There have been many reports that Xi Jinping will visit Japan as a national guest. However, Xi Jinping went to Japan only to attend the G20 summit, and did not arrange a trip to Japan for official or state visits. Why is his state visit to Japan not successful?
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Osaka, Japan on June 27 to attend the 14th summit of the G20 leaders. This is the first time that Xi Jinping has visited Japan since he became the president of the country.
It is worth noting that Xi Jinping’s visit to Japan was only a meeting, and there was no itinerary for the official or state visit to Japan. As early as October 2018, when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited China, there was news that Japan and China had negotiated plans for Xi Jinping’s state visit to Japan during the G20 summit in Osaka. A month later during the G20 summit in Argentina, Abe pointed out in his talks with Xi Jinping that Xi Jinping will be invited to Japan next year (2019). At that time, Japan arranged for Xi Jinping to visit Japan as a national guest before and after the G20 summit in Osaka.
It seems that Xi Jinping’s state visit to Japan during the G20 period has not taken place. Chinese Ambassador to Japan Kong Yuyou responded to the matter on June 21, stating that “it is possible to achieve a visit in the near future.”
Xi Jinping’s non-state visit to Japan is somewhat different. When Xi Jinping attended the G20 summit, he usually also paid a state visit to the G20 host country. For example, he attended a state visit to Argentina after attending the G20 summit in Argentina in 2018. In 2017, Germany hosted the G20 summit. In the same year, Xi Jinping also paid a state visit to Germany in addition to the meeting.
Why did Xi Jinping not pay a state visit to Japan this time?
If Xi Jinping pays a state visit to Japan this time, it will be Japan’s reception of the two leaders of the United States and China in two consecutive months. It is a matter of pride for Japan. This gives the outside world a sense of beauty: China and the United States are both Pulling Japan together. After China became the world’s second largest economy, the game between China and the United States became the focus of the world. Japan is more and more arrogant between China and the United States. China attaches importance to Japan, but it does not reach the level of competition with the United States.
Moreover, an arrangement for the state visit was to meet with the new Emperor Deren. After the new emperor was in office, US President Donald Trump became the first national guest to meet with him. Japan sees such an arrangement as a privilege to show the relationship between the US and Japan in the new era. China does not want to give the outside world an impression that Xi Jinping and Trump are vying to see the Emperor.
The United States and Japan have the foundation of the alliance, and the enthusiasm between the two reflects the close relationship between allies. The relationship between China and Japan is completely different from that of the United States and Japan. In addition, the damage that Japan’s Emperor Hirohito brought to China during World War II still affects Sino-Japanese relations. China’s feelings for the emperor are complex. To treat American allies, China always has to grasp a certain scale, but it is not too low, and it is not too good.
Xi Jinping’s non-state visit to Japan this time is fundamentally that the conditions for the improvement of Sino-Japanese relations are still immature. Under the background of the Sino-US game, Japan’s attitude toward China and the United States is still “watching while walking.” The Sino-US trade war is difficult to win in a short period of time. Japan still needs to hug the United States. Under the circumstances that the US-led unipolar pattern is loosening, it is not realistic for Japan to fight against China. When Japan adjusts its diplomacy toward China and the United States, it will inevitably see a “three steps back and two steps”. China’s swing against Japan is still on the sidelines.
China will wait until the situation is really clear and then look at the relationship with Japan. At the same time as the Sino-US trade war, the United States and Japan are also engaged in trade wars. The United States requires Japan to open up in the fields of automobiles and agricultural products. Automobiles are the pillar industries of Japan, and agriculture is the ticket of the Liberal Democratic Party, considering the Senate elections held in July. It is difficult for Japan to make a big concession to the United States. Trump will decide whether to impose tariffs on cars such as Japan and Europe after November. The United States and Japan are still deadlocked on trade issues.
In addition to trade issues, Japan-US security is also undergoing some changes. The United States has repeatedly asked Japan to bear more military expenditures. Even recently, there have been media reports that Trump privately wants to tear up the Japan-US security treaty. Although Trump took the stage and hit the US-Japan relationship, the impact of Japan is still within its tolerance. What China wants is that Japan has taken a bigger step in China-US-Japan relations.
The relationship between China, the United States and Japan is mutually influential. In the coming year, there will be many variables in the US-Japan relationship, and there will be a lot of uncertainty between China and Japan.
According to China’s diplomatic style, state visits usually indicate an improvement in relations between China and other countries or a breakthrough in progress. For example, Xi Jinping’s state visit to Russia upgraded Sino-Russian relations to a “new era comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation”; Xi Jinping’s state visit to North Korea’s state visit showed military personnel. It should be noted that China and the DPRK have contacts on the nuclear issue.
China-Japan relations have not yet reached this level, or China has not yet obtained substantial results from Japan. China still has to weigh its relationship with Japan.
From Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang’s visit to Japan in May 2018, to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to China in October 2018, and now Xi Jinping’s visit to Japan, Sino-Japanese relations have improved for more than a year. This is a good sign. However, from Xi Jinping’s visit to Japan, it is not a state visit. The heat of repositioning the relationship between China and Japan is still not enough.