BEIJING – No demonstrations against Japan were seen in Chinese cities Friday after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made his visit to war-linked Yasukini Shrine the previous day, but the newspapers were nearly unanimous in criticizing him for blatantly challenging the postwar international order.
A larger-than-usual police presence was seen around the Japanese Embassy in Beijing. Journalists were asked to stay away from the area but there were no mass protests on the same scale as those over a year ago when thousands of Chinese staged an angry demonstration over a still-festering territorial row.
Still, Chinese newspapers gave a great deal of space to Abe’s visit to the Shinto shrine in Tokyo, describing it as proof that he is glorifying Japan’s aggression during the war and disrespecting other countries’ feelings.
The shrine, which served as the nation’s spiritual backbone during the war, is viewed by China and other countries as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism because it honors leaders who were convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal, as well as millions of Japanese war dead.
The China Daily said in its editorial that Abe’s visit has “slammed the door to dialogue shut” and that, given his “dangerous political orientations,” it is time for Beijing and the international community to “seriously reconsider their relationship with Japan, from perspectives of security, diplomacy and economy.”
Before the visit, Japan’s first by a sitting prime minister since 2006, relations between the two Asian titans were at their lowest ebb due mainly to the dispute over the Senkaku Islands, which Japan has administered for decades. China and Taiwan claim the uninhabited islets.
Japan and China have not held a summit since May 2012.
The official newspaper published in English said Abe’s explanation after the shrine visit that he had “no intention at all of hurting the feelings of the Chinese and Korean people” is not worth believing.
“Abe knew it would be an insult. But he does not care,” the daily said. “What he wants to do is use the opposition of neighboring countries to fuel domestic nationalism and garner more support.”
“A Japan obsessed with its militarist past is a real danger to the Asia-Pacific,” the editorial said.
China’s Communist Party-affiliated newspaper, the Global Times, called in its editorial for powerful countermeasures against Abe’s “brazen provocation.”