As Japan and China get set to mark the 50th anniversary next year since ties were normalized, Tokyo is expected to face difficulties managing its policies toward Beijing, including over a postponed state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping and the Beijing Winter Olympics in February.
Japan is increasingly wary of Xi’s aim of making his country a great power, a goal that the leader made clear at a ceremony Thursday to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China.
Tokyo is concerned that Xi’s stance may lead to a further escalation of Beijing’s authoritarian behavior, such as its maritime expansion in the East China Sea and the South China Sea.
At a news conference on Friday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said that Tokyo hopes to hold candid dialogue with China to resolve pending issues one by one while urging the Chinese side to take concrete action.
Chinese coast guard ships have made repeated intrusions into Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The Japanese-administered islands are claimed by China, where they are called the Diaoyu.
The top government spokesman also stopped short of going into details on Xi’s possible visit to Japan as a state guest, saying, “We are not at a stage to arrange a specific schedule.”
Xi stressed in his speech at Thursday’s ceremony that taking control of Taiwan is a historic mission of China. He also said that the people of China will not tolerate foreign bullying of the country.
Xi’s hard-line stance may also reflect a meeting between Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and U.S. President Joe Biden in April this year.
A joint statement released after the Suga-Biden meeting mentioned Taiwan for the first time in 52 years, underscoring “the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
“China has become a major power and has no intention” to listen to what other countries say, a senior official at the Foreign Ministry said, adding that China now “is an obviously abnormal country.”
Some businesspeople, however, have voiced their hopes for Japan to mend ties with its largest trading partner.
“It is extremely important for Japan to make its ties with China stable,” Suga said, noting that China is a neighbor and the second-largest economy in the world.
China’s cooperation is also crucial in resolving North Korea’s abductions of Japanese nationals decades ago and its nuclear and missile development programs.
Next year, Japan will have to make a difficult decision on whether to send senior government officials for the Beijing Olympics.
Mentioning calls within the United States for a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Games due to alleged human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region, a Japanese government source said that Japan may be unable to send even a minister, let alone the prime minister, for the event depending on the U.S. government’s action.
Tokyo may also have to work on the issue of Xi’s state visit to Japan, which was postponed due to the spread of the coronavirus, ahead of next year’s 50th anniversary of normalized diplomatic ties.
Citing anti-China sentiment among people in Japan, however, a senior Foreign Ministry official said, “Even if President Xi visits Japan as a state guest, that won’t help deepen friendship between the two nations.”
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