Zhang Jingwei: Facing China’s strength, Japan had to improve its relations. How did China, the United States and Japan in the era of Yoshihide Suga

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Zhang Jingwei: Facing China’s strength, Japan had to improve its relations. How did China, the United States and Japan in the era of Yoshihide Suga

2020-09-22

By: Zhang Jingwei     Source: Nanyang Times Review    Published:2020-09-20



The result of the”Three Powers” of the President of the Japanese Liberal Democratic Party The furnace was on September 14th. Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga defeated former Foreign Minister Kishida Fumio and former Defense Minister Ishiba Shige and became the new president of the Liberal Democratic Party. On September 16, Yoshihide Suga officially became the 99th Prime Minister of Japan.


Suga Yoshihide is known as Japan’s”Prime Minister’s Inner Helper”. He had no intention to stand for the election, but he bucked the trend and gained support from the major factions of the Liberal Democratic Party. There is more than 80%support among the Liberal Democratic Party members. Therefore, Yoshihide Suga won with little suspense. The new Japanese prime minister came on stage, and the Liberal Democratic Party’s”three-strong race” ended. Observers are more concerned about how the trilateral relationship between China, the United States and Japan will be”romantic.”


Yoshihide Suga’s diplomatic declaration is here. At the meeting after his election, Yoshihide Suga emphasized that on the basis of the US-Japan alliance, he should improve relations with neighboring countries in Asia and oppose the establishment of an Asian version of NATO. There is nothing new in this statement, which highlights his stand on the line of Abe. The brand of governance in the Abe era remains clear.


Prime Minister Abe suddenly resigned from the post of prime minister with a relapse of the old”colitis” disease. In addition to physical reasons, it was also caused by internal and external troubles. At the internal level, with the cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics and uncertainty about the date of the Olympics, Prime Minister Abe’s desire to stimulate the economy and boost national confidence with the Tokyo Olympics has failed. And Japan’s economy has shrunk for three consecutive quarters, and Japan’s economic recovery is afraid to wait until 2024. In this situation, the”Abenomics” that Abe has promoted for many years has actually gone bankrupt. The internal affairs are like this.



the diplomatic level, Abe faces the problem of choosing sides between the United States and China. Trump is not Obama. Trump maintains high pressure on trade and security with Japan. Although Abe treated Trump in a low profile, it did not exchange the United States’ respect for Japan. Therefore, Abe began to turn to improve relations with China. Japan has shown a positive attitude in the “Belt and Road” initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The China-Japan-Korea free trade negotiations have also begun to restart, and China-Japan relations have been normalized.


The epidemic hit. When the United States led Australia and other”vassal states” to criticize and dump China, Japan not only failed to follow up, And he helped China in the early stages of the epidemic. Prime Minister Abe’s later”heart-warming” diplomacy with China has also won the respect of China from all over.


Sino-US relations are not only deadlocked, they are also on the verge of a”cold war”, and the pressure on China by the United States is increasing. From trade to technology, from politics to economics to geopolitics, Sino-US relations are getting worse and worse, and there are no signs of improvement.


The key is that the United States is also drawing allies to encircle China. As the closest East Asian ally of the United States, Japan’s post-war establishment is based on the US-Japan alliance. Trump alienated the utilitarian relationship between the US and Japan, but Japan had to continue to maintain the US-Japan alliance and was seriously uncomfortable with Trump’s ruling style.


In the face of China’s strength, Japan has to improve relations with China while fearing China. Sandwiched between the two powers of China and the United States, it is difficult for Japan to publicly express not to”choose sides” like Singapore, nor dare to implement equidistant diplomacy between China and the United States like South Korea.


There is also the nuisance of the epidemic. Although the epidemic in Japan is under control, Japan is an export-oriented country. With the interruption of the global industrial chain, trade chain, and capital chain, the Japanese economy is still hesitating in the gloom of hopelessness.


Abe is gone, and Yoshihide Suga is here. How does Suga Yoshihide solve the problems left by Abe? Yoshihide Suga won mainly because of his promise to continue the”Abe Line.” Regardless of internal issues, how does Suga Yoshihide continue the tripartite relationship between China, the United States and Japan during the Abe era?


Abe has normalized Sino-Japanese relations, and has not matched the United States on the epidemic. In this situation, Yoshihide Suga, who is not familiar with foreign affairs, is more secure to continue Abe’s line. Since he wants to continue the”Abe line,” Yoshihide Suga will not easily change his China policy towards the United States. After all, Abe is still a member of Congress, and Yoshihide Suga, who has no faction, lacks a political foundation. If he betrays Abe’s diplomatic line, Yoshihide Suga may become a”short-lived prime minister.”



The secretary-general of the Liberal Democratic Party Toshihiro Nikai, known as the”pro-China faction”, supports Yoshihide Suga, which is also based on the stability of Sino-Japanese relations. Yoshihide Suga, who lacks a political foundation, obviously does not dare to make trouble in Sino-Japanese relations. However, China will continue to observe words and deeds of Yoshihide Suga.


Suga Yoshihide is also an out-and-out”pro-American”. His pro-American remarks sometimes go too far. For example, when he apologized for the”Prism Gate” in the Obama era, he even called it”a trivial matter” and did not affect US-Japan relations. And he also supports the establishment of US military bases in Japan. With the tension between China and the United States and the U.S. pulling Japan against China, will Yoshihide Suga have a proverbial behavior toward China? If so, Abe’s later stable Sino-Japanese relations will surely usher in new twists and turns.


The U.S. election has entered a fever pitch, and Trump’s approval rating has begun to rise. He tasted the benefits of populism and anti-China hype, and may create a more anti-China”October Surprise.” Japanese politics has always had the political characteristics of turning the helm with the wind. For example, Prime Minister Abe, who originally had hoped for Hillary Clinton, once saw Trump’s victory, he would not hesitate to honour his honor and rush to Trump Tower to”worship” in advance.


If the probability of Trump’s victory continues to expand, Yoshihide Suga’s anti-China and pro-American nature will also be revitalized, thus echoing the strong anti-China anti-China nature of the United States. After all, Japan has closely followed the United States in abandoning Huawei’s 5G technology. In mobilizing domestic enterprises to return to the Japanese market, Japan has also set a policy of government paying.


How to deal with the relationship between the United States and China and grasp the diplomatic balance between China and the United States will test Yoshihide Suga’s political wisdom.



The author Zhang Jingwei is a visiting researcher at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.

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