,” and “It’s like raging billows.”


In their editorials over the past several days, six major dailies have discussed the “Trump administration” from various angels. This survey examines what they wrote in their Nov. 10 editorials about his victory.


The tone of argument in the six newspaper editorials remarkably differed, depending on the viewpoints focusing on the U.S. or Japan.


While Asahi, Mainichi and Tokyo Shimbun discussed in detail “how things are in America,” such as the present situation in American society – a major factor for Trump’s victory – and the future course for the country to take, the three dailies did not include views about how Japan should respond, which was covered in their editorials published later. On the other hand, Sankei used most of its space to discuss what measures Japan should take from now on.


Regarding the reason for Trump’s victory, Asahi noted that Trump used a tactic in which he said the existing politics is “collusively tied with the privileged” and is “an enemy to ordinary people.” He attacked Clinton as part of such an enemy. The paper went on to say that it is understandable for people, out of a sense of despair, were thirsty for a political innovation, and in that sense, the daily said that “American politics is the biggest loser.” Mainichi put an analysis that “What Trump has called for attracted people who have become hopeless of the American dream as a bygone.”


The two papers expressed concern about Trump. Asahi wrote that “[With Trump as president] America’s international leadership will be questionable,” while Mainichi wrote that “Trump’s victory would leave the future of both the U.S. and other countries uncertain.”


Asahi called on Trump to rebuild trust relations with the international community by going back to America’s traditional values and to fully understand that working with allies and the international community will be beneficial to both the U.S. and the world. Mainichi wrote that it is difficult to see how Trump will rebuild the traditional order he broke, requesting him to “come up with concrete policies to reconstruct the order.”


In contrast, regarding the election, Sankei wrote that we have no choice but to calmly accept the outcome of “American people’s desire for a drastic change.” The paper went on to say that “Concrete measures are needed to maintain relations with the U.S. in which Japan and the U.S. share common values such as freedom and democracy,” calling for Japan to take realistic measures. As for the possibility that Trump’s view of “America first” might culminate in isolationism, the paper urged Japan to take action by saying, “Japan needs to persuade Trump to firmly maintain the idea of expanding free trade.” This way, Sankei kept its perspective on Japan’s action.


With regard to security, Trump intends to urge allies to increase the stationing costs for the U.S. military. While calling for Japan to clear up Trump’s misunderstandings about the actual amount that Japan shoulders and the significance of the U.S. military as deterrence, Sankei emphasized that “What is more important is that Japan, facing the crisis of the Senkaku Islands, needs to be determined to enhance its own defense capability.” On the contrary, Asahi warned in its editorial dated Nov. 11 that “Expediting a defense buildup alone out of concern may deteriorate the regional stability.”


Nikkei also presented its view about security. It wrote that with the birth of a seemingly “inward-looking” U.S. administration, it is anticipated that the U.S. might be less considerate of Asia. “Taking advantage of a power vacuum in the transitional period of the U.S. administration, it is possible that China may move forward with new activities in the South and East China Seas,” the paper continued, “Japan needs to prepare for such a development,” calling for Japan’s caution.


Yomiuri voiced its concern that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has no channels with the Trump camp. The paper wrote that “While carefully discerning the stance of the new U.S. administration, Japan needs to deliberate on a new structure of the alliance with the U.S.”


Abe plans to meet with Trump in New York on Nov. 17. The question is whether Abe will be able to ask what Trump really means and if he can persuade Trump to shift from isolationism. This will be an opportunity for Abe’s ability to be tested. We want Trump to better understand Japan. Friction between Japan and the U.S. will directly become an opportunity for China to advance its ambition for Japanese territories and interests.

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