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Cold politics could drive Sino-Japanese relations to freezing point

(Global Times)

09:40, July 27, 2012

Japan has undergone a rise of new nationalism in recent years, especially after the Democratic Party of Japan's (DPJ) Noda Yoshihiko was elected as prime minister in 2011. Both Noda and former Japanese foreign minister Seiji Maehara of the DPJ are seen by some as leading representatives of this movement.

This adjustment of national strategy came against the backdrop of Japan's long economic downturn and is aimed at enhancing Japan's international influence. The core issue in the strategy is to seek a clear identity for Japan amid the regional sway of China and the US and find an appropriate way to meet the rise of China. Japan wants to grab the opportunity of the US strategic pivot toward Asia and reap profits from Washington's adjustment of its policy toward China.

For a long time in Japan's postwar history, the new nationalism was not widely accepted. But Japan's long economic woes, which were massively aggravated by the 2011 huge earthquake, have accelerated reactionary politics in Japan.

Meanwhile, Japan's economic downturn was accompanied by China's rapid growth. In 1991, China's GDP was a tenth of that of Japan. In less than 20 years, China surpassed Japan as the world's second largest economy.

Former DPJ powerbroker Ozawa Ichiro holds the view that Japan should establish a kind of "equilateral triangle" relationship with China and the US while sticking to the Washington-Tokyo alliance. But since the Naoto Kan administration, Maehara and his faction have been dominating formation of Japan's foreign policy.

A major strategy of the new nationalists is to further consolidate the US-Japan alliance. The US has announced that it will deploy 60 percent of its navy fleet in Asia by 2020, but at the same time it will slash its military budget in the future. This creates conditions for deepening the alliances between Washington and Tokyo.

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