China-Japan relations

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks during a news conference at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, 14 October 2021. (Eugene Hoshiko/Pool via Reuters)

Japanese politicians tussle over power and speaking rights on Taiwan

Recent comments by former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have people speculating if Japan is taking a more hawkish stance on Taiwan. Japan-based academic Zhang Yun explains that this is a combination of factional politics between the liberal-leaning Kochikai faction led by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and the neo-conservatives within the LDP, as well as the dynamics of Japan’s relationship with the US and China. With the 50th anniversary of the normalisation of diplomatic ties between Japan and China taking place next year, will the Taiwan card be further in play?
 Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi (left) and former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. (Wikimedia)

Dealing with challenges of a rising China in the Indo-Pacific: Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi and former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd

What drives the interest of the West and Japan in the Indo-Pacific? Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi and former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who is also president of Asia Society Policy Institute, present two perspectives from the region. This opinion piece was first published in THE BERLIN PULSE, Körber-Stiftung or the Körber Foundation’s guide to German foreign policy.
Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a press conference at the Prime Minister's Official Residence, Tokyo, 7 April 2020. (Wikimedia)

What's behind Shinzo Abe's outburst over the Taiwan Strait issue?

Recent comments by former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that Japan would not stand by if China launched an offensive on Taiwan have raised the hackles of Beijing, which sees such rhetoric as supporting Taiwan independence. Former Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso also made similar hawkish comments in July. Zaobao associate editor Han Yong Hong examines Abe’s possible motivations, including reining in current Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida before the latter gets too close to China.
Japanese people on a transport vessel take a last look at Manchuria, spring 1945. The Japanese government previously made many nice promises to encourage them to migrate to Manchuria, only for Japan to lose the war and dash the dream. Japan’s painful experience in Manchuria also became important material for Japanese literature and film after the war.

[Photo story] The fate of Japanese POWs and civilians in China after World War II

During the Japanese occupation of China in World War II, the Japanese government encouraged the people of Japan to migrate to China, where they were accorded many privileges as first-grade citizens. But when Japan eventually lost the war, these people found themselves cut adrift in an instant, neither belonging to China nor tied to Japan, especially the children born during the war. Many suffered and even lost their lives as the Soviet army put them into concentration camps and took retaliatory action. Some Japanese still remember the magnanimous policies of the Chiang Kai-Shek government, which arranged at the time for Japanese POWs and other Japanese to be repatriated back to Japan. Historical photo collector Hsu Chung-mao presents photos of the period.
Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks to the media at his office in Tokyo on 19 November 2021. (Jiji Press/AFP) / Japan OUT

Will the new Kishida administration be more friendly towards China?

As the Kishida administration takes shape with adjustments in various appointments, one key change is Toshimitsu Motegi shifting from foreign minister to become LDP Secretary-General, and Yoshimasa Hayashi taking over as foreign minister. In particular, Hayashi is a self-professed "pro-Chinese", and will probably play a significant role in Japan's policies toward China. Japanese academic Shin Kawashima looks at how Japan-China relations might develop.
People cross a street during sunset in Shanghai, China, 15 November 2021. (Aly Song/Reuters)

George Yeo: Charm and China in a multipolar world

George Yeo, Singapore’s former foreign minister, gave a talk titled “China in a Multipolar World” to students of the Master in Public Administration and Management (MPAM) programme taught in Chinese at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy on 3 November. He spoke about time and patience needed for a multipolar superstructure to emerge, and for earlier dominant players such as the US to adjust to the new order. In the meantime, it is in China’s interest to master the art of charm, knowing when to go hard or soft in its relations with the US and Europe, its neighbours India and Japan, and issues such as the South China Sea and Taiwan. This is an edited transcript of his speech and excerpts from the Q&A session.
A pedestrian walks on a street near Hamamatsu station in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, on 6 October 2021. (Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg)

Is the ‘rise of China’ to blame for shifting China-Japan relations?

It is easy to see persistent Japan-China tensions as an effect of the rise of China and a tilt in the balance of strength between both countries. But Toh Lam Seng reminds us that from the time of the Meiji Restoration of 1868 onwards, Japan had been coveting mainland China and the Korean Peninsula, and thus Japan and China were never on amicable terms. While Japanese politicians and the media like to play up the China rise factor, China-Japan relations really worsened in the late 1990s when the US and Japan redefined the US-Japan Security Treaty. Is the hawkishness we’re seeing today but an upgraded version of those readjustments?
People walk in a street at night in Tokyo on 3 November 2021. (Charly Triballeau/AFP)

It's complicated: Chinese and Japanese public sentiments towards each other

A Japan-China public opinion poll shows that negative impressions of Japan have risen among the Chinese, while there was little change in sentiment among the Japanese towards China. Japanese academic Shin Kawashima offers some reasons for the increased negativity in China, including the lack of interaction among the people and leaders of both countries, as well as issues of nationalism and skewed domestic propaganda, especially in China.
In this photo taken on 6 August 2021, police officers walk beside the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, as it was known before 1945 and now called the Atomic Bomb Dome, as the city marks the 76th anniversary of the world's first atomic bomb attack. (Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP)

The real reason why Japan is following the US’s lead

Academic Toh Lam Seng traces Japan’s long-held foreign policy stance of “following the US’s lead”. Circumstances of history led to this default pattern, even though Japan did try to break out of this straitjacket. Domestic opposition aside, under the US's watchful eye, Japan has not been able to possess nuclear weaponry or have a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council. But with the changing situation of a rising China, might Japan move closer to getting what it has always wanted?