Abe’s B&R change of heart a welcome step

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/6 23:54:45

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday that Japan is ready to cooperate with China's Belt and Road initiative under certain conditions. He also cautioned that it is critical for infrastructure to be open to use by all, and to be developed through procurement that is transparent and fair.

This is the first time that Abe has sent a positive signal on Japan's participation in the Belt and Road, and it is also interpreted as a sign that Tokyo is willing to mend the Sino-Japanese relationship.

Japan used to hold the most passive attitude toward the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Belt and Road initiative, two signature programs that are symbolic of China's rise. Abe's new attitude reflects a certain change in Tokyo's mentality, and this change is welcome.

However, it's still too early to tell whether this signals the Abe administration has changed its thinking about China, or if it's just a tactical policy adjustment. But it's also likely that the tactical adjustment may trigger a change of thought if it goes well.

Driven by a deeply ingrained rightist mentality, Abe has significantly pushed back the Sino-Japanese relationship. But reality shows him clearly that the choice of confronting China has little chance of success. US President Donald Trump is adjusting his nation's China policy while the US and China are expanding cooperation. The Philippines and Vietnam are following suit, leaving Tokyo more and more isolated.

Japan was the first country in Asia to reach modernization, which inspired its confidence. However, the US and Russia (Soviet Union) had put limits on the pride of Japan. Now, the rise of China will bring Japan back to its original position in Asia, which is a painful self-recognition for Japan.

Japan's paranoid attitude toward China is understandable from the perspective of psychology. However, it is harmful to Japan and has developed in Japanese society. Politicians in Japan often choose to guide or encourage this kind of attitude.

It is believed that the adjustment of Abe's attitude toward the initiative is influenced by external factors such as Trump. Nevertheless, it is hard to expect a long-term and stable international environment for Sino-Japanese relations. So whether the improvement in Sino-Japanese relations can form a strong momentum and gradually shape the geopolitical atmosphere of the Asia-Pacific, or this improvement is short-term and only serves Japan's interests cannot be concluded at present.

The reasons for Sino-Japanese diplomatic confrontation can be regarded as both serious and ridiculous. The aversion of the two sides will cause losses for the two while bestowing benefits to third parties. The normalization of bilateral relations depends primarily on the normalization of the two sides' vision and mentality, which is a hard task for both. Japan is still under US military control and is rankled by its defeat more than 70 years ago, leading to Japan's psychological distortions. The China-Japan relationship will be contained by these factors.

It will be better for bilateral relations to develop, rather than regress further. Whether Tokyo is sincere or not to join the Belt and Road, the change is worth encouraging. No matter how far Tokyo will go in the right direction, China should promote this change and make the change stick, which is in line with China's national interests.

 

Posted in: EDITORIAL

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