Xi Jinping’s Official Visit Will Create Momentum for China But Few Benefits for Japan

(Click here to read this article in Japanese.)

“Long live the great, glorious and correct Communist Party of China!” These words of former Chairman Mao Zedong are often found on the walls of government buildings in cities across China, still used today as a slogan extolling the brilliance of the Communist Party.

 

The word “correct” in the slogan is most often emphasized in order to communicate the idea that “the party’s judgments are always correct.”

 

In other words, when it comes to running the country, the directives of the party are always deemed proper. When a problem arises, the typical operating procedure is to shift the blame to individual local leaders who are said to be not thoroughly enforcing party directives.

 

 

Coronavirus Changes Plans

 

However, in a Politburo Standing Committee meeting held on February 3, something unusual happened. The Committee admitted to what it termed “shortcomings and deficiencies” in dealing with the spread of the novel coronavirus, conceding that there were problems in the initial response.

 

Disapproval of a string of misjudgments, such as concealing information early on before the virus had spread widely, and not placing infected patients under quarantine, had erupted from both within and outside of China. Realizing that the problem had escalated to the point where local officials could no longer be blamed, party leaders were backed into a corner and had no choice but to admit their own mistakes.

 

In fact, the party’s supreme leader, President Xi Jinping, may face a political crisis once the epidemic has subsided.

 

Amidst the rampant spread of the novel coronavirus, provincial assembly meetings around the country have been postponed. Even the date of the National People’s Congress, scheduled for March 5, has been called into question.

 

In the same context, the epidemic could affect Mr. Xi’s planned official visit to Japan. Despite this, in a press conference on February 3, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying stated that China wanted to go ahead with the April state visit as planned.

 

 

Beijing’s Many Ways of ‘Using’ Japan

 

Reformist pundits in Beijing have often criticized China for using Japan for political purposes in the face of trouble. In fact, China has used Japan to boost its recovery after a crisis on multiple occasions.

 

One of the most well-known instances is the Japanese Emperor’s 1992 visit to China, which helped China avoid international isolation after the Tiananmen incident.

 

When he visited Japan as Vice President of China, Mr. Xi himself broke the “one-month rule” that applies to all foreign dignitaries who must apply for an audience with the Emperor one month in advance of their preferred date. Instead, Xi coerced a meeting with the Emperor in order to improve his status in the party.

 

While it is unclear whether or not the epidemic in China will have calmed down by the time of Mr. Xi’s planned April visit, it is likely that the international community will remain vigilant about bringing in people and things from China.

 

If Mr. Xi brings a few hundred people from his political circle to Japan, this would amount to issuing a “declaration of safety” to the world.

 

Mr. Xi would thank Japan for its support, shake hands with the Emperor, and play up friendly Japan-China relations, thereby evading the diplomatic isolation that began in 2019 with the demonstrations in Hong Kong. If successful, Mr. Xi’s trip to Japan would also create momentum for his support back in China.

 

While it would be like killing three birds with one stone for Mr. Xi, being used by China would have few benefits for Japan.

 

Opposition to Xi’s visit has risen in Japan. The Shinzo Abe administration should propose that China focus for the time being on its domestic issues, and cancel Mr. Xi’s visit.

 

(Click here to read the article in Japanese.)

 

Author: Akio Yaita

Akio Yaita, Sankei Shimbun

Author:

Akio Yaita is the Taipei Bureau chief of The Sankei Shimbun.

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