Abe put on a master-class in diplomacy by courting Trump

The assassination of Shinzo Abe hit me hard as the news crossed late last night. Much will be written about his domestic successes and his record nine-year run as Prime Minister of Japan. He was incredibly ambitions, hard working and affable. He tamed a political landscape that was marked with turmoil.

For me, his political instincts were never on better display than in his courting of Donald Trump. In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s surprise election win, many liberal democratic leaders distanced themselves from him due to his unpopularity abroad.

Abe took a different path that proved to be much wiser for his country.

When you looked at Donald Trump’s rhetoric and economic priorities, one of
his main targets was likely to be Japan. They have a large trade surplus with the US, compete with the US in high-tech
manufacturing and the central bank frequently devalued the yen to be more
competitive.

But Abe knew that Trump highly valued personal relationships and could be swayed by them.

Abe didn’t waste any time after Trump was elected. He flew to New York
and gave him a gold-plated golf club and the worked his way to the front
of the line for a diplomatic visit.

Abe used golf and humility to become fast friends with Trump and while Japan wasn’t totally spared of Trump tariffs, he mitigated the damage with the power of his personality. It was a
tour-de-diplomatic-force. In the years that followed many countries would have been better off if they’d followed the same path. It was a clear demonstration of why Abe was at the year top of the list of modern politicians.

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