The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) hates former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He is seen as the man who dumped post-War pacifism in Japan and propelled the third-largest economy in the world to take on China. Abe had made his intentions of taking on China early into his tenure. In 2013, Abe had visited the Yasukuni World War II Yasukuni shrine despite China’s objections. China looks down at the Yasukuni shrine as a reminder of the Japanese occupation of large parts of China.
Yet, Abe visited the shrine two times last year. Now, Japan’s newly elected Prime Minister Fumio Kishida seems to be going the Shinzo Abe as he has also sent a “masakaki” tree offering under his name to the Yasukuni shrine to celebrate the biannual festival held in the spring and autumn season. The move has left China fuming.
China seething in anger:
The Chinese State-run publication Global Times has been visibly outraged by Kishida’s decision to send an offering to the Yasukuni shrine.
The State-owned publication wrote, “The new Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida made a “bad start” by sending a ritual offering to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, where the war criminals are enshrined, on Sunday, only two weeks after he took office. The move, following in the footsteps of his predecessors Shinzo Abe and Yoshihide Suga, demonstrated again the rise of right-wing conservative forces in Tokyo, Chinese observers said”, warning that the foundation of China-Japan ties is being eroded through a series of provocative moves.
Global Times also stated, “Both visiting the shrine and sending ritual offerings have been strongly opposed by many peace-loving people in Japan and the international community, and has also caused tensions between Japan and other Asian countries such as China and South Korea, said Chinese observers.”
China is seething in anger. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said, “The Yasukuni Shrine, where 14 convicted class-A war criminals are honored, is a spiritual tool and a symbol of the war of aggression waged by Japanese militarists. The negative move by the Japanese side shows once again the country’s erroneous attitude towards its history of aggression. We urge the Japanese side to faithfully honor its statements and commitments on facing up to and reflecting upon its past history of aggression, and to win the trust from its Asian neighbors and the world with concrete actions.”
Why is China hostile towards the Yasukuni war shrine?
The Yasukuni shrine honours 2.5 million people who died since the late nineteenth century. Most of the war dead honoured by the Yasukuni shrine is Japanese. However, China looks down upon the war shrine as a symbol of militarism by Imperial Japan.
For the Chinese, the Yasukuni war shrine is a symbol of Japanese expansionism as Japan had occupied large parts of China during the Second World War. The war shrine located in Japan’s capital city of Tokyo also honours convicted military and political souls of the Second World War era.
The fourteen so-called Class A criminals, who were involved in planning the war, are also honoured at the Yasukuni shrine including war-time leader General Hideki Tojo who was executed for war crimes in 1948.
China looks at things in black and white- whenever a Japanese leader visits or sends an offering to the war shrine, Beijing starts fearing if Tokyo is about to rescind pacifism formally and take on an expansionist China. This is what triggers meltdowns and outrage in Beijing.
Kishida going the Abe way?
By sending an offering to the Yasukuni war shrine, Kishida has signalled that he is going to follow Abe’s policies of countering Chinese hegemony. It is also a strong signal that Japan’s political stability hasn’t been lost and Kishida is not going to bow down to anyone.
When Abe had visited the Yasukuni war shrine in 2013, the Obama administration in power at that time had slammed the move. The US Embassy in Tokyo had said that it was was “disappointed” and that Abe’s actions would “exacerbate tensions” with Japan’s neighbours. However, Kishida doesn’t seem to care how US President Joe Biden, a former deputy of Obama, would behave.
Even during his first phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Fumio Kishida had slammed Beijing. Kishida had told Xi that maintaining stable bilateral relations was important for the region and the international community, but Japan would “say what needs to be said” regarding China’s perceived shortcomings in upholding human rights and the rule of law.
During his 30-minute conversation with Jinping, Kishida told reporters he raised issues of concern, including the Senkaku Islands, Beijing’s crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and the treatment of the Muslim Uyghur minority in Xinjiang. He also conveyed Japan’s stance on Taiwan to Xi, according to a senior official at the Foreign Ministry quoted by Kyodo News.
Kishida has already started cornering and isolating China by coordinating with leaders of Japan’s Quad partners- India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Australian PM Scott Morrison and US President Joe Biden. Also, he seems to be paving the way for a Russia-Japan peace treaty which would truly leave China marginalised in the East Asia region.
Kishida is showing that he is a true China hawk, who won’t let China breathe easy as long as he is in power. Meanwhile, China seems to have no option but to cry foul.
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