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  • Sep 2, 2014
  • Updated: 10:41pm
NewsChina
DIPLOMACY: ANALYSIS

Beijing holds fire after Shinzo Abe's controversial visit to war shrine

For now, China may only condemn Japanese PM and step up patrols around disputed islands

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 December, 2013, 2:58am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 December, 2013, 4:15am
 

Beijing will refrain from taking any concrete response to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to a controversial war shrine as the central government assesses the impact on Tokyo's relationship with its neighbours and Washington.

Buoyed by the US government's strong criticism of Abe's visit, President Xi Jinping's administration is unlikely to do much more than condemn the move and step up patrols around the Diaoyu Islands, or Senkaku Islands as Japan calls them, which are claimed by both China and Japan.

The US embassy in Tokyo on Thursday expressed "disappointment" over the trip to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honours 2.5 million Japanese war dead, including 14 top-level war criminals. It said the visit would "exacerbate tensions".

Zhang Baohui , a security specialist at Lingnan University, said that while the alliance between Washington and Tokyo would probably remain strong, China would attempt to exploit any divisions between the two.

"China will not appear to be provocative so as to avoid forcing the US into giving strong backing to Tokyo," he said.

Japan's Jiji Press quoted a Japanese government source as saying that the US "worked again and again behind the scenes" to block the shrine visit.

"Washington is more cautious towards Abe because he seems to be getting out of control," said Jia Qingguo , an international relations specialist at Peking University.

Chinese state media continued to attack Abe. A commentary on the website of the People's Daily, the Communist Party's mouthpiece, said Beijing should recall its ambassador to Tokyo. An editorial in the Global Times, which is published under the People's Daily, called on Beijing to put Abe administration officials on a "most unwelcome" list.

But the Foreign Ministry stopped short of threatening direct action. "I will not respond to commentaries in the media," ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said. "But I believe all of us can see that the behaviour of Japanese leaders have ignited protest and anger from Chinese people."

Chinese-language media outlets based in Japan have speculated that Abe may have decided to visit the shrine after his requests to visit Beijing and Seoul were turned down last week. A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Tokyo said yesterday the time was "not suitable" to talk about any Abe visit.

In a sign that Beijing was refraining from any provocative moves, mainland activists supporting Chinese sovereignty over the Diaoyus said authorities had barred them from protesting.

"We planned to give petition letters to the Japanese embassy in Beijing and consulate in Shanghai," said Li Yiqiang , an executive member of the China Federation for Defending the Diaoyu Islands. "But we were blocked by police on the way."

Meanwhile, a lawsuit brought against Japanese authorities by two Diaoyus activists from Hong Kong was rejected by the Supreme People's Court. Campaigners Lo Chau and Chan Miu-tak flew to Beijing on Thursday to sue the Japanese coastguard and Okinawan authorities for 165 million yuan (HK$209 million) for "mental anguish" and damage to Lo's boat during their arrest for landing on the disputed islands in August last year. They were told they must first petition lower-level courts.

The island dispute highlights the difficult diplomatic issues facing the Obama administration in its "pivot" towards the Asia-Pacific region.

Sun Zhe , professor of international relations at Tsinghua University, said the US would not be too critical of Abe because it still needed Japan to offset China's growing influence in the region.

Business analysts are watching whether the shrine dispute will cause more setbacks to Japanese businesses in China.

Olive Xia, an analyst with brokerage firm Core Pacific-Yamaichi International, said Japanese carmakers' share of the China market would likely probably drop one to two percentage points to about 19 per cent. "We see limited impact as the anti-Japan sentiment is less serious than that caused by the territorial dispute," Xia said.

Additional reporting by Laura Zhou, Lo Wei and Samuel Chan

 

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This article is now closed to comments

justice_first
old grievances should be settled, preferably by peaceful means. Just like debt, it should either be forgiven or repaid. It is unreasonable to expect the Chinese and the Korean to bury their grievances as if nothing has happened.
You said inaction. What action do you expect that would be justified under the circumstances ? Is Japan asking for a war, or the first shot ? I am sure China will be a lot wiser as to fall into any Japanese trap. Any action that China and Korea will take will still be peaceful in nature, but it will also be perfectly understood that China is able and willing to defend itself from any attack by Japan. As Kennedy said once, civility is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength.
justice_first
This was most probably a highly calculated move by Abe. He thought China can do nothing to stop him, and not much more to retaliate after the ADIZ. It is a **** for tat for Japan. However it is not true that China has no more card in its sleeve. Japan has just given China a most valuable chance to destroy Japan's credibility on the case itself.
Since everything revolves around the dispute, China will go back to the origin of the dispute once more, with more emphasis on WW2 and the post war order.
This will be a new propaganda war against Japan, over the results of WW2, that Japan is so far unable and unwilling to recognize. This will put the lime light back on "history" where Japan is so weak in its defense of the case, in which China has clearly a far more convincing case. The shrine visit has proved that Japan's right wing government has largely ignored the historic implications of the second world war, and that China is right.
tat.wong.7923
I believe the best thing for the chinese to do is to have our leader, Xi Jinping, pay a visit to the Memorial Hall to the victims of the Nanjing Massacre with a whole host of political leaders. We need to bring attention to the world as to how savage and vicious Japan has been in the past and that there is potential for that country to return to it's warring roots. This is a moment where we chinese can illustrate to the world that we abhor war and bring attention to Japanese attrocities committed upon the Chinese and Koreans before and during the WWII. That would be a fantastic rebuttal to the bonehead Shinzo Abe for visiting the Yasukuni shrine. Abe needs to understand that you can't pick and choose your country's history, you either embrace all of it or none of it. The fact will always remain in history books how Japan brutalized their neighbor. The best thing of the whole debacle, is that should tensions ratchet up in the region, Japan has left the United States an excuse not to back them up, for Japan unilaterally decided to inflame the anger of the people of China and Korea, for there are still individuals living that remember the period when the Japanese occupied China.
As the Jewish people has not let the world forget the atrocities of German concentration camps, we Chinese should start to educate the world in how the Japanese brutalized the Chinese during WWII. For if we forget the past, we are doomed to re-live it.
ejmciii
Then he can go back to worshipping the man responsible for more deaths in China than anyone else in recent memory, the Great Helmsman, whom they adore and idolize, Xi's minor comments notwithstanding. I guess that if you kill 20-30 million of your own people it is not as bad.
mercedes2233
Let's not confuse the issues. What is your view on the visit to the shrine?
chaz_hen
If you smack your own kid, it's OK. If someone else smacks your kid...it's not.
mercedes2233
Of course that's so.
hongkiejj@malaysiaboleh
@ tat.wong.7923
spot on ...brilliant actually I must say...and lets just ignore that ignorant soon to be worship @ ejmcii @ YS.

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