The theory of political cover can be fascinating to watch in action. It promises to overturn conventional wisdom in favour of common sense. For example, it took a US Republican leader with a record of anti-communist fervour to eventually reach out to China and the former Soviet Union at the height of the cold war. The results of Richard Nixon's diplomacy in the early 1970s still resonate today. Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, who resigned this month, displayed his own understanding of political cover. An avowed right-wing conservative with strong convictions about a new and patriotic 'beautiful nation', Mr Abe still made great play last year of the fact an icebreaking trip to Beijing was his foreign policy priority. There was little criticism among the right-wing cliques. The visit remains one of the few successes of his rudely brief tenure, which ended two weeks ago in a welter of scandal and political failure. As sensible as the move may have been, the theory could work in the opposite way for the man who replaced him this week at the head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the country. A veteran moderate with a long desire to strengthen Japan's ties with its neighbours, Yasuo Fukuda has no such protection. He has taken over a party labouring under a resurgent opposition and is already working to protect its unity. In that regard, far from being able to ignore a wounded and restive right wing, he may find himself fully exposed to its rumblings. Mr Fukuda is set to follow Mr Abe's footsteps and travel to Beijing in November. That is expected to be followed by a visit to Tokyo in April by President Hu Jintao . And early signs are good. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao spent 15 minutes talking by phone with Mr Fukuda yesterday, a conversation apparently dominated by the crisis in Myanmar and North Korea. Beijing may not be Mr Fukuda's first port of call, however. He has repeatedly stressed the importance of Japan's security alliance with the US, in comments which have received less attention than those about his desire to boost regional ties. Washington, therefore, may prove a tempting early target in the coming weeks. Similarly, no one should pretend Mr Fukuda is going to be Beijing's pushover, even as he sincerely gives meaning to the vision of his father, Takeo Fukuda, who as foreign minister and prime minister during the 1970s normalised ties with China. Mr Fukuda can be expected to use his extensive contacts and background to push China on Japan's concerns at the lack of transparency over its military build-up, for example. This is a sign of political cover working in his favour, of course. When a hawk like his rival, former foreign minister Taro Aso, talks of the China threat, all hell breaks loose. With a shade more nuance, Mr Fukuda may well get away with it. Amid the blizzard of Japanese commentary accompanying Mr Fukuda's sudden rise, much was made of the potential of a new East Asian neighbourhood, in contrast to Mr Abe's flirtations with like-minded democracies such as Australia and India. They may well be premature. Japanese government officials preparing the turf for their new political boss make it clear that the wider relationship-building will continue. Japan, they say, has learned the hard way that the potential of such relationships between friendly nations must be nurtured and not taken for granted. So even as he seeks a new and deeper relationship with China, Mr Fukuda will be finding a way of keeping up other alliances. Japan's attempts at exerting its 'soft power' on China's doorstep in Indochina will continue as well. Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia can all expect more attention from Japan just as they are developing broader and deeper relations with China.