In April this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping was supposed to go to Japan on an official visit to Japan, to hold talks on a range of issues including border disputes, trade, investment, and security of the region. However, before Xi Jinping could set foot in Tokyo, Coronavirus struck China and the visit was postponed.
Now, as things go back to normal in China and Japan, Xi Jinping is looking for a new schedule to take off for the official visit to the eastern neighbor. However, Shinzo Abe does not seem so keen to welcome the Chinese leader.
However, since the outbreak of Coronavirus, the international world order has changed dramatically. Before the pandemic, China was the second most powerful nation with many allies and well-wishers across the world. But, as countries became aware of the fact that the Chinese government was complicit in bringing the worst public health crisis in centuries, Communist-ruled China has been left with very friends and few allies.
In fact, the relationship of China with neighboring countries is getting worse due to its muscle-flexing and expansionist attitude amid the pandemic. Xi Jinping is now untouchable for any head of state, given the anger of common people against the Chinese government.
Also, any country which is seen as allying or being soft on China risks facing ire of American president Donald Trump, as seen in the case of Germany. The Trump administration has called off 25 percent of American troops stationed in Germany, a key NATO ally, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel was seen ally of Xi Jinping.
Therefore, Abe, who will face parliamentary election next year, wants to avoid being seen on stage with Xi Jinping anytime soon. It seems like in order to make sure that Jinping cancels the visit, the Shinzo Abe government is doing everything to irk China. Japan started with a $2.2 billion plan to pay Japanese companies based in China to move out.
The latest step to irk China was Abe’s message that Japan will take lead among the Group of Seven- US, Britain, France, Canada, Germany, Japan, and Italy- nations in drafting China’s plan to impose National Security law in Hong Kong. “Japan wants to take the lead among the G7 countries in issuing a [joint] statement based on the premise of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle,” Abe told the parliament.
With an aggressive stance against China, Abe is trying to kill many birds with one arrow. The stance against China would force Xi Jinping to cancel a visit to Japan, and save Abe from being seen on stage with the Chinese President. Given the Japan-China rivalry, which has only escalated after the outbreak of the pandemic, aggressive stance against the dragon would help Abe in parliamentary elections next year.
And most importantly, Abe and Japan would be in good books of Donald Trump, who has earlier been critical of Japan for not bearing the security bill and enjoying a trade surplus. “Ideologically and politically speaking, there is little doubt that Tokyo values its coalition with the US over the improvement of China-Japan relations, and it is on the side of the Trump administration in the China-US tensions,” said Liu Jiangyong, an expert on Japan at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
France has supported Japan’s call and lead in issuing statements against China on Hong Kong issue, reported NHK, the Japanese public broadcaster.
Abe highlighted the shared values of the G7 group like freedom, democracy. G7, which “groups together countries sharing universal values such as freedom, democracy, and rule of law, has a mission to lead global public opinion,” he said in the address to parliament.
As per a report by South China Morning Post, the Hong Kong-based premier English daily, Xi Jinping’s Japan visit ‘unlikely to go ahead’ as the mood turns sour towards China. “Recent developments in Hong Kong, the Covid-19 outbreak, China’s wolf warrior diplomacy and the long-standing issue of the [disputed] Senkaku Islands, all these have contributed to the Japanese public’s very negative opinion towards China. It’s not a good time for us to welcome Xi’s visit,” SCMP quoted a Japanese diplomat.
Chinese foreign ministry has already expressed “grave concern” over Abe’s statement. And once Japan released a strong statement on China’s plan to impose National Security Law in Hong Kong, Beijing would probably cancel Xi Jinping’s state visit to Tokyo, and Shinzo Abe would achieve all the targets in one go.