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Politics, as the German statesman Otto von Bismarck once said, is the art of the possible. Shinzo Abe would no doubt agree. He has been redefining the limits of political possibility since taking power in Japan in December.

Abe comes from a long line of political leaders. His grandfather Nobusuke Kishi served as prime minister in the late 1950s, and his father, Shintaro Abe, was a leading figure in the Liberal Democratic Party who held a number of ministerial posts, including head of International Trade and Industry and Foreign Affairs, in the 1980s.

Shinzo Abe has not only continued in that tradition, he has revitalized politics in Japan. Since leading the LDP to victory in the December elections and returning to the prime minister’s office he held briefly in 2006–’07, Abe has jolted Japan out of its long political torpor and showed that policy does matter. He began to set change in motion one month before the election, when he made a bold promise to reflate the economy and push the Bank of Japan to ease monetary policy. Stock prices immediately took off on a massive rally, and the yen entered a major decline.

In office Abe has continued to deliver. The government adopted a ¥10.3 trillion ($101 billion) fiscal stimulus plan earlier this year to revive growth. The prime minister appointed a radical new governor at the Bank of Japan, Haruhiko Kuroda, who hit the ground running by pushing through a quantitative easing program bigger than the Federal Reserve Board’s at his first meeting, in April, and doubling the central bank’s inflation target, to 2 percent. The government’s policies have generated a new climate of optimism about Japan. The economy accelerated in the first quarter of 2013, with growth running at an annual rate of 3.5 percent, up from 1.0 percent in the previous quarter. Foreign investors have piled into the Tokyo Stock Exchange, hoping to benefit from a major rerating of Japanese stocks. Notwithstanding a sharp, 1,143-point sell-off on May 23, the Nikkei 225 index of leading stocks had by that point gained 67.2 percent since the rally began in November.

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