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Is China Trying to Mend Fences With Japan?

To help try and reduce smog in Beijing, the Chinese government has asked people to leave town ahead of the APEC meeting
To help try and reduce smog in Beijing, the Chinese government has asked people to leave town ahead of the APEC meetingPhotograph by ChinaFotoPress

In a few days, China will host the annual APEC meeting in Beijing. It will be the first for President Obama since his second-term inauguration; more important, it might also present the best opportunity yet for the leaders of China and Japan to move beyond the disputes that have been poisoning bilateral relations since a territorial dispute over islands in the East China Sea flared up in 2012.
 
Chinese officials won’t say whether President Xi Jinping will have a substantial meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The official Xinhua news agency on Nov. 3 published a commentary explaining that people shouldn’t raise their hopes too high. Certainly, China “will undoubtedly receive the Japanese leader with etiquette and hospitality,” according to Xinhua, “despite chronic territorial rows and historical feud with Tokyo.”
 
China has plenty of grievances with Abe, as the commentary complained about the latest visits by officials to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo:

Still, there are signs that China is interested in turning down the volume on its anti-Abe diatribes. Consider the commentary published in, of all places, the Global Times, the People’s Daily-affiliated tabloid known for its nationalism. It’s not reasonable for Chinese to get too worried about the revival of a militaristic Japan, explained Wang Zhanyang, a professor at the Central Institute of Socialism. “Avoid suffering from imaginary fears,” Wang advised: