(From Nikkei Asian Review)
Despite his intention to improve ties with Japan, Chinese President Xi Jinping came under strong pressure from senior Communist Party officials to take an anti-Japan stance in commemorating the 70th anniversary of Japan’s World War II defeat.
Xi has been seeking to further consolidate his power within the party, but there is only so much he can do to keep the party’s anti-Japan forces in check.
This summer, former Chinese President Jiang Zemin and other party elders repeatedly received several pages-long documents. These papers were sent by Xi as part of his efforts to gain the elders’ stamp of approval. The papers included the text of a speech Xi was to deliver on Sept. 3 in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square before a military parade marking China’s victory in its resistance war against Japanese aggression.
The speech concluded with, “Justice will prevail! Peace will prevail! The people will prevail!”
He mentioned Japanese militarism twice in the speech, signaling that Beijing distinguishes between today’s government and that of wartime Japan.
“The speech included scathing criticism of Japan at one point,” a party official familiar the matter said. “But that was deleted after a complicated process of internal coordination.” In fact, it was Xi who made that decision.
Similarly, Beijing reacted in a low-key way to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s 70th anniversary statement on Aug. 14. While Chinese media lashed out at Abe for not offering a direct apology, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs refrained from explicitly assessing the statement.
This restrained reaction seemed to reflect Xi’s intentions to build and keep better relations with Japan. There were even growing expectations that Abe would visit China in September.
That was not to be. What is more, top party officials in China are said to be dissatisfied with what Abe said in his statement; they just don’t want to air their grievances publicly.
So Xi risked a backlash if he were to have tried too hard to contain the persistent anti-Japan sentiment among the party’s top brass. He thus decided to focus on consolidating his power through the military parade and gave no instruction to prepare for an Abe visit.
In mid-August, some Chinese government officials met to discuss security for the 70th anniversary ceremony. They later briefed embassy officials of countries whose head of state may attend the event. Japanese embassy officials were not invited to the briefing. Read more