New trends prompt Tokyo’s subtle change in China tack

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/5/18 0:03:39

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday met with Toshihiro Nikai, secretary general of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party who came to Beijing to attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.

Nikai said the meeting lasted for 17 minutes and he handed Xi a personal letter from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Earlier, Abe said he could be open to joining the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) if some questions are resolved.

The Japanese government's position toward China seems to be subtly changing. Sending a delegation to attend the Belt and Road forum and signaling that it would join the AIIB are considered as an olive branch delivered by the Abe administration.

There are new trends taking place in areas that could shed light on the China-Japan relationship. First, Sino-US relations have returned to the normal track. The meeting between Xi and his US counterpart Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago in April was successful.

Washington has softened its tone in issues around Taiwan and the South China Sea.

Trump has often praised China's role in the North Korean nuclear crisis and expressed a willingness to enhance cooperation with China. The US sent delegates to attend the Belt and Road forum, and the US embassy in China set up a Belt and Road working group. All these have pressured Tokyo which is worried that its bigoted China policy may lead it toward isolation.

Trump has officially abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal and there are no mentions of the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific strategy anymore.

The China-led initiatives such as the AIIB and the Belt and Road are gaining momentum. While Washington takes a negative attitude toward free trade and globalization, Europe is calling for China to play a leadership role.

The AIIB, which was established in 2015, has already got 77 members, exceeding the number of members of the Asian Development Bank which is dominated by the US and Japan and has operated for decades. The US and Japan are the only two G7 members to have not joined the AIIB.

The Japanese right-wing elite is still occupied in engaging in a strategic competition with China and competing for Asian dominance. But the changing strength between China and Japan and the new power pattern in the Asia-Pacific will speak for itself.

In addition, China has been consistent with its Japan policy. China will not compromise in principled matters such as historical issues, and it will not intentionally emphasize China-Japan competition or squeeze Japan's international space. Therefore, opposing Beijing does not help Tokyo much.

Now the situation is unfavorable to the Abe government if it insists on a tough China policy, as doing so requires not only Japan's own strength, but also US assistance, both of which seem out of reach.

Posted in: OBSERVER

blog comments powered by Disqus