By Yang Danzhi
The Japanese government seems to be going further down the road of curbing China, and its right-wing forces seem to take the Taiwan Island as a “Trump card”.
Japan has made a series of moves concerning the Taiwan region in the past few months. For instance, it expressed its concern with the Taiwan Strait situation in the Japan-US joint statement, which was actually an implication of its intention to jointly defend Taiwan with the US.
As the pandemic situation got more serious in Taiwan, Japanese foreign minister Toshimitsu Motegi announced at a press conference on June 4 that Japan will ship 1.24 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to the island on that very day.
During the “two plus two” meeting between Japanese and Australian foreign and defense ministers, both sides expressed their concerns about the Taiwan Strait situation…These jaw-dropping moves by Japan are driven both by international factors, especially from the US, and Japan’s domestic problems.
Yoshihide Suga knows perfectly well how complicated and sensitive the Taiwan question is, yet his administration has made one provoking move after another to challenge China’s bottom line, which is nothing short of a wild political bet – a bet on his reelection and the future of the relations across the Taiwan Strait and between China and Japan.
The Japanese prime minister hopes to kill three birds with one stone with his recent unexpected actions on the Taiwan question. First, he wants to keep in step with the US politically and in security. As Washington gets increasingly involved in the Taiwan question, Japan has repeatedly emphasized its concerns with the Taiwan Strait situation and announced its stance of working with the US to jointly maintain the cross-Straits stability. This will further intensify the US-Japan alliance while leveraging Uncle Sam’s influence to counter the impacts on Japan exerted by China’s rise.
Second, Suga wants to demonstrate his decisiveness on major regional issues and establish himself as a tough prime minister in the mind of the Japanese, so as to boost his public support rating.
Third, he wants to divert the domestic pressure, even at the risk of causing disputes with China. Asahi Shimbun reported that Suga may hold the election in advance, right after the Tokyo Olympic Games, which is a choice of no choice given internal and external problems.
Suga’s actions concerning the Taiwan question will probably send the China-Japan relations, which warmed up a little in the final days of Abe’s term, back to the freezing point. The Taiwan question concerns China’s territorial sovereignty and core interests, and China will make no compromise on matters of principle.
Stepping on the red line about the Taiwan question, Suga has underestimated the Chinese people’s confidence and resolve of maintaining and realizing national reunification, and also miscalculated the consequences of a nosediving bilateral relationship caused by his actions. His irrational and wild political bet won’t bring him what he dreams of.
(The author is an expert on international studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences)