In yet another shock to China, Tokyo has once again made a sharp diplomatic move clearly directed against Beijing. Hideo Tarumi, who was named as Japan’s Ambassador to China in September, finally arrived in Beijing on Thursday. He will take charge as the Japanese Ambassador to China after undergoing a quarantine period.
The latest appointment is crucial and can help get Japan tough on China. Sino-Japanese ties have already hit an all-time low in the background of Tokyo’s intent to decouple the Japanese economy from China and Chinese transgressions into Japanese waters near the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. Tarumi is a seasoned diplomat with an experience of 35 years, and is also a part of Japanese Foreign Ministry’s “China School” of diplomats.
Tarumi’s appointment as the Ambassador to China actually hints at Tokyo’s intent to take on the paper dragon. Tarumi knows how China works. He has led the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s China and Mongolia division. In fact, he had also worked as a minister at Japan’s Embassy in Beijing from 2011 to 2013.
Initially, the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s “China School” was supposed to render Chinese language training to diplomats with the aim of advancing relations with an emerging China. However, in the present context, Tarumi’s extensive knowledge about China would be used by Japan to outdo Beijing.
In fact, Nikkei Asia has claimed that as per diplomatic sources, Tarumi’s ability to gather information caught the eye of Chinese authorities at the time when he was serving in the Japanese Embassy in Beijing. Moreover, from 2016 to 2018, the 59-year old diplomat also worked at the Taipei branch of the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association.
Tarumi’s ability to collect information and his recent stint at Taipei can help Tokyo foment trouble for Beijing on the Taiwan front, should the Middle Kingdom continue to needle Japan in the East China Sea.
According to Nikkei Asia, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said, “He (Hideo Tarumi) is not only knowledgeable about how things work in China, but can get tough when necessary.”
Tarumi has dealt with a belligerent China successfully in the past. In 2010, tensions had escalated between China and Japan, after a Chinese fishing boat collided with Japanese Coast Guard vessels in the Japanese waters near the Senkaku Islands. China, being the expansionist power that it is, claims territorial sovereignty over Japan’s Senkaku Islands and calls them Diaoyu. In 2010, Tarumi had played a major role in finding a diplomatic resolution to the Senkaku incident.
By roping in Tarumi, Japan would also have the option of getting harsh on China over the Senkaku Islands dispute. Presently, China’s frequent transgressions near the Senkaku Islands is the most contentious issue in Sino-Japanese relations. Suga administration could thus utilise Tarumi’s past experience to outmanoeuvre China in the Senkaku Islands.
China itself is showing signs of timidness, following Tarumi’s appointment as Japan’s Ambassador to China. As per Nikkei Asia, China has been keeping a close eye on the newly-appointed Ambassador. Global Times, China’s state-run mouthpiece, has however sought to give the entire development an awkward twist.
Global Times seems to suggest that Tarumi’s appointment will help Tokyo and Beijing repair their bruised ties. What the Chinese state-run media doesn’t seem to understand is that just because Tarumi understands how China works doesn’t mean that he is Beijing’s friend. In reality, Tarumi’s appointment as the Japanese Ambassador to China could actually prove to be the last straw when it comes to Sino-Japanese relations.