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Since the beginning of the year, relations between China and its two neighbors in Northeast Asia, Japan and South Korea, have further deteriorated due to the restrictions imposed by the two countries on Chinese tourists and China’s countermeasures. reach a high point. However, although the South Korean government’s behavior of yellow cards for Chinese tourists coming to South Korea makes China even more unacceptable, the damage to Sino-Japanese relations is far greater than that of China-South Korea relations.
Sino-Japanese relations have been bumpy during the Shinzo Abe period. After Abe resigned, Fumio Kishida took over as prime minister. Because he appointed Lin Fangzheng, who was relatively pro-China, as foreign minister, the outside world originally expected him to make the two countries take a different path from Abe, especially after Abe was suddenly assassinated, without Abe’s constraints , the outside world expects him to reshape Japan-China relations according to his own wishes. However, contrary to outside expectations, Kishida has gone further than Abe on the road to resisting China. One explanation is that Kishida needs to be more anti-China than Abe in terms of relations with China if he wants to keep his position as prime minister and not be short-lived. Although Abe’s death has dealt a big blow to the Abe faction, the Abe faction is still the largest faction in the Liberal Democratic Party. Without the support of the Abe faction, Kishida’s prime minister may not last long, and the Abe faction is very hawkish towards China. In order to gain its support, Kishida can only approach him on the anti-China side.
This explanation seems to show that Kishida’s anti-China has some unavoidable elements. However, this may ignore that in the context of Sino-US confrontation, Japan feels that China is posing an increasingly serious threat to it, and thus is increasingly wary of China. It may also ignore Kishida’s true attitude towards China. In August last year, when China held a military exercise around Taiwan in response to Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, it launched two missiles into the disputed areas off Japan’s seas, which caused a great shock to the Japanese people. Japanese public opinion generally believed that China’s national security The threat is no longer imagined, but real. After that, people saw that Japan revised its security agreement, further strengthened its combat readiness cooperation with the U.S. military, and also introduced a new security strategy for Japan, defining China as “the greatest strategic challenge ever seen” and moving towards national normalcy. Find the best reason. It is reported that the Japanese hawks originally wanted to define China as the biggest threat, but the Kishida government changed it to the biggest challenge because they were worried that it would cause a huge backlash from Beijing. Although the positioning of China has been softened, this is only a literal change, and the actual policy of China as the greatest threat has not changed.
According to Japan’s new security strategy, by 2027 military spending will double compared to the present, accounting for 2% of GDP; in 2026, the introduction of “Tomahawk” long-range cruise missiles from the United States will further enhance Japan’s military defense against neighboring countries Threat capabilities; allow Japan to “pre-emptively strike” and develop offensive weapons, and Japan will have the ability to attack enemy bases in five years. These major changes in Japan’s national security strategy, especially the huge defense budget and the shift from defense to military offense, are all related to the repositioning of China, which runs counter to Japan’s previous pacifist military doctrine and broke the 70-year peace doctrine tradition.
Japan’s changes, of course, have the permission and encouragement of the United States. Out of the need to contain China, the latter wanted to release the tiger that had been imprisoned for more than 70 years, while Japan dreamed of getting rid of the shackles of the post-war system and becoming a normal country militarily. The competition between the United States and China has just provided Japan with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. How can it not cooperate with the United States and increase its anti-China reason?
To some extent, Sino-Japanese relations are actually worse than Sino-US relations. From China’s point of view, Japan actively responded to a series of anti-China issues of the United States, willingly serving as the front-line base and thug for the US Indo-Pacific strategic expedition, and even wooing other US allies to support Japan’s resistance to China. The nature is very bad. Therefore, China has dispatched naval formations many times in the past two years, sailing around Japan alone or together with the Russian army, to warn Japan. During the three years of the epidemic, the high-level officials of China and Japan have basically lost contact with each other, and the national sentiment has become increasingly alienated. Finally, during the APEC meeting held in Bangkok in November last year, the leaders of China and Japan met for the first time, and it was agreed that the Japanese foreign minister will visit China in December. However, since Japan made major adjustments to its national security strategy and treated China as an imaginary enemy, the somewhat relaxed Sino-Japanese relations quickly froze, and Beijing rejected Lin Fangzheng’s visit to China. Under such circumstances, China lifted international travel restrictions, and Japan took the lead in imposing restrictions on Chinese tourists on the grounds of protecting the health of its own citizens. China considered this as political discrimination and responded reciprocally, and the relationship between the two countries fell to the bottom.
