DEVNET – 2022 for Japan PM: 50th Anniversary of Japan-China and Elections

by Fumiyasu Akegawa – Chair & CEO   DEVNET INTERNATIONAL

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in a radio program on January 1 that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China. He continued, “It may seem like a celebration, but looking at the current situation, it’s important to stabilize this relationship with a sense of tension.

It will be a year when the formidability of Japanese diplomacy is a concern. “ 

The prime minister touched on the area around the Senkaku Islands, where China continues to be active, Hong Kong and the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, where human rights are questionable, and insisted that he would “raise the issue firmly.”  On the other hand, he said he wanted to avoid worsening relations with China, saying that he “must stabilize relations considering economic ties.”

He also said, “We have to see what the future holds and what the atmosphere will look like after the Beijing Olympics.”

The Japanese government has decided not to send high-ranking government officials such as ministers to the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics in February. However, in consideration of the fact that China is the largest trading partner, the Japanese government has refrained from raising the human rights issues of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Hong Kong. A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China did not use the expression “strong dissatisfaction and decisive opposition” to this response, unlike when it was against the United States and Australia. It even says that it “welcomes” the visit of Seiko Hashimoto (member of the House of Councilors) who participates in the position of chairman of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics Organizing Committee. China does not want to worsen its relations with Japan.

The visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping as a state guest to Japan is still postponed. However, Prime Minister Kishida said in a telephone conversation with President Xi Jinping on October 8, last year, shortly after his inauguration, “we must build a constructive and stable relationship together.” President Xi also expressed his support and motivation to develop Japan-China relations. In both Japan-China awareness surveys, more than two-thirds consider Japan-China relations to be “important” or “rather important.” The same is true for the need for Japan-China economic cooperation. The 50th anniversary in September is also important for developing Japan-China relations. Before that, Prime Minister Kishida must win the Upper House elections in July.

The Kishida Cabinet’s approval rating announced last week was 51.7%, and has been on an upward trend since the inauguration of his administration. This is because the “preemptive countermeasures” for the Covid-19 are highly evaluated by the public. However, the spread of infection with the new Covid-19 variant Omicron strain, which is rampant in the world, is progressing rapidly in Japan as well, and the situation is virtually entering the “sixth wave”. A future outbreak is inevitable, and if Prime Minister Kishida makes a mistake, his approval rating will plummet. The next House of Councilors elections in July are the national elections following last year’s House of Representatives elections, and if Prime Minister Kishida wins, a full-scale stable administration of at least three years may become a reality. The Japan Innovation Party, which is as active in constitutional amendment as Kishida’s Liberal Democratic Party, is aiming to expand the party in the Upper House elections. Depending on their results in the elections, the long-sought constitutional amendment may come into a realistic perspective. 2022 should be a big game year for Prime Minister Kishida.