The tragic assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe left an indelible mark on Japan’s relations with China. As Prime Minister Abe is a conservative, pragmatic, nationalist, and pro-Western democracy, the Chinese government’s policies over the next few years, especially under current Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, will be. , Is greatly shaped by the Abe era.
According to recent reports, the Fumio Kishida administration is trying to keep away from the Abe faction within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, including a fiscal policy that emphasizes caution, unlike Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s willingness to spend.
However, Prime Minister Abe’s response to China had a direct impact on the Kishida administration. When Prime Minister Abe was elected second Prime Minister in December 2012 (after taking office in 2006 and resigning in 2007 for health reasons), Japan’s relations with China were established by the Japanese government. Was nervous. Diaoyu (Senkaku in Japanese) An attempt to nationalize the island. Japan-China relations at that time were extremely difficult and tense until President Nishi had a brief discussion with Prime Minister Abe at the G20 summit in September 2013. President Nishi said Japan “should deal with delicate issues such as Diaoyu Dao and history correctly with a spirit of honestly facing history and looking forward to the future.” Prime Minister Abe diplomatically replied, “I am enthusiastic about improving Japan-China relations.”
After that, Prime Minister Abe took an important step to request a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on November 10, 2014, when the APEC Economic Summit was held. This meeting was icebreaking. Prime Minister Abe shook hands with President West publicly and diplomatically. Since then, Japan’s relations with China have improved. We must give credit to Prime Minister Abe and his Chinese adviser who have seized the golden opportunity to use the APEC meeting to improve relations between Tokyo and Beijing.
The November 2014 meeting was a watershed between Japan and China. Abe has taken a pragmatic approach to dealing with China amid rising Japanese nationalism over Diaoyu Dao (Senkaku). Meanwhile, he adopted a positive view of Japan’s Chinese policy. In a meeting with Prime Minister Abe in November 2014, President Nishi said, “We should look forward to the future by looking at history as a mirror.” The fact that both Abe and West turned to future relations despite the differences in the “sovereignty” issue of Diaoyu Dao (Senkaku) Island set aside long-term territorial disputes between Japan and China.
Chinese Global Times He made two immediate reports commenting on Prime Minister Abe’s tragic death and its impact on Japan’s relations with China. July 8 Global Times He had an article titled “Prime Minister Abe is remembered in China as a controversial figure that ruined his contribution to bilateral relations.” The article first quoted a comment from China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Ritsuken, stating that Abe once contributed to improving Japan’s relations with China, and that China expressed condolences to Abe’s family. However, Prime Minister Abe was a “controversial person” because he “frequently visited the infamous Yasukuni Shrine and denied the history of Japan’s aggression” and “had a bad reputation among the Chinese people.” It is stated in the article that there is.
It is understandable that nationalism is skyrocketing among many Chinese critics, but visiting Yasukuni Shrine to respect those who died in the war was a common practice of the Japanese Prime Minister. Nevertheless, the political symbolism of Yasukuni Shrine is still harmful to most Chinese. Immediately after Abe was assassinated, some nationalist Chinese net citizens made critical comments on him on the mainland Internet and by Chinese authorities to censor what some nationalists wrote. It led to swift action. Prime Minister Abe’s tragic death was a political symbol for some mainlanders who have a xenophobic attitude towards Japan. The wounds of World War II, in which the Japanese troops committed atrocities in China, cannot and will not be easily healed.
Most interestingly, after Prime Minister Abe resigned, he became the champion of Taiwanese democracy. In December 2021, Prime Minister Abe insisted that “the emergency in Taiwan is an emergency in Japan.” Global Times It constituted “a serious violation and provocation against one Chinese principle”.
Prime Minister Abe’s attitude toward Taiwan showed his support for Western-style democracy, such as Taiwan, which he believed was shaped by democracy and values between Japan and the United States. In 2010, Prime Minister Abe met Wang Jin-Ping, the former chairman of the Taiwan Legislative Assembly. When he was asked by a reporter about Fishing Fish (Senkaku) Island. “Given the deep friendship between Japan and Taiwan, there are no unsolvable problems,” Abe said. “Taiwan is an important partner and friend who shares Japan’s common values,” Abe said, supporting Taiwan during his second term as Prime Minister.
In an interview with the Hudson Institute in August 2020, Prime Minister Abe clearly stated that China “strengthens its power base” and has “ambitions for Taiwan.” His perception of the increasingly aggressive and “ambitious” China explained why Japan under the Abe administration tried to re-arm militarily while trying to amend Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. In January 2019, Prime Minister Abe said in parliament that long-range cruise missiles were not prohibited by Article 9, suggesting that Japan should be re-armed in the face of a “China threat.” The Japanese government under the Abe administration has increased military spending as a defensive measure, but this move has caused dissatisfaction with China.
In February 2022, Prime Minister Abe stated that the United States should abandon its policy of deliberate ambiguity against Taiwan by declaring its military defense of Taiwan in the event of an attack.
Another report of Global Times Shinzo Abe appeared on July 9, when it was reported that President Xi Jinping sent a message of condolence to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida about the death of Shinzo Abe’s “sudden misfortune.” President Nishi added that Prime Minister Abe is working to improve Japan-China relations, and that Abe and Abe have “reached an important common understanding” about “building Japan-China relations that meet the needs of the new era.” ..This second report Global Times It was far more diplomatic than the first diplomacy without criticism of Prime Minister Abe.
For Chinese critics, Abe’s legacy on Japan’s relations with China remains important, as Abe was a strong ally of the United States. Prime Minister Abe’s conservative political ideology shared some similarities with former Republican President Donald Trump. Both viewed the “China threat” as a serious need for a shift in Japan’s defense policy and US trade policy, respectively. Prime Minister Abe embraced the Indo-Pacific strategy by working more closely with India than ever before. On the other hand, Japan under the Abe administration took a cautious and wait-and-see attitude toward China’s Belt and Road Initiative. While the United States under the Trump administration withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, Japan filled the economic gap by joining and ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
Japan under the Abe administration also participated in the Japan-US-Australia-India Strategic Dialogue (QUAD), which was initiated by Prime Minister Abe in 2007 and consists of Japan, the United States, Australia and India. This ideological alliance is strategic and important to the United States. All four countries are Western-style democracies that share values such as human rights, democracy, and freedom. US President Joe Biden calls QUAD the “permanent heritage” of Prime Minister Abe. However, QUAD constitutes an ideological alliance to check for “China threats”.
Overall, Shinzo Abe will have a significant impact on how Japan interacts with China in the coming years. Prime Minister Abe was ideologically conservative, pro-American, pro-Western democracy, practical, and nationalist. His practical policy towards China could be seen in his initiative to improve Japan’s relations with China after a serious territorial dispute over Diaoyu Dao. Nonetheless, Prime Minister Abe was a determined nationalist, believing that military re-arming would be a necessary defense in the face of rising “threats” from China and North Korea. Prime Minister Abe was clearly pro-Taiwanese after his resignation, causing the wrath of Chinese officials and nationalists. The current Japanese Prime Minister Kishida basically adopts Abe’s Chinese policy, but Kishida tends to be a little more cautious and does not want to “provoke” China against Japan’s pro-Taiwan position. Nevertheless, Japan’s policy toward China already feels the legacy of Prime Minister Abe. In the positive and “ambitious” perception of China, and under the Japan-US alliance over the next few decades, practical involvement with China and gradual military reconstruction will be combined. It remains to be seen how Abe’s successor will deal with tensions between Japan and China in the coming years.