In response to the appalling treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, China by the Chinese government, the G7 have together issued a slew of hard-hitting sanctions – all except Japan. While this might at first seem contradictory to the hard anti-Chinese rhetoric that can be heard from the LDP, our expert on international relations Dr Ra Mason explained in an early Beyond Japan episode that the realities of diplomacy are much more delicate.
Given their proximity, it is essential for reasons of trade and security to say the least that diplomatic relations do not break down completely between Japan and China. As such, in spite of their ideological differences and past grievances, the Japanese reservations towards G7 sanctions reflect how the rhetorical bluster is not the complete picture of Sino-Japanese relations. Dr Giulio Pugliese at the University of Oxford also explored this relationship and its future following Abe’s departure in an earlier Beyond Japan episode.
The G7 has revealed this fine diplomatic balancing act that Japan maintains before. Last December, declassified records showed that Japan did not join Western sanctions on China following the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989. Commenting retrospectively, former ambassador to China Yuji Miyamoto claimed that the decision was “not to isolate China, which was continuing with its policy of reform and openness”. This highlights the fact that Japan is an outlier in the G7 as the only representative of Asia. Professor Hugo Dobson argued in the Beyond Japan episode on Global Summitry that this has in the past placed Japan in a difficult political position where it must contend more heavily with G7 policy on Asia unlike the other members.
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