The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) won the Japanese election yesterday with an overall majority in the new parliament. LDP President Shinzo Abe, seen as a hawkish leader, has become the Prime Minister for the second time. When he was elected the first time in 2006, he made his first foreign trip to China, which was seen as an "ice-breaking" trip. Many are waiting to see how he will handle the Sino-Japanese relationship.
The deadlock in the current Sino-Japanese relationship is due to territorial disputes and there's little possibility that Abe will make another "ice-breaking" trip.
There are two limitations that Abe has to deal with. One is the right-wing tendency within Japanese society. Nationalism has become a slogan of politicians. The other is China's rising strength. The Japanese economy is dependent on that of China.
The two have opposing impacts on Japan, and Abe is likely to seek a balance between the two.
Right after Abe's win, he claimed that the Diaoyu Islands belong to Japan. Such a hasty acclamation is pandering to the first limitation. Abe knows better than anyone else about the complexity of the Diaoyu Islands dispute, but his speech did not deliver this nuance.
Within Japanese politics, all statesmen have been turned into politicians. Having short-term vision has become popular practice.
Since Abe, Japan's prime ministers have stayed in their positions no longer than a year.
As he has been elected for the second time, what he cares about most is whether he can remain in the position for a long period of time. He won't be bothered by how Chinese see him.
China should try to get support from Japanese voters. Although more and more Japanese hold anti-China sentiments, those who strongly oppose China are only a few right-wing forces.
China's strong reaction against Japan's provocations over the Diaoyu Islands dispute in recent months has shocked Japan. Once Abe takes office, China should let him know about its firm stance.
Only with such pressure will Abe hold China in esteem, otherwise he will think China is in a weak position. In recent years, every time Japan has switched to moderate policy toward China, it has been the result of China's strong stance rather than its concessions.
The two countries have become accustomed to the frigid relationship. Before China and Japan's national strengthen see dramatic change, or a new powerful influence emerges in the region, bilateral ties are unlikely to see historical change on a mere whim. Even if there is a brief improvement, it could easily be reversed.
However, it is necessary for China to conduct talks with the Abe administration to avoid the potential of a military confrontation over the Diaoyu Islands.
But talks need to be based on the precondition that the Chinese presence in the water and airspace around the Diaoyu Islands will remain.
Handling the Diaoyu conflict requires the two sides to keep their strategic vision while making transparent assertions and actions. But Tokyo, addicted to small tricks, isn't an open partner.