Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Japan visit as state guest has been postponed. The decision is natural as it is uncertain when the new coronavirus epidemic that originated in China’s industrial city of Wuhan would end.
A Japanese government official in charge of the plan told me after the decision: “We also are concerned about China’s human rights problem. At a bilateral summit late last year, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told President Xi of the concern about the status of human rights in Hong Kong and the Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region, despite an earlier request by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi for the Prime Minister to refrain from raising the issue. We raised the issue also at working-level talks. Then, the Chinese side countered that Japan sent troops to suppress the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 and was not qualified to criticize China’s human rights problem, even though the incident occurred in the Qing Dynasty.
“We understand the assertion of the monthly magazine SEIRON that Japan should not invite the head of the country refusing to hear about the human rights issue. However, the Chinese president will not come to Japan unless invited as a state guest. And nothing will make progress without the President. We have agonized much over what to do.”
An Opportunity for Japan to Revise Policy
The official added that Japan should face the fact that China’s gross domestic product and defense spending have tripled since 2008, when then- Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Japan as a state guest. As a matter of course, it may be desirable for Japan to encourage China to go in a direction favorable for Japan, while facing the reality, the official said.
However, it is doubtful if Xi’s Japan visit would bring about any result that Japan hopes for, as indicated by the Chinese Coast Guard ships’ daily approach to the vicinity of Okinawa Prefecture’s Senkaku Islands, even in the run-up to Xi’s Japan visit.
In addition, a former senior Japanese government official said: “While communism calls for abolishing the market economy and a private property system and leaving the government to plan an economy, China has abandoned such communism. Only controls on free speech have yet to be abandoned. Beijing is expected to take advantage of the Wuhan coronavirus to further enhance domestic controls.”
Since the end of World War II, the United States has tried to diffuse democracy throughout the world. Instead of achieving democracy, however, China has enhanced its dictatorship. On the occasion of the postponement of President Xi’s visit, Japan should thoroughly and comprehensively revise its policy on how to deal with China.
Useful Reference: U.S. Congress’ Bipartisan Advisory Panel
The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a bipartisan advisory panel at the U.S. Congress, may serve as a useful reference. It was created in 2000 to study how U.S.-China economic relations and trade would influence U.S. national security, and provide policy recommendations to the U.S. Congress and administration. Its 12 experts, who are well-versed in the diplomacy, military, and economy of China, publish a public report annually.
In September 2019, the commission’s then-Vice Chair Robin Cleveland (now chair of the commission) told a hearing:
To be clear, this is not a choice between the United States and China. Rather, we must join friends and allies to support nations which respect civil liberties, human rights, and the rules of free, fair trading systems, or we default to authoritarian political systems with self-serving, imperial economic ambitions.
Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, including Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai who is known for flattering China, should learn from the commission’s report.
Author: Takashi Arimoto
Takashi Arimoto is a publisher of the monthly magazine SEIRON at the Sankei Shimbun.