World War II

In June 1937, German leader Hitler received China’s Finance Minister H.H. Kung at the Kehlsteinhaus in the mountains, representing the peak of China-Germany military cooperation. Kung was the special personal representative of Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek.

[Photo story] The secret pre-World War II diplomacy between China and Germany

Before World War II, an unlikely alliance and friendship sprang up between China and Germany. As diplomatic ties warmed, Germany provided China with arms and equipment against the Japanese invasion. However, because China and the Soviet Union were military allies, Hitler drew closer to Japan, resulting in the subsequent deterioration of China-Germany relations, and the division of camps in WWII.
12 May 1945, San Francisco — During the meeting of the UN Conference on International Organization (UNCIO), delegates of four countries who would serve and sit on the UN Security Council look over a document: (from left) British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Robert Anthony Eden, US Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius, Jr, Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs Vycheslav M. Molotov and Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Soong Tzu-wen.

[Photo story] The establishment of the United Nations and its significance to China

The establishment of the United Nations was a major step towards forging a new world order after the chaos of World War II. For China, it was a chance to recover from the humiliation of the two Opium Wars, the First Sino-Japanese War and World War II, where it was forced to cede territory and submit to Western powers. Not only was China able to sign equal treaties to take back its land, it became a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and took its place on the world stage.
25 November 1943, Cairo — State leaders of the US, the UK and the Republic of China and their chiefs of staff pose for a group photo before the Mena House Hotel in Cairo. Madame Chiang Kai-shek served as the interpreter for President Chiang Kai-shek. The one standing behind US President Roosevelt is Wang Chung-hui, secretary-general of the Chinese Supreme Defence Council and a former minister of foreign affairs.

[Photo story] The Cairo Conference and Taiwan’s liberation

In 1895, Taiwan was ceded to Japan in the Treaty of Shimonoseki. Fifty years later, amid World War II, Taiwan was returned to China following the Cairo Conference involving the US’s Franklin D. Roosevelt, the UK’s Winston Churchill and the Republic of China’s Chiang Kai-shek. Historical photo collector Hsu Chung-mao gives us a glimpse into those times.
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?
On 1 October 1949, from atop the Tiananmen city wall in Beijing, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chairman Mao Zedong led the ceremony establishing the People’s Republic of China. And at the First Plenary Session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), he declared: “The Chinese people, comprising one quarter of humanity, have now stood up.”

[Photo story] The establishment of the People’s Republic of China

“The Chinese people have stood up.” These famous words uttered by Mao Zedong were a declaration to the world. But the establishment of the People’s Republic of China was by no means straightforward. Historical photo collector Hsu Chung-mao takes us through the twists and turns of a civil war between the Kuomintang and Chinese Communist Party, with their very different ideas of what China should be.
A US-made CH-47 helicopter flies an 18-metre by 12-metre Taiwan flag at a military base in Taoyuan, Taiwan, on 28 September 28, 2021. (Sam Yeh/AFP)

Has the US shifted its position on Taiwan, again?

US academic Zhu Zhiqun notes that Beijing’s “one-China principle” has remained largely unchanged while Taiwan’s concept of cross-strait relations has morphed under the DPP to that of Taiwan being already independent. On its part, the US seems to be changing its stance, not least by adding Reagan-era, private assurances to Taiwan to the equation when defining its “one-China policy”. Tough questions need to be answered about how Beijing can curb Taiwan independence without alienating the Taiwanese public, or how the US can support Taiwan’s democracy without encouraging Taiwanese independence and dragging the US into a war with 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?
Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is also the president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, holds up a placard reading "Corona disease countermeasures, New Capitalism. Diplomacy and security" at a debate session with other leaders of Japan's main political parties ahead of the 31 October 2021 lower house election, at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo, Japan, 18 October 2021. (Issei Kato/Reuters)

How Japan's political stance is becoming increasingly hawkish and conservative

Academic Toh Lam Seng traces the history of Japanese politics from its “1955 system” of clear policy difference between the conservatives and reformists to the more recent potato-potahto matches between conservative parties born out of LDP factionalism or splintering. Seen in this light, is the Japanese population really growing more conservative and politicians are merely tapping into this trend, or are the political parties themselves perpetuating an endless cycle of conservatism?
(From left) Taro Kono, Fumio Kishida, Sanae Takaichi and Seiko Noda hold papers with their mottos before a debate ahead of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)'s presidential election at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo, Japan, on 18 September 2021. (Eugene Hoshiko/Bloomberg)

How will the Liberal Democratic Party’s presidential election affect Japan's China policy?

With Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga stepping down, whoever wins the Liberal Democratic Party leadership race is practically assured of becoming the next prime minister. But with four experienced politicians on the cards, including two women, who will it be? And how will the choice of the next prime minister affect Japan's policy towards China? Japanese academic Shin Kawashima examines the possibilities.