Kishida to be tested on balancing Japan's relations with the US, China: observers
Published: Oct 04, 2021 07:46 PM
Fumio Kishida. Photo: CFP

Fumio Kishida. Photo: CFP

Japan elected Fumio Kishida as its 100th prime minister on Monday, who announced his new cabinet lineup. A new post set in the cabinet to focus on China has drawn wide attention. How to balance Japan’s relations with the US and China will be a major test for the new cabinet, analysts say. 

Kishida, leader of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), was elected on Monday as the new prime minister, forming a new cabinet expected to promote Japanese economic recovery while keeping COVID-19 infections under control, local media reported. 

Within the Kishida cabinet, he appointed 13 first-timers to ministerial posts, including economic and fiscal policy minister Daishiro Yamagiwa and Takayuki Kobayashi, who would take a new post for economic security with a responsibility to craft a national strategy designed to end the drain of intellectual property from Japan, Xinhua reported.

Xiang Haoyu, a research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times that the arrangement of Kishida’s government did not come as a surprise. “Kishida seemed his desire to balance all factors within the ruling LDP, which shows his personality of being cautious and wanting to maintain stability.”

Previously, Kishida had promised to establish the post for a special advisor to the prime minister on human rights issues if elected, and that the advisor would deal with “human rights in China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Hong Kong”, Kyodo News reported.

Japanese media reported on Monday that Seiji Kihara, who was appointed as deputy chief cabinet secretary, will serve as this new role.

In a previous interview with the Global Times, Kishida said that he wished more foreign visitors, including tourists from China could visit Japan, and was thinking about making related measures.

Xiang noted that setting the new post is partially to cater to the needs of anti-China hardliners in the ruling LDP. However, that position seems to have limited practical influence.

“China will keep an eye on whether Kishida administration will try to play ‘human rights card’ against China in the future, by attentively increasing pressure on China on issues related to Hong Kong and Xinjiang,” Xiang said.

Kishida served as Japan's foreign minister from 2012 to 2017 and has also worked as the policy chief of the LDP.

Xiang noted that during his tenure as foreign minister, Kishida had faithfully promoted Abe's diplomatic messages. 

After becoming prime minister, Kishida is likely to stick to Japan-US alliance, focus on advancing the so-called Indo-Pacific strategy, and ramp up budget on defense. However, whether a breakthrough can be made in neighboring diplomacy is a real test for Kishida, Xiang said.