China’s Foreign Ministry and its government propaganda outlets expressed concern on Tuesday that the decisive conservative victory in Japan’s legislative elections this weekend, which took place immediately after the assassination of former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo on Friday, could encourage Japan to become a “geopolitical thug.”
Abe was delivering a campaign speech for candidates belonging to his conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in southern Nara, Japan, on Friday when a man later identified as Yamagami Tetsuya opened fire from behind with what police later said appeared to be a homemade firearm. Yamagami, Japanese media later stated, told police that he had no opposition to Abe’s politics but believed him to be tied to a “religious organization” that he claimed had bankrupted his mother.
As the longest-serving prime minister in Japanese history, Abe was a champion of greatly enhancing Japan’s defensive capabilities. Japan’s constitution — written after World War II — prohibits the country from maintaining a formal military. It instead maintains an entity known as the Self-Defense Forces (SDF). The Chinese government regularly condemned Abe while he held power for allegedly being insufficiently apologetic about Imperial Japan’s war crimes against China and expressed particular outrage against Abe for having visited the Yasukuni Shrine, a landmark for Japanese veterans that includes honors for Japanese war criminals.
Towards the end of his life, Abe — out of office but still very much in the mix of Japanese politics — became a vocal advocate for containing Chinese belligerence in the region and supporting the right of the nation of Taiwan to exist in peace. Taiwan is a democratic, independent country off the coast of China that the Communist Party falsely insists is a rogue “province” under Beijing. Abe compared China’s routine threats to invade Taiwan to Russia’s decision to escalate existing hostilities against Ukraine in February, urging the world to similarly rally to Taiwan’s defense.
The Communist Party had so consistently railed against Abe that government-controlled Chinese social media lit up on Friday with festive posts cheering his death. Photos surfaced online of businesses throughout China offering sales and other promotions to celebrate the assassination.
Sunday’s legislative election, in the shadow of the assassination, resulted in a decisive win for the LDP that may make it easier for current Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, who served as Abe’s foreign minister, to enact Abe’s biggest unfulfilled policy: amending the Japanese constitution to allow for a military.
“Many analysts believe the obstacles for Japan to change its pacifist Constitution have been basically cleared, and the possibility for constitutional amendments is more likely than ever before,” the Global Times, China’s main English-language government propaganda newspaper, observed in an editorial published on Tuesday, claiming that any constitutional change regarding a military “will send a dangerous signal to its neighbors and across Asia to deny the postwar history and the path of peaceful development.”
Insisting that the ban on a formal military “restrains Japan’s militaristic impulse” – presented as an apparently immutable trait of the Japanese people – the Global Times warned that it perceives the United States as feeding into this alleged impulse in a way that threatens China.
“Japan today still cares about Washington’s opinion the most. Without US’ permission, Japan would not be bold enough to amend its constitution,” the Times claimed. “The US, on one hand, wants to indulge Japan to play the role as a geopolitical thug, and on the other hand, is also on guard against Japan’s right-lean tendency which may result to it getting rid of Washington’s control.”
The state newspaper omitted in its condemnation of America for encouraging Japanese violence the fact that Americans working under Supreme Allied Commander Douglas MacArthur wrote the “pacifist” Japanese constitution.
A separate Global Times article published on Monday suggested that Japan would recreate the horrors of the attack on Pearl Harbor if allowed to have a military.
“The U.S. has made a serious mistake to think that Pearl Harbor was now history, and has forgotten that rearing a tiger is courting calamity,” the Global Times asserted, citing a Chinese regime-approved “expert.”
That article, signed by unnamed Global Times “reporters,” accused Washington of trying to turn Japan into a “hatchet man” against China, citing as its evidence the news that Secretary of State Antony Blinken had personally visited Prime Minister Kishida to offer condolences over Abe’s killing.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry responded to the LDP victory on Sunday with its typical restraint relative to the belligerence of state news outlets.
“Due to historical reasons, the issue of constitutional amendment by Japan receives close attention from the international community and Japan’s Asian neighbors,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters during a regular briefing on Monday. “We hope Japan will earnestly learn the lessons of history, stay committed to the path of peaceful development, and earn the trust of its Asian neighbors and the international community with concrete actions.”