What does Shinzo Abe’s victory in Japan mean for China?

Will there be renewed tensions over the Diaoyu Islands as Shinzo Abe, leader of Liberal Democratic Party, regains power as Japan’s top leader?


Japan’s incoming prime minister Shinzo Abe reiterated his country’s claim to islands at the center of a dispute with China, where state media called on him to repair bilateral relations frayed by the disagreement.

A day after his Liberal Democratic Party reclaimed power in a landslide, Abe called China “an essential partner for economic growth.” At the same time, he insisted that the sovereignty of the islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, wasn’t an issue.

Oh? Not an issue? AP:

In contrast to Beijing’s low-key approach, the Chinese blogosphere crackled with barbs for the LDP win and especially for Abe.

Some said Abe’s win would push Japan further to the right and bring about the country’s ruin. Others called for a boycott of Japanese goods after Abe was reported in postelection comments to have called for a tougher line over the disputed islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.

And finally, New York Times:

The perception that Abe’s forthright and confident approach breaks the mold of the consensus-based bureaucratic style of many Japanese leaders will please many voters and Japan’s security partners in the region.

This sentiment will not be replicated in Beijing. There is a groundswell of opinion within Japan that Tokyo should no longer be cowed by Chinese regional assertiveness. For many Japanese, Abe is the one willing to stand up to Japan’s larger neighbor.

Japan’s deep history of rivalry and conflict with China is well known. Part of this is currently being played out in the dispute over the Japanese administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. Of major concern is the realization that Beijing is prepared to link political and strategic issues with economic reward and punishment.

Eventful days are hopefully not ahead. We don’t need to relive this.

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