There is an old saying: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Japan seems to be well aware of this adage, because it is oscillating between fellow democracies and China in order to strengthen its position in the race for influence in Asia.

Japan used to be one of the most vehement critics of the "Belt and Road" initiative, together with the United States, but lately its stance on the BRI seems to be changing. In the first years after Shinzo Abe became prime minister in 2012, relations between China and Japan were quite cool. China's President Xi Jinping and Abe met many times, but only in short, informal settings.

It took six years for one of the two leaders to finally secure an official visit to the other country, with Abe's recent visit to China. Since 2014, the relations between the two countries have started to improve, especially in recent months, when China has become more and more affected by the trade war with the United States, while Japan has itself been the target of steel and aluminum tariffs.