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For Now, China Blinks

Could friendlier relations between China and Japan be on their way?

China’s new President appears to be looking to repair relations with Japan, and the military is in on the softer approach. As we noted last Sunday, Xi Jinping recently appointed new diplomats to top positions in the country’s foreign ministry, and the stars of like-minded generals in the military have also risen. The appointments are widely regarded to signal a milder approach to Sino-Japanese relations. Reuters:

The new foreign minister is Wang Yi, a smooth and urbane diplomat who knows Japan well and will be in charge of repairing ties with Tokyo, damaged by a bellicose spat over a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.

“China really does not want to see this kind of confrontation with Japan,” said Ruan Zongze, deputy director of the China Institute of International Studies, a think-tank affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“The new foreign minister has worked in Japan, which shows how much attention we are putting on this issue. We will communicate more with Japan to ameliorate the situation.”

The military has also been making conciliatory gestures to Japan, says Reuters. Importantly, the new diplomatic appointees’ commitment to more amicable relations with Japan is only matched by their hostility to US involvement in the region. It looks as if China accepts that, for now, a policy that leads it into local confrontations creates exactly what it doesn’t want: a ring of states closely allied to the US. The country may now be looking to revert to the “peaceful rise” policy of winning trust and friendship of surrounding states as a way of weakening the US presence.

This new strategy could lead to a quieter life for everyone involved in the Asia Pacific region, but the damage may already be done. China has already done a lot to make other regional powers suspicious of its intentions. It may not be very easy for these new diplomats to turn things around.

[Image of Shanghai Courtesy of Shutterstock]

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