On Sunday, Japan’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) returned to power, winning 294 of the 480 seats in the lower house of the nation’s parliament, which is empowered to choose the nation’s Prime Minister. Ex-prime minister Shinzo Abe, who held the position in 2006-2007, will thus lead the country once again as its seventh prime minister in six years.
Anger, disappointment saturate Chinese Web
The news of Abe’s inauguration has triggered over 166,000 comments in the past twenty-four hours on Sina Weibo, a popular micro-blogging platform in China. Many of them emphasise Abe’s “hard-line” policy toward China: “Abe… declared that once in office, [he] will increase the number of staff, equipment, and budget of the Self Defence Force, strengthen maritime security, and elevate the status of the Self Defence Force to [a full-scale national military],” tweeted @搜狐视频.
In response to such comments, Chinese web users expressed anger, disappointment, and nationalism. One web user, @承霖在奋斗的路上, denounced Abe as a jianren, a harsh Chinese term which roughly translates as “cheap slut.”
“Although the election result basically had no sense of suspense, I was still hoping for an unexpected result…but in the end, you came back,” @syy愿鲁且愚 sighed in dismay. Yet another web user @正诚直实 roared, “A test for the [Chinese] government’s determination to protect its country and punish severely the Japanese pirates for their aggressive attitude for the sake of 300,000 innocent departed spirits [referring to Japan forces’ massacre of civilians in the Chinese city of Nanjing during World War 2]. Homeland, you have 1.3 billion patriotic soldiers behind your back.”
Clouds on the horizon
The LDP’s election victory represents a sharp turn to the right that could further strain Japan’s relationship with China, a relationship which has suffered from renewed tensions in recent months as the territorial dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands heats up. In a television interview on Sunday, Abe declared, “We must strengthen our alliance with the U.S. and also improve relations with China, with a strong determination that is no change in the fact the Senkaku islands are our territory.” He continued, “China is challenging the fact that (the islands) are Japan’s inherent territory. Our objective is to stop the challenge.”
Abe’s rhetoric has not always been so strident. In an article in the September issue of Bungeishunju, a renowned Japanese monthly magazine, titled “Toward the New Nation” that outlines his political standpoint, Abe dismissed Japan’s waging war against China as an “unrealistic worry” and emphasized the need for China and Japan to maintain a favorable economic and strategic relationship. In response to a video broadcast on state-run China Central Television that reported on Abe’s stance toward Sino-Japanese relations, Weibo user @神来我走 commented, “We should strike them.”
Such belligerent calls for war against Japan shook the Web this August and September when the Japanese government announced its decision to purchase the disputed islands from the Japanese family that held the title deed. Some Chinese web users went as far as to debate the plausibility of a Third World War incited by the island controversy.
What seemed to be a mostly hypothetical argument just a few months ago, however, is becoming growingly immediate. As both China and Japan escalate their claims over the islands through air and naval patrols and Chinese web users call out to the nation to prepare for an “inevitable” war, the prospect of conflict looms large.
“My friends and relatives are stocking up on candles and food,” a Chinese citizen, who wished to remain anonymous, told Tea Leaf Nation. “They believe a war will erupt between China and Japan” this Friday, the Mayan “Doomsday.”
It is, of course, overwhelmingly likely that humanity will survive the weekend. But the prospects for Sino-Japanese relations—and thus the stability of Asia—will remain grim.