But things didn’t end there. Kishida started his first visit to the other six countries since taking office as Japan became the host country for the Group of Seven (G7) summit in May this year. This visit can be seen as an attack by Japan to actively build an encirclement circle against China. Kishida’s first stop was France. Japan and France agreed on national defense cooperation and made a high-profile statement to “maintain peace across the Taiwan Strait.” Then Japan signed the “Global Combat Aviation Plan” with Italy, signed a defense agreement with the United Kingdom, allowing the United Kingdom to station troops in Japan to deal with “challenges from China”, and cooperated with Canada to create a “free and open Indo-Pacific region.” In the United States, the last stop of Kishida’s visit, Japan and the United States held a “2+2” meeting of foreign ministers and defense ministers to comprehensively strengthen Japan-US military cooperation and join the US chip alliance to contain China. In his speech at Johns Hopkins University, Kishida called on Japan, the United States and Europe to take concerted action on the China issue. It is obvious that his visit this time is mainly aimed at deploying China. While cooperating with the United States, it also highlights Japan’s containment China’s initiative.
It can be said that Kishida has brought Japan-China relations into a dead end. At least in the first half of this year, the relations between the two countries will not improve. From the perspective of the future, this is obviously very unfavorable to China, and it is extremely difficult to predict whether it will be a disaster or a blessing for Japan.
Sino-Japanese relations have entered a period of freezing, and Sino-South Korean relations are also in constant trouble. The contradictions and conflicts between the two countries caused by the “THAAD” issue in Park Geun-hye’s later period have not been completely resolved. After Yin Xiyue took office, his excessively pro-US attitude brought new variables to the relationship between the two countries. Like China-Japan relations, China-ROK relations are also deeply influenced by the United States. However, relatively speaking, the US has not exerted as much pressure on South Korea as it has on Japan. The reason may be that the U.S. considers that China’s support is needed to solve the North Korean issue, and that South Korea and China’s economic and trade are too intensive. If South Korea is to completely fall to the U.S., the damage to South Korea’s interests will be too great, and the U.S. cannot fully make up for it. Therefore, South Korea is cooperating with the U.S. It is necessary to think twice when containing China; it may also be that the United States feels that South Korea’s weight in the U.S. strategy is still not comparable to that of Japan. Regardless of economics or military affairs, South Korea cannot replace Japan as the most important ally and encirclement of the United States in East Asia in the foreseeable future. block China’s power. In view of this, although South Korea is increasingly alienated from China, in its first Indo-Pacific strategy report, it still regards China as an “important partner” and blocks the chips that join the United States in an attempt to create a gap in the high-tech supply chain. It is not very active to decouple from China.
But South Korea is also reducing its dependence on China in terms of economy and trade, and exploring the global market. In particular, due to the growth of its own power over the years, especially the leap in technological level, South Korea has been considered to have entered the ranks of developed countries, which has fueled South Korea’s “dream of a big country”, and it wants to go out of Northeast Asia and become an important player on the international poker table . The purpose of South Korea’s first Indo-Pacific strategic report is to build itself into a “global hub”, which is manifested in its relationship with China. It is to develop relations with China based on the principle of mutual respect. The implication is that in the past, China seemed to be The big bullies the small, and does not respect South Korea enough. Now South Korea wants to be on an equal footing with China. The reason why South Korea has this impression of China is probably because it believes that it has something to ask of China on the North Korean issue, but it often does not get a positive response from China. The rise in national strength has filled the Korean people with confidence. Originally, the Koreans had no less national pride than the Chinese. Now they are starting to look at China from the perspective of a developed country. After the outbreak, South Korean people, like people in most Western countries, have a sharp rise in negative perceptions of China. According to recent polls, nearly 90% of South Korean citizens dislike China, which is higher than that of developed countries. It may be the country that dislikes China the least in the world. This may partly explain why the South Korean government gave yellow cards to Chinese tourists who came to South Korea when they entered the country after the epidemic prevention and control measures were relaxed in China. Otherwise, it would be incomprehensible only from the perspective of scientific epidemic prevention.
Although South Korea is not as openly anti-China as Japan is following the United States out of stakes, it has also expressed its position on Taiwan and other issues that China cares about many times in the past year, which makes China a little unhappy. South Korea is also the first non-NATO country in the Asia-Pacific to send a representative to NATO. Although its Indo-Pacific strategy report carefully avoids talking about China, the tone, wording, and expressions of the report are no different from those of the United States, which sows the seeds of future conflicts with China. On the THAAD issue, the Yin Xiyue government probably does not want to back down from China’s earlier objection, but insists on deploying the second THAAD system on the grounds of North Korea’s threat, which will inevitably arouse strong dissatisfaction in China. At present, if the United States insists on South Korea learning from Japan and anti-China, South Korea may not be able to resist it. It is not impossible for the future South Korea-China relations to go into a period of freezing like today’s Japan-China relations.
If people don’t have long-term concerns, they must have near-term worries; if they have near-term worries, if they don’t work hard to solve them, and let them deteriorate, things will only get worse. The same is true for countries. How to prevent the complete rupture of Sino-Japanese and Sino-Korean relations and put China in a very dangerous situation requires great wisdom.
(Note: The author is an independent scholar and a researcher at the China Strategic Analysis Think Tank. This article only represents the author’s personal views. The editor’s email address is email@example.com)