Reaction to Popular Pressure or a Political Tool? Different Interpretations of China's Policy Regarding Koizumi's Visits to the Yasukuni Shrine

  • Zakowski, Karol
  • Published : 2012.10.31


Sino-Japanese relations suffered a great setback during the premiership of Koizumi $Jun'ichir{\bar{o}}$ (2001-2006). Although many factors, such as dispute over the resources of the East China Sea or Japan's anxiety about China's growing military expenditures, are accountable for this situation, it was Koizumi's visits to the Yasukuni Shrine that became a symbol of the controversies between the two countries. The Yasukuni issue triggered a real eruption of profound anti-Japanese feelings among the Chinese people. While commentators in China accused Koizumi of glorifying militarism and whitewashing the atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers during the Second World War, the Japanese public started perceiving China's "exaggerated" reaction as a convenient diplomatic tool used by China to apply pressure on Japan in other bilateral disputes. On the one hand, spontaneous protests against Koizumi's visits to the Yasukuni Shrine constituted a great constraint in China's diplomacy towards Japan, but on the other, they also became an ideal pretext for adopting a tougher stance in Chinese foreign policy. In this paper, I examine different points of view on the Yasukuni issue. After describing the Japanese background of the visits to the controversial shrine, I analyze various interpretations of China's reaction to the problem. Although emotions dominated discourse on the Yasukuni issue both in Japan and China, some pragmatic attempts to use this problem can still be seen. Besides being a side-effect of Koizumi's strong personality, the Yasukuni issue could be used either as a tool of factional struggle in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) or as an instrument of Chinese foreign policy towards Japan.


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