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Next Japanese PM should value ties with China: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2021-09-29 19:36

Fumio Kishida. [Photo/Agencies]

Former foreign minister Fumio Kishida is the new leader of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, and thanks to the party's control of the Diet will become the country's next prime minister.

Given his foreign policy orientation is broadly similar to that of incumbent Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga there is unlikely to be major adjustment to Japan's diplomatic and security policies when he assumes office.

Since the choice of the country's new leader was largely horse-trading among the historical political factions within the LDP, there is no doubt the country will not deviate far from the course the LDP has followed under Suga and his predecessor Shinzo Abe.

General continuity and stability in Japanese diplomatic and security policies, however, do not mean the state of its relations with neighboring countries will be immune to changes. Sino-Japanese relations, in particular, will face greater challenges going forward. Like the other three candidates, Fumio Kishida displayed remarkable interest in a stable relationship with China, which is an important neighbor and trade partner. But while acknowledging the importance of maintaining dialogue, he identified a tougher stance on China as indispensable for Japanese foreign policy.

Like the other three, Kishida supports a closer security alliance with the US and various other partnerships with an eye on constraining China's growing influence. Kishida will almost certainly carry forward the toughening Japanese stance on such matters as the Diaoyu Islands, Taiwan, and the South China Sea. And, following through on Abe's proposal for "values diplomacy", the upcoming Japanese government is expected to align itself with the US' "Indo-Pacific" strategy by becoming more vocal in echoing Washington's fabrications of human rights abuses in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

In what ways the new Kishida cabinet approaches subjects that are essentially domestic affairs of China will have a tremendous impact on the state of bilateral relations, especially how it pursues close "practical ties" with Taiwan island. Supporting the Tsai Ing-wen administration's aspiration for an international presence for the island will be the kiss of death to any hopes of improved relations between Tokyo and Beijing. A universal misperception among Western countries has been that they can upbraid Beijing as they like while their economic dealings with China can be business as usual. Tokyo should have better knowledge about the way Beijing thinks and behaves.

Beijing is trying to send a clear message through its recent responses to Western provocations that countries shouldn't buy into that notion.

If the forthcoming Kishida government wants a productive, profitable relationship with China, it needs to make some adjustments to Japan's policies whether it wants to or not.

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