07/02/2014 04:54 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

China's 'Good Cop, Bad Cop' Strategy Toward Japan

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the diplomat

As reported early Wednesday, Shinzo Abe's LDP has succeeded in reaching an agreement with New Komeito to lift the ban on Japan's ability to engage in collective self-defense. China has been vocal in opposing any moves that give Tokyo more freedom to build up and make use of military force. Surprisingly, then, the response was fairly muted. It focused not on how Abe's collective self-defense policy will affect China, but how it will affect Japan itself.

China's most recent Japan strategy, then, resembles a "good cop, bad cop" routine. On one hand, China will show fierce opposition towards the Shinzo Abe administration, attacking it as a trouble-maker in the region. But, on the other hand, China wants to demonstrate its willingness to work with Japanese politicians and businesses that are seen as China-friendly. Increasingly, China seems willing to offer this special treatment toward anyone who opposes Shinzo Abe -- especially Japanese pacifists and constitutionalists who oppose reinterpreting the restrictions on Japan's use of military force. In a sense, China is trying to go over Abe's head by appealing directly to the majority of Japanese people. This is a tough sell, considering that recent polls show over 90 percent of Japanese have a negative impression of China, but that apparently won't stop Beijing from trying.

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