Be wary of Japanese right-wing forces even after Ishihara passes away
Published: Feb 01, 2022 09:53 PM
Shintaro Ishihara Photo:VCG

Shintaro Ishihara Photo:VCG

According to NHK, Japanese right-wing politician Shintaro Ishihara died on Tuesday at the age of 89.

Ishihara has multiple identities: He is a writer, a politician, and a social activist. Therefore, it is difficult to characterize him. However, it is certain that Ishihara can be labeled as a representative of Japan's extreme right-wing forces. To put it simply, Ishihara was a Japanese nationalist who used his pen, power, and position to mobilize extreme nationalist sentiment in Japan after World War II (WWII).

Ishihara's political career began after he won the election as a member of the House of Councillors, the upper house of the National Diet of Japan, in 1968. He retired from politics in 2014. Ishihara has been opposing China almost perpetually throughout these 46 years. Much of what he has done appear to be detrimental to China-Japan relations.

For instance, in 1973, he joined the right-wing political group Seirankai, or "Blue Storm Group", which strongly opposed the normalization of diplomatic relations between China and Japan. In addition, Ishihara's perception of China has always been quite negative. He used to use a discriminatory term popular during the Japanese invasion of China in the 1930-40s to refer to China on many occasions. This has been criticized by Japanese media and society.

Moreover, he refused to face up to Japan's aggression in WWII. One of Ishihara's famous words goes like this, "Japan has certainly caused trouble for Asian countries in the past wars. However, if Japan continues to be preoccupied with this issue and only bows its head in a formal manner, it will not be able to develop any relationship with these countries."

For Chinese people, this Japanese right-wing politician is notorious for advocating Tokyo to "purchase" the Diaoyu Islands when he was governor of Tokyo in 2012.

The issue of the Diaoyu Islands is supposed to be a political issue resolved by the Chinese and Japanese governments. But as a local leader, Ishihara instigated the Japanese public's nationalist sentiment, making the matter a public issue. As a result, the conflict between the Chinese and Japanese people was intensified over the Diaoyu Islands issue.

In the 1970s, Ishihara was not considered mainstream within the Liberal Democratic Party, so he even left the party for a time in the mid-1970s. However, after the end of the Cold War, as Japanese politics became more and more conservative, some of Ishihara's words and actions gained a larger audience. It can be said that Ishihara has influenced many Japanese right-way politicians.

Yet, Ishihara's death will not have a great impact on the right-wing forces in Japan. At present, Japan's right-wing forces are quite strong, so even without Ishihara, there may be some more extreme politicians who realize their political interests by stirring up Japanese nationalist sentiment.

In addition, Ishihara's time has long passed, especially after his retirement. His "peak time" as a politician was actually when he proposed to buy the Diaoyu Islands in 2012.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between China and Japan. In this monumental year, there is still no sign of any easing of the bilateral relations. This is partly because of the provocation of the right-wing forces in Japan.

Most importantly, it seems that these forces are slowly taking the initiative in Japan by using media and public opinion to provoke conflicts between China and Japan. This has shaped the overall anti-China atmosphere in Japan, while putting the Japanese government, especially some political parties and politicians that are friendly with China, into a passive situation.

For China, we need to think about our bottom line. In other words, we should take precautions against the possibility that the Japanese right-wing forces may continue to harm China-Japan relations during an important year. We also need to send a clear signal: We know where our grips are if any force dares to damage bilateral relations between Beijing and Tokyo.

Of course, we do not want the possible actions from some Japanese right-wing forces to ruin the atmosphere of the 50th anniversary of the normalization of China-Japan diplomatic relations. Therefore, in this regard, we should keep working with willing political actors in Japan, including strengthening contacts with people and political parties friendly with China.

The author is an associate research fellow at the Center for Japanese Studies, Fudan University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn