China-Japan Relationship Faces New Challenges After December 26

Photo Credit: Shizuo Kambayashi/AP[1]

By: Yang Liu

On December 26, the Chinese president Xi Jinping attended the ceremony to commemorate the 120th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s birth. While on the same day, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe visited the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead and enshrines the spirits of 14 Class-A war criminals. Such coincidence has caused a great uproar in both China and Japan, especially China, which suffered a lot from Japan during the World War II.

The Chinese media criticized Prime Minister Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, stating that it disrupted the mood of all the other Asian people, while the Chinese Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry had voiced strong protest and condemnation. Some other governments like South Korea and Thailand also criticized Prime Minister Abe’s visit, while the United States has cancelled the teleconference between the U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Japanese Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera.

Relations between Japan and China have also been rocky due to the establishment of the Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea, which centers on the ownership dispute regarding the Diaoyu Islands (Senkaku Islands in Japanese).

However, personally I do not think military actions will further escalate. On one hand, as regional peace is increasingly threatened, more countries become involved into the issue. For instance, South Korea has been acting more actively on the China-Japan disputes to defend its own interests, like expanding its own ADIZ. Thus, with more third parties getting involved, the settlement of the Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute will not happen solely bilaterally. On the other hand, the tight economic relationship between China and Japan has always been a significant factor, despite the political contradiction between the two countries. And also, neither part owns an absolute advantage on national power, either economical or military, which may also discourage direct confrontation.


Yang Liu is a Master of International Affairs student at School of International Affairs, Penn State. With an economic undergraduate background, he is good at international economics and commercial diplomacy. Yang has a wide range of academic interests, and he is interested in several non-mainstream fields.


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