mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Sino-Japanese Relations
Abe Woos Xi

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has spent the past several months making diplomatic overtures to Chinese President Xi Jinping, in the hopes that he can secure a meeting with the Chinese leader at the upcoming APEC conference. According to China’s Ambassador to Japan, those efforts are paying off. The Asahi Shimbun reports:

“We are sensing changes in (the Japanese side’s recent) positive moves,” Chinese Ambassador Cheng Yonghua said during a speech in Tokyo.

Late last month, Abe emphasized his continued willingness to thaw the chilly ties that are currently strained over the territorial dispute concerning the Senkaku Islands and the differences in perceptions of shared history.

“The peaceful development of China is a great opportunity for Japan,” Abe said during his policy speech on the opening of the extraordinary Diet session on Sept. 29. “I intend to realize a summit meeting at an early time to build stable, friendly relations.”

Abe’s campaign to woo China has been long and concerted. For months, he has tread carefully in order to avoid underlining the two countries’ fraught history. Then, he installed pro-China officials in top positions in his reshuffled cabinet. Most recently and perhaps most importantly, he opened bilateral dialogue over territorial disputes about the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. He has managed to do all of this while maintaining his reputation as a hardline Japanese nationalist and while expanding the legal limits for the use of Japanese military force.

If Abe continues to prove as deft at handling Sino-Japanese relations as he has so far, it bodes very well for the chances of an Abe-Xi meeting at APEC, and also for this important relationship in general.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Anthony

    “It was inevitable that China’s reawakening as the giant of the western Pacific would ripple outward across the region. A glance at a map is reminder enough that the Middle Kingdom consciousness ever more evident in Beijing was never fated to disappear – and this would require reinterpretation in a modern context. Equally, the long-prevalent thought that Japan could remain forever in the postwar box the Americans built to contain it was never more than angelisme.” To this end, Abe wooing Xi logically makes strategic sense in terms of 21st century regional dynamics – obviously the relationship matters going forward.

    • Dhako

      No, I think he realized rather late in the day, that all the posturing and preening against China, which in turn gladdens the heart’s of US’s Neoconservatives, is really not a smart strategy going forward, since, no other country in the region will join America and Japan (other than none-entity, like Philippines) to try to contain China. And, since, economy-of-Scale is destiny, and the aging Japan will increasingly come to lean on China, so that China can continue to take up Japan’s high-end-product in which she exports to China, then, it was obvious it’s Japan that needs China for both long-term economical health of Japan, and the need for a friendly strategical co-existence with China.

      Consequently, Notwithstanding the much-trumpeted US’s pivot-to-Asia, every country (including Japan) have drawn up their “strategical ledger-book” and they have realize that to make China an enemy (strategical and economical) will be costly, since no other country (including US) can take the place of China can be, in-terms of the health of their economy, particularly when the Chinese internal-market (which will be the largest in the world) gets going in the next 10 to 20 years.

      Hence, to Neoconservatives in America who think in a “news-cycle-time-span” sort of strategical horizon, it seems that they haven’t got a faintest idea how most of the pacific nations, with their generational-long calculation of their national interest came to the realization, rather late in the day, that, US’s pivot to Asia with it’s “undeclared agenda” of trying to contain China, will be seriously costly to their national interests.

      Subsequently, what you seeing with Abe’s moves (which is akin to a late ” Come-To-Jesus-moment” move on his part) is part and parcel of that strategical re-calibration.

      • Anthony

        In short, strategic sense going forward since they must live in region – “political calculations meet human passions meet geographic facts of life.”

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Oh, please! The Chinese aren’t going to give up their unjust and outrageous territorial ambitions. They will take what they can get from Abe, and come back later for more, and more, and more. Each time they will find some specious pretext for demanding more. I don’t know what Abe’s strategy is here, maybe he feels the need for more time to rebuild the Japanese military (it will take years to build and train a more powerful defense). Maybe he expects a new American President to fix things after the worst and weakest President in American history Obama is gone. In any case this isn’t peace being made between China and Japan.

    • Dhako

      Actually, it’s a realization on the part of Abe of how precarious his nation’s strategical position is vis-a-vis that of China, at least in a generational sense. And, secondly, he knows that if China were to give a nod-and-wink to her companies and consumers, that Japan’s products (ranging from Electronics to Cars) are not-welcomed in China, then, the flickering and the faintly recovering Japanese’s economic is all but over. And therefore the long-depression of 1990s, will return with a biting wind.

      And, if that were to happen, then, that will bring a deep political trouble (internally) for Abe and his party. Hence, to Abe, his economy (both short term and long-term basis) is singularly tied in with that of Xi’s China. And, on strategical terms, his nation’s room to maneuver is limited, since, no nations in the pacific will “volunteer” to join Japan and America in “containing” China, since, most country in the pacific will depend economically the health and the strategical understanding with China more than they will do on any other nation.

      Hence, since economy is destiny, Japan seems to have realized that they need to cut-and-run from this “empty posture” of thinking that they can contain China, when in fact, the very basis of her economy and future strategical reality will largely depends on China much more than it will do so with any other nations.

      Consequently, what Obama and his “Pivot-to-Asia” may get up into the pacific can’t really help the dark reality Japan is likely to be looking forward to, particularly where she to fall out with resurgent China, This is what Abe and his Geo-strategical theoreticians are finally coming around to understanding it. And I must say, it’s about time, really.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service