This Tuesday, China’s prime minister Xi Jinping scheduled a visit to Vladamir Putin in Russia that had been in the works for months. Also on Tuesday, Japan’s prime minister Fumio Kishida visited Volodymyr Zelensky in Ukraine in a previously unknown move. This highlights a stark contrast between two nations that seem very similar. Japan and China are both East-Asian powerhouses, and the biggest economic forces in the world. However, there is a distinct difference between them that has occurred in most of modern history: China is communist and sides with Russia, Japan is democratic and sides with the United States. While you may think from reading this that Japan and China don’t align very much, in terms of politics, that is actually further from the truth than you think.
Japan and China’s relationship has always been complicated, however the short story is that in the 1980s, Japan and China had a golden age, due to both of their economies taking off at this time, and mutual goals. However, in the 2000’s and 2010’s their relationship became increasingly worse. By 2010, China had overtaken Japan as the world’s 2nd largest economy. This scared the Japanese, with then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe believing that China was Japan’s biggest enemy and threat. In return, China aired propaganda against the Japanese in support of China.
Donald Trump has been a person with a complicated legacy. His effect on Japan – China relationships is no different. In fact, during the 2018 trade war between the United States and China, China and Japan’s relationship significantly increased. This was due to Japan also having trade disputes with the United States. The Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, even advised President Xi of China. In wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic, China and Japan’s bond seemed to be closer than ever with many testing kits and masks being exchanged.
However, Japan has made sure not to get too close to China, unlike Russia. For example, Japan has donated 1 million vaccine doses to Taiwan, and maintains a good relationship with the island nation that China claims as its own. Also, Japan has maintained a great relationship with the United States, where security is at the center, often about China. So as you can see, the visit to Ukraine was just another chapter in the long history between China and Japan, most likely to symbolize Japan’s independence.