Japan wary over Xi’s increasingly hard-line policy stance

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks during a House of Representatives Budget Committee session in Tokyo on Monday.

Japan is growing wary over the increasingly hard-line policies of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who on Sunday began an unprecedented third term in office.

Tokyo is expected to probe the possibility of holding bilateral summit talks by the two countries’ leaders to ease tensions, while simultaneously strengthening deterrence against Beijing’s aggressive behavior.

Xi has consolidated the Communist Party’s top leadership with close allies and right-hand men, heightening concerns over a possible Taiwan contingency. Some Japanese government officials voiced fears that Xi — having cemented his power base — might press ahead immediately with efforts to unify Taiwan and China.

In order to fundamentally strengthen Japan’s defense capabilities, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s administration, which views a Taiwan contingency as a Japan contingency, has accelerated work to revise three security documents, including the National Security Strategy. The Kishida administration hopes the revisions will help reinforce the nation’s deterrence and response capabilities under the Japan-U.S. alliance, as well as tighten its checks on China.

“We have to assume that there’s no one left to give advice to Xi, so he could make a mistake in judgment,” a senior Foreign Ministry official said. “Dialogue will become more important than ever.”

Kishida places importance on top-level diplomacy and has sent a message to China saying “[Japan is] always open to dialogue.”

A Group of 20 summit and other major meetings are scheduled to be held in November. It remains to be seen whether Japan and China can hold a two-way meeting on the sidelines of those gatherings.