Japan declassified its “weak” diplomacy towards China after June 4, 2004, which was a misstep

Himalaya Moscow Katysua Yinhe

On December 31, 2020, the BBC reported that Japan’s Foreign Ministry (Foreign Ministry) declassified 26 volumes of diplomatic documents and more than 10,000 pages of historical materials on Japan’s foreign policy. Under Japan’s current archive declassification law, documents that do not affect Japan’s foreign policy can be declassified after 30 years. The release covers the years from 1987 to 1990 and includes historical documents from the bloody crackdown by Chinese Communist forces of the Tiananmen Square student movement in June 1989 and Japanese foreign policy at the time.

The world was in the midst of the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union, and post-Soviet countries were rushing toward democracy. The “June fourth” incident of the Communist Party of China made the world begin to re-examine the relationship with China. At the G7 summit in July 1989, the host, France, and other members of the summit discussed harshly condemning China and imposing further sanctions, but Japan blocked them. Japan insisted that the West should not take tough measures against the Communist Party of China, believing that “China should not be isolated in order to make them move towards reform”, and rather hoped that the Communist Party of China could move towards democracy.

Japan and the west’s expectations of the party have fallen through. The weak policies of the time have now created a bad fruit. An editorial in Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper says the direction of China’s development over the past 30 years is completely different from what japan and the west imagined. China has stepped away from the path of democracy, and the strength of the authoritarian power has begun oppressing basic human rights. Japan should reflect on the weak attitude of the past and learn from it. The Sankei Shimbun newspaper directly criticized the Japanese government’s attitude toward China over the past 30 years as unwise.

After 1990, the diplomatic relations between China and Japan appeared to be in a honeymoon phase until the rise of Shinzō Abe’s government. During Abe’s term as prime minister of Japan, Abe’s prudent diplomacy between China and the United States has been fruitful, and Japan-China relations have improved significantly. But since the COVID-19 outbreak of the communist virus, disputes over territory and values have resurfaced between the two countries, forcing Japan to rethink its policy toward the communist party three decades later.

Recently, the international community has been constantly criticizing the CPC and the friction between countries and the CPC has been escalating. The Communist Party of China conceals the truth of the epidemic, causing a worldwide pandemic. The Chinese Communist Party’s undisguised Wolfwarrior diplomacy and authoritarian behaviour have alarmed the rest of the world. Countries began to pay attention to the Communist Party’s human-rights abuses in Hong Kong and the Uighur region of Xinjiang. The Communist Party of China undermined the “one country, two systems” policy in Hong Kong and suppressed democratic freedoms. Military expansion in disputed waters in the South and East China Seas. The military deployment in the Taiwan Strait has exposed its intention to reunify Taiwan by force. Relations between China and the United States have risen from tense confrontation to direct confrontation. The United States put pressure on the Communist Party of China in many fields and members of parliaments in many countries, including Japan. They formed a “Transnational Parliamentary Policy Alliance on China”. Such changes make the Abe administration’s ambiguous foreign policy toward the Chinese Communist Party all the more ill-timed. Abe’s resignation can be interpreted as the Japanese government’s need for a change in policy towards the Communist Party.

Yoshihide Suga, who took office on Sept 16, represents a shift in foreign policy toward the Communist Party of China after former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe unexpectedly resigned early in August 2020 due to health reasons. Suwa Kazuyuki, a professor of modern Chinese politics at Shizuoka University in Japan, emphasized in an interview that Hong Kong had been a trial test of what was expected of China’s democratization, but the result has been devastating. In the face of a “China with no possibility of democratization”, Japan should take into consideration the lesson from 30 years ago and calmly judge its next move.

Since Yoshihide Suga became prime minister, Japan has held a “Quadripartite Security Dialogue” with the United States, India, and Australia to promote a “free and open Indo-Pacific”, seen as a counterattack to China’s quest for dominance in Asia-Pacific waters. Japan has actively participated in joint military exercises with the U.S. military and the Quadrilateral Alliance. In addition has helped Vietnam and Indonesia, which have clashed with the Chinese Communist Party in the South China Sea. Although Japan has yet to give a clear indication of its future attitude towards the CCP, there are signs that Japan’s relations with the CCP are turning.



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