Fumio Kishida was named Japan’s 100th prime minister when he set up a government focusing on addressing economic and security threats from China.
In his most notable appointment, which also saw his promise to bring in a younger generation of political leaders, Kishida Takayuki Kobayashi, a former deputy defense minister, opted for the newly created economic security minister.
Harvard-educated Kobayashi is expected to work closely with Akira Amari, the new secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, on strategies to respond to risks associated with China in the areas of semiconductor supply chain, cyber security and intellectual property.
Kishida wins a strong contest four-way race to succeed Yoshihide Suga last week as power brokers within the ruling party backed the former foreign minister to ensure political stability and continuity.
Analysts said Kishida’s cabinet series suggested that his top priority was to reward the many LDP factions that supported him, leading to important posts for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s allies and Finance Minister Taro Aso.
His biggest rival, Taro Kono, the popular vaccine minister, has been demoted to a party role in charge of LDP’s public relations.
“He wanted to create a solid cabinet so that the lineup might be low, but it is not meant to blow a wind of change,” said Koji Nakakita, a Japanese political expert at Hitotsubashi University.
Aso, 81, is replaced after nine years in the post of finance minister, but is succeeded by his brother-in-law Shunichi Suzuki. Abe’s younger brother, Nobuo Kishi, will remain as defense minister, while the former prime minister’s close ally and education minister, Koichi Hagiuda, will be appointed trade minister.
The choice of Suzuki as finance minister indicates a continuation of aggressive monetary easing and fiscal stimulus, but it was still unclear who would ask Kishida to spearhead what he called a new style of capitalism to focus on the redistribution of wealth.
The crucial role of the chief cabinet secretary was Hirokazu Matsuno, the former education minister who is part of the LDP’s largest faction closely linked to Abe.
Three out of 20 cabinet members in Kishida’s cabinet are women: Noriko Horiuchi as Minister of Vaccines, Seiko Noda as Minister of Gender Equality and Karen Makishima, who will be responsible for administrative reform. There were only two women in the previous cabinet.
The first challenge Kishida faces is a general election that is expected to be held later this month. While his safe choice of ministers suggests that Kishida was confident in the outcome, he should maintain his momentum until the House of Representatives election next year.
“It all depends on whether there will be a new wave of Covid-19 infections,” said Masato Kamikubo, professor of political science at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto. “If Kishida’s support percentage drops, there is no one to protect him and he is at risk of being replaced immediately.”