Secret mission to Beijing

Something very unusual is happening in Sino—Japanese relations. The Japan Times reports that a top level delegation from Keidanren, the extremely powerful federation of big business organizations, paid a secret visit to China, to meet with top Chinese leaders, including President Hu Jin—tao, on the subject of Prime Minister Koizumi's recent visit to Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan's war dead.

PM Koizumi's visit sparked outrage from the Chinese and other Asian leaders. But the visit was explicitly done in a personal, not an official capacity, and was marked as such by several symbolic measures, from clothing to choreography.

Were the big business leaders assuring the Chinese that they wold not let Koizumi go too far? Did they deplore Koizumi's moves to the Chinese, who have enormous leverage over them now that Japan is so heavily invested in China? Were they there to apologize and tell the Chinese not to worry? Or was something else going on? Nobody who knows will say, at least for now.

My own guess (no more than a guess), is that the mission was signal to the Chinese that big business is fully aware of and sympathetic to their concerns. They may have carried a secret message of reassurance from the PM, saying that his reform agenda in Japan depends on securing his domestic political base, some of whom are smarting from his reforms. He may even be offering something in return for the Chinese understanding, given that his reforms will start to produce positive changes int he Japanese economy.

We'll be keeping our eyes on this. It marks a fascinating diplomatic turn, and one that has big implications for the future of Asia and the world.

Hat tip: Brian Schwarz

Thomas Lifson   10 23 05

Something very unusual is happening in Sino—Japanese relations. The Japan Times reports that a top level delegation from Keidanren, the extremely powerful federation of big business organizations, paid a secret visit to China, to meet with top Chinese leaders, including President Hu Jin—tao, on the subject of Prime Minister Koizumi's recent visit to Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan's war dead.

PM Koizumi's visit sparked outrage from the Chinese and other Asian leaders. But the visit was explicitly done in a personal, not an official capacity, and was marked as such by several symbolic measures, from clothing to choreography.

Were the big business leaders assuring the Chinese that they wold not let Koizumi go too far? Did they deplore Koizumi's moves to the Chinese, who have enormous leverage over them now that Japan is so heavily invested in China? Were they there to apologize and tell the Chinese not to worry? Or was something else going on? Nobody who knows will say, at least for now.

My own guess (no more than a guess), is that the mission was signal to the Chinese that big business is fully aware of and sympathetic to their concerns. They may have carried a secret message of reassurance from the PM, saying that his reform agenda in Japan depends on securing his domestic political base, some of whom are smarting from his reforms. He may even be offering something in return for the Chinese understanding, given that his reforms will start to produce positive changes int he Japanese economy.

We'll be keeping our eyes on this. It marks a fascinating diplomatic turn, and one that has big implications for the future of Asia and the world.

Hat tip: Brian Schwarz

Thomas Lifson   10 23 05