12.09.2015 Author: Vladimir Terehov

Political aspects of the celebrations in China

144188The celebrations which took place in China to mark the end of the Pacific War, the centrepiece of which was the military parade in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, are of interest from different points of view, but above all in the context of the development of events in the Asia-Pacific region in general and in particular, in Northeast Asia (NEA).

A number of events related to the celebrations give rise to the fixation of “moves” made by the leading players, which were made before and during the events in Beijing. In particular, it is critical to note the format of representation (level, individuals) and also the meetings (who, with whom and what was being discussed) in the course of the celebration. In this regard, the celebrations in Beijing became another regional political platform (albeit one-off) in a long list of many others.

The most important foreign guest at the celebrations was Russian President V.V. Putin. His talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping were productive concerning various aspects of their bilateral relations and served as the latest evidence of their sustainable development.

It is the state of relations between the US and China that is of great significance to the situation not only in the region, but in the world. Therefore, careful attention should be paid to US-Chinese manoeuvring both on the eve of September 3 and around the date of the first official visit of Xi Jinping to the United States. Given the latest growing animosity between the two leading global players (mainly in connection with the events in the South China Sea), it was quite expected that the US President would ignore the invitation to the celebrations in Beijing and that leaders of other major Western countries would do the same.

However, the very status of these relations is far from straightforward, as evidenced by the arrival of Susan Rice in Beijing on the eve of celebrations. She is the US President’s National Security Advisor, which is one of the leading positions in the US Administration. It is worth remembering that it was S. Rice who, shortly after taking office, first suggested in the fall of 2013 the possibility of China’s accession to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP). This was a central element of America’s proverbial “turning to Asia”, which was originally directed against China.

The main topic of the S. Rice’s trip to China was the final approval of the agenda of the upcoming talks between Barack Obama and Xi Jinping. Previously, senior Chinese officials, in particular, Colonel-General Fan Changlong, one of two deputies of Xi Jinping as chairman of the PRC’s Central Military Commission, visited the US with the same objectives.

The upcoming US-China summit will be the most important event in world politics, the content and the results of which will enable us to make some prognoses and assessments about the prospective layout of not only the regional but also the global political map.

The foreign leader, second in importance behind V. V. Putin, at the events which took place in Beijing was South Korean President, Park Geun-hye. Her presence caused ambivalent reactions in both Japan and the USA.

Japanese media, on the one hand, expressed clear dissatisfaction with the South Korean’s President “not so much for her participation in the celebrations of the victory over Japan, but in [China’s] demonstration of military power and the falsification of history“. Let’s not forget that 240 thousand Koreans served in the Japanese army during the war, which lends weight to the previous passage. Moreover, the old argument from the “cold war” days that the armed forces of the incumbent CPC, allegedly, did not participate in the war with Japan is being repeated.

Meanwhile, the agreement between Park Geun-hye, and Xi Jinping to hold a trilateral summit with the participation of Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe in October was favourably viewed. Such a meeting could have a positive impact on the stabilization of the situation in Northeast Asia. Russia would doubtlessly like such a positive atmosphere to finally emerge in the subregion, which contains the Russian Far East.

As for the US, any positive assessments of Park Geun-hye’s visit to Beijing are driven by hopes for “North Korea’s isolation“. However, we shouldn’t forget that Washington has its own interests in Northeast Asia, related to long-standing plans for the formation of an anti-China tripartite military-political alliance made up of the USA, Japan and South Korea. Until now, these plans have remained on the shelf, mainly because of difficult China South Korea relations. However, in the case of weakening (or even more importantly resolving) these contradictions in the triangle that is China, Japan and South Korea, the prospect of implementing said US plans becomes even more illusive.

The transformation of Japan-China relations is taking on more and more importance in the Asia-Pacific region situation. In this regard, it is the bilateral manoeuvres around the issue of Japanese Prime Minister Abe’s visit to the Beijing celebrations, which ultimately did not take place, which went on throughout summer, that are of interest. However, this did not end the intrigue surrounding the question of Japanese representation at the celebrations in Beijing, when the 91-year old Tomiichi Murayama, a fierce critic of S. Abe’s position on the issue of the evaluation of the Japan’s recent history, set off to participate in them (or was he sent?)

It was a Grandmaster move from the Japanese, made apparently, not without the participation of their two-way game opponent, i.e.China. T. Murayama, who served as Prime Minister from 1994 to 1996, embodies the image of the Japan with which the current Chinese leadership links its prospective (still quite hypothetical) positive development of bilateral relations. The Chinese leadership demanded a repeat of Murayama’s “statement” from 1995 (in which, of particular note, he expressed “sincere repentance” of the deeds conducted by the Japanese army during the war, and “apologized” to the nations who suffered as a result) from Abe during his speech about the very same topic, the 70th anniversary of the end of the Pacific War.

We can not exclude the chance that T. Murayama directly or indirectly participated in talks between Park Gyen-hye and Xi Jinping, resulting in the aforementioned agreement to hold trilateral summit in Seoul in October this year.

Finally, Japan’s negative assessment of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s acceptance of the invitation from Chinese leaders to attend the ceremony in Beijing also drew attention. Chief Cabinet Secretary of the Japanese government, Yoshihide Suga, in particular, spoke of the UN’s necessity to remain “neutral”, and suggested “looking to the future and not focusing on certain aspects of the past.”

In response to that statement, the official representative of the UN Secretary General expressed the hope that “all countries pay attention to the past and continue to look to the future“.

In general, the major regional players’ direct and indirect handling of the celebrations which took place in Beijing, have once again highlighted the complex and transitory nature of the current political map of the Asia-Pacific region.

Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the Asia-Pacific Region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.