Japanese Public Opinion Toward CCP Deteriorates as Disputes Over China’s Coast Guard Law Deepen

March 12, 2021 Updated: March 12, 2021

Japanese public opinion of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continues to deteriorate as tensions caused by China’s new Coast Guard Law intensify.

According to the results of a public opinion survey released by the Japanese Cabinet Office in February, 81.8 percent of the respondents thought that the current relationship between Japan and China was “not good” and 77.3 percent did not feel good about China, Kyodo News reported.

The media outlet quoted an anonymous Japanese Foreign Ministry official as saying, “The result is a reflection of every [Japanese] citizen’s judgment based on the current situation in China, and it will be difficult to improve [relations] until China changes its thinking.”

It’s widely believed that the several major obstacles facing the two countries are the confrontation over the Diaoyutai Islands, also known as the Senkaku Islands among the Japanese, which has been worsening by the CCP’s newly passed Coast Guard Law—which explicitly allows its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels—and CCP’s handling of Hong Kong.

Since President Donald Trump’s trade war against the CCP, and especially when the Trump administration started to implement its Indo-Pacific strategy to push back against the CCP last year, the CCP has tried to make every effort to draw Japan to its side via economic and political diplomacy.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping was scheduled to make a state visit to Japan one year ago, but because of the outbreak of the CCP virus pandemic, both China and Japan agreed to have it postponed. Xi’s visit to Japan has been regarded as a potential important breakthrough.

However, prolonged pressure from Chinese coast guard vessels in the disputed Diaoyutai waters as well as the long history of human rights abuses by the CCP have intensified the Japanese people’s dislike of the regime. The Japanese government has shown little enthusiasm toward Xi Jinping’s visit to Japan, citing the pandemic and Diaoyutai Islands as reasons for delaying the visit again and again.

According to the Kyodo News report, Xi Jinping spoke with IOC President Thomas Bach in January and expressed his willingness to make the Tokyo Olympics a success, which was regarded as a friendly gesture intended to improve the relations with Japan.

However, there are opinions within the Japanese government that it will be “difficult” even to have Xi Jinping visit Japan in 2022, the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China, the media outlet reported.

Strengthening US-Japan Security Cooperation Key to Confronting CCP: Ex-Defense Official

After the Chinese regime passed its Coast Guard Law on Jan. 22 this year, tensions between China and Japan over the Diaoyutai Islands have been escalating.

The new Coast Guard Law went effective after Feb. 1.

Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi hinted at a press conference on Feb. 26 that if the CCP’s coast guards tried to force a landing on the Senkaku Islands, Japan’s Self-Defense Forces might also use weapons to suppress the other side’s “harmful shootings”.

To tackle the rising tensions between Japan and China after the implementation of the CCP’s Coast Guard Law, the Japanese government has attempted to replace the Japan Coast Guard, which currently patrols Senkaku Islands, with its Self-Defense Force.

However, there are a number of legal issues regarding its implementation.

Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi tried to downplay and defend the CCP’s Coast Guard Law at a press conference during this year’s annual session of China’s National People’s Congress, saying that the Coast Guard Law does not target any specific nation, and is “in accordance with international law and practice.”

“China and Japan can always engage in dialogue and communication to enhance understanding and build trust,” said Wang on March 6.

Wang also mentioned that as both China and Japan would host the Olympics one after the other, the two countries should support each other and develop good relationships.

“I hope that Japanese society can really build up an objective and rational understanding of China and really lay a solid foundation of public opinion that is conducive to the stability of Sino-Japanese relations,” Wang said.

During an interview with Kyodo News, Akihisa Nagashima, a former Japanese vice minister of defense, said that the involvement of the United States in eliminating tensions around the Senkaku Islands was essential.

He stressed that strengthening the security cooperation between Japan and the United States was key to confronting the CCP.

Nagashima believes that joint training with the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy should be carried out continuously to strengthen cooperation and deterrence.

“Article V of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty states that the Senkaku Islands are subject to U.S. defense obligations. If the U.S. turns a blind eye to the crisis at the Senkaku Islands, that could lead to the collapse of the Japan-U.S. alliance,” he said.