How China Plans to Leverage Its Relationship with Japan

    Stephen Nagy

    Politics, Asia

    Nurses wave Chinese national flags during a performance to celebrate the upcoming 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Huaibei, Anhui province, China

    There are domestic and geopolitics behind the détente.

    Sino-Japanese relations have enjoy a relative lull in their complicated relationship over the past six months. In September 2017, Prime Minister Abe paid a surprise visit to the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo marking China’s upcoming National Day as well as the forty-fifth anniversary of the normalization of Japan-China relations at the Chinese Embassy. We have seen Abe express open interest in President Xi’s signature initiative, the Belt Road Initiative (BRI). Furthermore, Abe has voiced numerous positive statements conveying Japan’s interests in building a future-oriented relationship with Beijing. The de-escalation in the relationship’s downward spiral was also signaled by a low-key commemoration ceremony for the Nanjing Massacre in December 2017 in which President Xi did not speak.

    While the warming of relations should be applauded and supported by the region and the world at large, this push towards a Sino-Japanese détente should be understood through the lens of domestic politics, reform and increasingly turbulent geopolitics within the region and globally. At the same time, we should have a sober appraisal about the fundamental challenges in the bilateral relationship but also how an intensifying Sino-U.S. rivalry will make it difficult for Beijing and Tokyo to transform the dynamics of their relation.

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