By Uchihata Tsugumasa
The second Kishida Fumio Cabinet was inaugurated on Nov. 10. Through the debates in the presidential election of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the general election following the dissolution of the House of Representatives, it was generally recognized that the key issue for the new administration is how to deter China’s hegemony. At the inauguration of the second Kishida Cabinet, many requests were voiced regarding China policy, along with the preparation for the “sixth wave” of COVID-19.
The Sankei Shimbun called for the speedy implementation of policies in the areas of foreign and security affairs, and called on Prime Minister Kishida to make an early visit to the U.S. to meet with President Joe Biden and reconcile the China strategy between the two countries. To deter China, cooperation with like-minded countries such as Australia and the U.K., etc., is also essential, in addition to the U.S. In light of China’s repeated suppression of human rights and its aim to seize the Senkaku Islands (Okinawa Prefecture), the paper argued, “The Kishida administration must cancel the state visit to Japan by Chinese leader Xi Jinping.”
In addition to diplomatic efforts, the daily stressed that it is also important to strengthen defense and maritime security capabilities, saying, “Prime Minister Kishida must promote economic security and increase deterrence to protect the people by deciding to introduce an enemy base attack capability and drastically increase defense spending.”
In contrast, the Mainichi Shimbun said, “The direction of Prime Minister Kishida’s policy toward China seems to be skewed toward ‘confrontation,’ such as increasing defense spending and emphasizing economic security.” The paper added, “Japan is required to strike a balance between “confrontation’ and ‘cooperation,’ and even the U.S., while engaging in a saber rattling with China over the Taiwan issue, is securing channels for dialogue with China.” The daily went on to say, “If Japan is solely focused on rivalry against China, it will not be able to cope with the changing situation and may be cornered in a disadvantageous position.” In this way, the Mainichi expressed concern and called on the Kishida administration to make efforts for “dialogue.”
The only new face in the second Kishida Cabinet is Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa, who replaced Motegi Toshimitsu as he was appointed the LDP secretary- general. Hayashi had been the chairman of the Japan-China Parliamentary Friendship Association. In addition, a new special advisor to the prime minister for human rights issues was established in conjunction with the cabinet reshuffle, and former Defense Minister Nakatani Gen was appointed to the post. Both Hayashi and Nakatani are expected to be key players in policy toward China.
The Yomiuri Shimbun argued that “Hayashi and Nakatani should work together to clearly convey Japan’s position that it will not tolerate changes in the status quo in the East China Sea or human rights abuses in Hong Kong, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and other places, and demand that China take concrete measures.”
In March this year, when the U.S., U.K., Canada and the EU imposed sanctions against China over the oppression of Uyghurs, Japan did not impose sanctions because there is no provision in the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Act that applies only to human rights issues.
The Sankei argued, “Japan should also enact a law that allows the country to sanction human rights violations and join the countries that value human rights,” and “We hope that Nakatani will work hard to swiftly implement such a policy.”
The Asahi Shimbun, on the other hand, showed consideration for China, saying, “Human rights violations are not a problem that is limited only to China’s Hong Kong and Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region,” and “The issue of human rights violations should not be used only for the purpose of keeping China in check.”
The Sixth Plenary Session of the Central Committee, an important meeting of the Communist Party of China, was held from Nov. 8 to 11. It adopted a “historical resolution” summarizing the 100th anniversary of the founding of the communist party and praising the achievements of Chinese leader Xi. It is now certain that Xi will start an unprecedented third term as leader after the party congress late next year.
“Over the next year there is a possibility that a single voice of authority that puts a priority on politics could bring about a sudden change in Chinese policy,” wrote Nikkei. “Foreign investors and companies must be wary of China risk; a policy change might be announced without explanation.” In this way, Nikkei and other papers commented on Xi’s strengthening of his authority with a sense of alarm.
China continues its high-handed maritime expansion, and North Korea is accelerating its nuclear and missile development. The security environment surrounding Japan is more challenging than ever. We hope that the Kishida administration will do everything in its power to address this difficult situation.