China Calls on Japan to Not Join U.S. ‘Encirclement’

Xinhua via AP
Visiting Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, left, talks with Chinese Premier Li Qiang during a meeting in Beijing on Sunday.

BEIJING — Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang has called on Japan to eliminate “obstacles” and move their bilateral relationship forward, as this year marks the 45th anniversary of the signing of the treaty of peace and friendship.

During a meeting with visiting Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi on Sunday, Qin also sought for Japan, which serves as the chair of next month’s G7 summit, to “guide the tone and course of meetings in a correct manner.”

Apparently with the U.S.-China confrontation in mind, Qin urged Tokyo not to follow suit in Washington’s efforts to encircle Beijing.

China is particularly cautious about U.S. moves to urge Japan and other nations to take coordinated action in restricting shipments of semiconductor manufacturing equipment to it. Last month, Japan’s Economy, Trade, and Industry Ministry tightened controls on exports of advanced semiconductor manufacturing equipment. Citing the U.S.-Japan trade friction in the 1980s, Qin implicitly criticized such moves, saying, “Do not do unto others what you don’t want done unto you.”

It is evident that Beijing has been uncomfortable with the diplomatic stance taken by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Some Chinese government sources reportedly expressed wariness that Kishida’s surprise visit to Ukraine in March — coinciding with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia — might be seen as challenging Chinese diplomacy.

Nevertheless, China invited Hayashi for the visit, and Chinese Premier Li Qiang stressed the importance of Japan-China relations.

“China and Japan are two nations separated by a narrow strip of water,” Li said to Hayashi. “There is a Chinese saying: ‘A close neighbor is better than a distant relative.’”

As for economic aspects, Li added, “We should realize a win-win situation that will benefit both sides.”

On Friday, Chinese leader Xi held meetings in succession with the visiting prime ministers of Spain, Malaysia and Singapore. This staging of a “pilgrimage to China” involves nations beyond those Beijing has strong influence in. French President Emmanuel Macron is scheduled to visit China starting Wednesday.

China also regards Hayashi’s visit as part of efforts to diversify its diplomacy with the aim of showing off its diplomatic activities to the United States.

Another aspect of Hayashi’s visit is that Beijing needs Japanese investment to rebuild China’s economy, which has been hit hard by the zero-COVID policy. For the Xi administration, this year’s growth target of “around 5%” that it has set needs to be achieved.

Beijing apparently intends, however, to separate economic cooperation with Tokyo from the issues of the detention of a Japanese national and the Senkaku Islands.

“We will seek only practical benefits from Japan,” said a Chinese source familiar with Japanese policies.