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INTERNATIONAL > East Asia & Pacific

Analysis: Xi Jinping stepping up provocations in East China Sea to deflect domestic criticism

By Aya Igarashi, China General Bureau chief

 

It is reckoned that the Xi Jinping regime of China will not stop its provocations in the East China Sea because these are intended to deflect criticism from President Xi Jinping inside the Communist Party of China (CPC).

 

The top leaders and elders of the CPC are now holding their regular “Beidaihe Meeting” each summer at the Beidaihe resort in Hebei Province to coordinate on key policy issues. According to a CPC source, party elders are critical of Xi for his repeated policy “failures,” such as China’s losing the Permanent Court of Arbitration case on the South China Sea issue. It appears that Xi has embarked on a show of force in the East China Sea to regain lost ground.

 

According to a Chinese diplomatic source, dispatching a large number of government ships and fishing boats after the start of the fishing season on Aug. 1 to apply pressure on Japan, which is getting increasingly involved in the South China Sea issue, is an “established policy.” If these vessels are withdrawn in response to the Japanese government’s protests, there might be an increase in internal criticism against Xi. Therefore, he will not be able to back off and this situation may persist.

 

The Xi regime is wary of visits by members of the Abe cabinet to Yasukuni Shrine on Aug. 15, which is the anniversary of the end of World War II. It appears that China is even considering the option of having government ships and fishing boats remain in sea areas near Japan until around Aug. 15, and if cabinet ministers make Yasukuni shrine visits, China will dispatch military vessels on standby to step up pressure on Japan.

 

Meanwhile, Xi also wants to hold a successful G20 Summit in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, on Sept. 4-5 to help bolster his leadership. For this reason, it is believed that for the time being, China will refrain from landing on the Senkaku Islands, permanent stationing of naval vessels in the Senkaku area, or other actions that may lead to all-out conflict with Japan. On the other hand, it will keep tensions high in the East China Sea in order to warn Prime Minister Shinzo Abe against raising the South China Sea issue at the G20 Summit.

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