Yang Bojiang, deputy director of the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and one of China’s leading political experts on Japanese affairs says that he is expecting a gradual improvement in bilateral relations between Japan and China after the Japanese Upper House elections this Sunday. Tensions between Asia’s two largest economies have increased over the past 10 months since Japan nationalized a string of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, and have been worsened by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s nationalistic-leaning political beliefs, but Yang is still positive about an upturn in bilateral relations between both countries.
“It is welcoming for China that there will be political stability,” Yang said, all assuming that Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its junior coalition partner New Komeito will win a majority upcoming elections. Yang also said in a recent interview he doesn’t expect Abe to back down on the sovereignty of the Senkakus, also known as Diaoyus in China. But Yang said that the Japanese prime minister will most likely come under pressure from the private sector and industry lobbies to take a softer stand on the issue “whether he likes it or not.” China still represents a large chunk of Japan’s target market for products and exports, and Yang believes it is this pressure that will ultimately push Abe to negotiations.
“Diplomacy is about minimizing friction and effectively controlling problems, not just trying to clear them up,” the 48-year-old scholar said, while proposing China and Japan take “economic cooperation” as very real path toward mending bilateral ties. Yang said that it might even be possible to resume high-level contacts if Abe will send clear signals of his intent to initiate “sincere” discussions, not excluding the possibility of face-to-face talks for the first time between Abe and China’s new leadership on the sidelines of the summit of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in early October in Indonesia.
A genuine concern would still be Abe’s hawkish political beliefs, with sources saying that the LDP may visit the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on the Aug. 15 anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II, especially if the LDP-led coalition secures a majority in the upper house. Yang pointed out that relations between China and Japan would probably be unrecoverable if Abe visits the shrine again, long regarded by China and South Korea as a symbol of Japan’s wartime past. “However, I personally believe that Prime Minister Abe will not visit the shrine,” Yang said. “Because if he does, not only with China, Japan’s ties with South Korea would be hopeless.”
[via Global Post]