Shanghai robot show hints at regional tensions as android Shinzo Abe bows to the masses

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 July, 2015, 7:22pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 July, 2015, 7:56pm

Photos of a robot designed in the image of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have gone viral on social media in China and Japan after the humanoid was made to bow, as though apologetically, at the China International Robot Show (CIRS) in Shanghai last week.

It has subsequently picked up the moniker 'Apologising Abe' and sparked debate as to whether it is poking fun at the Japanese leader for his country's wartime actions and refusal to apologise to its Asian neighbours for its expansionist moves during the second world war.

Tensions between China and Japan have been running high this year, which marks the 70th commemoration of the end of the war.

China will mark the event with festivities in September. President Xi Jinping has sent an official invitation to Abe, according to Cheng Guoping, China’s vice foreign minister.

Abe has yet to officially reply, but he told his aides that he was willing to accept the offer, Japan’s Asahi newspaper reported.

On Thursday, Abe’s coalition further ruffled feathers among China’s political circle by approving legislation to strengthen the role of its military to counter China’s growing presence in the region.


At the July 8-11 trade fair in China’s financial hub, a robot resembling the 60-year-old, the first Japanese prime minister born after the fateful war, smiled and bowed to visitors while wearing a grey suit and blue striped tie. The three-day event attracted 50,000 people.

The humanoid was so lifelike it included wrinkles and a bald spot on top of its scalp, much like the real Abe. The name of the manufacturer was not immediately known.

China, Hong Kong, and Macau have made the coming September 3 a national holiday to celebrate Japan’s surrender on September 2, 1945, in the wake of two atomic bombs dropped by US forces on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Abe will issue a statement to mark the anniversary, but he will only express his "deep remorse" over the war, not an apology, Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported.