The parallel came to mind once again when I read this post by Arthur Goldhammer.
Commenting on a recent Sarkozy press conference, Goldhammer wrote:
…The “politics of civilization” was not an idle phrase to be forgotten after the New Year’s greetings. Now the borrowing from Edgar Morin is openly affirmed. The intention is to infuse politics with poetry, to eschew the pallid practice of “governance,” that wan neologism, in favor of what de Gaulle would have called grandeur. Sarko’s grandeur partakes not of glory, however, but of the affective. The words “love” and “value” loom large.
I was immediately reminded of Mr. Abe’s efforts to sugarcoat his ideology with “affective” terminology, the most prominent term being, of course, that ubiquitous Abe adjective “beautiful.” It seems that like M. Sarkozy, Mr. Abe sought to transcend the “governance” of his predecessors by appealing to the deeper values that he and his comrades believe all Japanese share.
However, one difference is that Mr. Abe, as prime minister, was responsible for “governance” and all the messiness it entails. The grandeur of the French presidency seems to give M. Sarkozy some room with which to muse about these subjects; indeed, it might well be a requirement of the job.
(UPDATE: As noted by MTC in the comments, the more obvious comparison for the frenetic M. Sarkozy is, of course, Mr. Koizumi. Agreed. And M. Sarkozy is obviously a much more adept politician than the hapless Mr. Abe. My point is simply that Messrs. Abe and Sarkozy think about their nations’ pasts, presents, and futures in similar terms.)
Meanwhile, in the same press conference M. Sarkozy proposed that the G8 be expanded to the G13, with the new members being Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, India, and China. This might very well make the summit meaningful again, if not more effective (the G8’s ineffectualness is, I think, as much a function of overambitious agendas as of the roster of attendees).
I expect that this proposal will not be popular in Tokyo. As anyone who has seen Japanese media coverage of preparations for the July G8 summit in Hokkaido knows, Japanese elites take the G8 seriously. They are proud of Japan’s membership and would undoubtedly be extremely reluctant to make this exclusive club that much less exclusive. And given that China would be included in an expanded summit, I can easily imagine that the Japanese government is in no hurry to see group expanded, especially considering China’s role in keeping Japan out of that most exclusive of international clubs, the permanent membership of the UN Security Council.