Japan’s Former Ambassador Assesses China Relations, Highlights Xi Jinping’s Move from Collective Governance to One-Man Rule

Former Japanese Ambassador to China, Hideo Tarumi, stated that Japan and China are now prepared to address specific issues between the two countries. This comes after Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed their intention to foster strategic and mutually beneficial ties in November.

In an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun, Tarumi emphasized the significance of more meetings between Kishida and Xi, who has consolidated power within China. Tarumi fulfilled his role as ambassador from September 2020 to October of this year.

During the summer of 2006, just before Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s first administration, Tarumi was asked by former Vice Foreign Minister Shotaro Yachi to contemplate a new concept for Japan-China relations. This led to the development of a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests, an idea which was approved by Abe at the time.

Tarumi recalled the challenges of navigating Japan’s emphasis on specific issues resolution and China’s focus on bilateral relations positioning. They were able to bridge this gap by using the word “strategy,” something Japan had previously only used concerning its relationship with the United States. This helped persuade China of Japan’s seriousness in improving their relationship.

While the concept of mutually beneficial relations based on common strategic interests has been mentioned less in recent years, the November summit saw Japan and China recommit to promoting their ties. Tarumi emphasized that promoting such a relationship is not the objective, and that public support and understanding cannot be achieved without resolving specific issues.

One such issue is the detention of a Japanese national, an employee of Astellas Pharma Inc., in China. Tarumi emphasized the importance of not letting this issue fade and expressed concern over the blurring boundary between normal business activities and legally prohibited acts in China.

Tarumi also highlighted the shift in China’s national goal under the Xi administration, which has prioritized national stability over economic growth, leading to strengthened surveillance within the country. He experienced firsthand the pressure from Chinese public security authorities, who discouraged Chinese officials from attending events at the Japanese Embassy in China.

Expressing the need for more frequent Japan-China summit talks, Tarumi believes that China’s system of one-party rule has evolved into a “system of one-man rule” under Xi. This transformation has led to challenges in decision-making, with a reduced capacity for examining issues and an increased vulnerability to risks.

In light of this, Tarumi stressed the necessity for Japan to consider how to respond to Xi’s leadership. He advocated for more frequent Japan-China summit talks, especially in comparison to other countries focusing on building personal relationships with Xi. This, Tarumi believes, is essential as long as China is governed by one man.

In conclusion, Former Japanese Ambassador to China Hideo Tarumi offers valuable insight into the improved relations and challenges between Japan and China, shedding light on the need for diplomatic engagement and dialogue to address specific issues at this critical juncture.

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