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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #296: (updated) May 25, 2005

Chinese Official Backs Out of a Meeting With Japan's Premier (update)

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

Chinese Official Backs Out of a Meeting With Japan's Premier
(James Brooke) The New York Times


UPDATE (added on May 25) : Immediately after the original review was posted yesterday, news reports came in stating China, who the day before said Ms Wu's abrupt cancellation of the scheduled meeting with Mr Koizumi and return to China was due to domestic emergencies, turned around and announced that the change of Ms Wu's schedule was due to Mr Koizumi's announcement a few days ago of his intention to keep visiting Yasukuni Shrine in the future. This fact, however, does not change the view expressed earlier in the review, but rather enhances the observation of the infantile nature of the attitude of China's government officials.
(Original Article follows.)

China has done it again. On Monday 23rd, Chinese Vice-Premier Wu Yi cancelled a meeting with Prime Minister Koizumi at the last moment and flew back to China.

The Chinese Ambassador in Tokyo phoned the Ministry of Foreign Affairs around 10am notifying Ms Wu has some urgent business to attend in China and would cancel the scheduled meeting with the Prime Minister. Ms Wu enjoyed a luncheon hosted by Japanese business leaders headed by Keidanren's Mr Okuda with a full smiles, then left for Dalian, from where her whereabouts are unknown but reports say does not seem to be attending any emergencies.

It is again, after when the Chinese government refused to express apology on Chinese mobs damaging Japanese Embassy and Consulates, that China has neglected a long established rules and protocols of diplomacy, a set of procedures established through long history to ensure minimum level of respect toward each other and sustain a line of communication between parties even during the most difficult times. Whatever the intent or the emotions of the Chinese, these actions are considered immature behaviors, which would very little contribute in China becoming a respected member of the global community.

That said, the event could be interpreted as another demonstration of China's canny diplomatic maneuvers.

As hindsight, the Chinese could have formulated the scenario from the outset by timing the traffic of senior politicians of both countries very carefully.

Earlier in May, the chief secretaries of Japan's ruling coalition, Mr Takebe of LDP and Mr Fuyushiba of New Komeito were seeking an opportunity to visit China. But due to "scheduling technicalities," it was finally realized toward last weekend, and on Sunday 22nd they were allowed to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao. It has been reported that Mr Hu "scolded" the two politicians of Mr Koizumi's planned visit to Yasukuni Shrine, to which, it has been reported, the two Japanese gentlemen responded neither in agreement nor denial.

During the while, Chinese Vice-Premier Wu Yi was scheduled to visit the Aichi Expo to celebrate the China Day there. Although the original invitation was issued for the President Hu Jintao to come, apparently he did not accept, and sent his deputy instead. It was still considered appropriate for Ms Wu to make the trip as her responsibilities in the government included economy and industry while Aichi is a home for Japan's strong industrial sector led by Toyota. Moreover, Ms Wu is the officer in charge of Shanghai Expo scheduled in 2010, an occasion, along with 2008 Beijing Olympics, to demonstrate to the world of China's economic progress and maturity in terms of the people's sentiment and common sense. As she was scheduled to stay in Japan for a whole week, it was natural and proper protocol, for her to seek an appointment with Mr Koizumi. The details of discussion leading to the agreement in scheduling that meeting to be the last formal event during her stay in Japan is unknown. But it did provide China an option, though still an irreverent one, to skip the meeting by calling her back home early for domestic reasons, instead of declaring an outright cancellation, perhaps deemed too hostile even by the Chinese.

As it turned out, President Hu Jintao was apparently satisfied by his "scolding" the two Japanese politicians, in terms of substance, and more importantly, as a political show in which he could show off his superiority at the occasion. He then decided to call off the meeting in Japan with his deputy and Mr Koizumi, where, if it had taken place, Ms Wu, being junior in rank, would have to pay respect to Mr Koizumi. That could have hurt the feelings of the Chinese as they must always feel superior, especially to the Japanese.

What was planned to be announced as an accomplishment, if the meeting between Mr Koizumi and Ms Wu had taken place, was for Japan to expand its visa-waiver program toward China so more people from China could visit Japan more easily. It seems the Chinese had deliberately let go the opportunity to mend the relationship through the announcement of the new framework that would have had practical benefit for Chinese business and economy, and instead, they chose to continue with the pose of hard line policy against Japan. If the Chinese leaders lose their determination to opt for productive measures in global terms, China could indeed face a state of emergency in the near future.

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