Nikkei Asia Editor's Letter: Nothing to Chance

Hello from London. I'm in town for a short visit to meet colleagues and discuss various editorial priorities. As we all know, 2024 is a big election year, and elections are always a hot topic. That's why many of my newsletters inevitably focus on upcoming votes.

This time, I want to explore how age affects elections. One of the most talked about votes in this regard is the US presidential election. President Joe Biden is 81 and his running mate Donald Trump is 77. It will undoubtedly be an unprecedented battle between the old candidates.

This week's Big Story dives deeper into Thursday's elections in Pakistan, where former three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif is expected to win. Former cricket star and Prime Minister Imran Khan was not allowed to contest this time, but he is still one of the country's most popular politicians. Sharif and Khan are 74 and 71 years old respectively.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who was re-elected last month, is 76. Neighboring India also has general elections this year, and 73-year-old Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seen as a strong candidate.

If you look at Asian elections — including Indonesia, where 72-year-old Prabowo Subianto is the frontrunner in this month's presidential race — you'd be surprised how many older candidates are still hungry for higher office.

What about Japan, a country known for its aging political leaders? Current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is 66, so he is considered relatively young in political circles. But the key players in the committee overhauling the party's fundraising rules after a murky financial scandal in his Liberal Democratic Party are two older former prime ministers: Taro Aso, 83, and Yoshihide Tsuka, 75. Both will wield strong influence in office. -The Kishida race is a precursor to the September party elections.

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Age carries a certain weight in Asia, where seniority is traditionally respected. Shinzo Abe, who first came to power in 2006 at the age of 52, became Japan's youngest post-war prime minister. His chief of staff, Yoshiyuki Inoue, was 43 years old at the time. After Abe stepped down a year later, Inoue told me: „We were too young to run the country. We were like children to the higher-ups who ruled the big bureaucratic hierarchies.” Yasuo Fukuda, then 71, received Abe's first short visit in 2007.

With increasing longevity, aging is becoming less of an issue these days. However, I think it's still worth considering whether older, more experienced people continuing to be at the top are depriving younger, more talented people of opportunities.

It is difficult to say whether nurturing young talent will be an effective tool to sustain fierce global competition in cutting-edge technology. But as this week's Asia Insight on Japan's R&D efforts in hydrogen technologies explains, a strategy is needed to fend off bigger challenges from rivals like the US and China and avoid falling behind despite being a one-time pioneer in the field.

Meanwhile, our Business Spotlight in this week's issue explains how the escalating conflict between Washington and Beijing is driving up the price of a certain high-tech commodity across Asia. It also shows that export controls with a political agenda do not always serve the desired purpose.

Finally, something from our Life and Art section. One of the joys of traveling in Southeast Asia is experiencing the vibrant nightlife. In Vietnam, however, our tea leaves argue that official resistance to liberalizing nightlife and visa regulations reflects a systemic aversion to change that could hamper the country's tourism industry.

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Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

Shin Nakayama

Editor-in-Chief, Nikkei Asia

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