China hopes for stable ties under Japan’s new foreign minister

China hopes new Japan’s new foreign minister, Yoshimasa Hayashi, will play a key role in maintaining stable ties between the two countries ahead of major events such as the 2022 Beijing Olympics, diplomats in Beijing said.

The Chinese leadership has so far expected Fumio Kishida, who was re-elected as Japan’s prime minister in parliament on Wednesday after his ruling coalition won resoundingly in the general election in October, to pursue a well-balanced diplomatic strategy toward Beijing, they said.

Kishida appointed Hayashi, a former defense and education minister who heads a cross-party lawmakers’ group that promotes Japan-China relations, as foreign minister, while retaining the remaining members of his original Cabinet launched last month.

Hayashi is the son of former Finance Minister Yoshiro Hayashi. His father also served as chairman of the Japan-China Friendship Parliamentarians’ Union when he was a lawmaker.

“China must be thinking that Kishida tapped Hayashi as foreign minister with the aim of improving Sino-Japanese relations,” which have been frayed by several issues, including Beijing’s security challenges to self-ruled democratic Taiwan, a diplomat said.

As 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties between Japan and China, Kishida, a moderate known as a steady hand on the tiller, has affirmed the importance of holding summit talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters on Wednesday, “We hope China and Japan will face each other, deepen cooperation in various fields” and “properly manage and control differences.”

Kishida, however, set up a new post of special adviser to the prime minister on human rights, in an apparent bid to tackle China’s alleged repression of Uyghur Muslims in the far western Xinjiang region and its crackdown on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

His earlier pledge to do so prompted the Chinese Foreign Ministry to say in September, “China’s internal affairs brook no foreign interference. Japanese politicians should stop making an issue out of China.”

Kishida gave the new post to former Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, who has advocated imposing sanctions on foreign government officials believed to be human rights offenders, similar to the U.S. Magnitsky Act.

“China is closely monitoring whether Nakatani will start to take a tougher stance on the Communist-led government,” another diplomat in Beijing said.

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