China growing cautious about Japan after Abe's big election win

China is growing apprehensive of Japan becoming nationalistic after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition scored a comfortable win in Sunday's upper house election, giving his party and its ally control of both chambers of parliament for the first time in six years.

"We hope Japan will be sincere in dealing with and settling relevant problems," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told Kyodo News in a statement, adding that Beijing's stance remains unchanged and that it wants to develop bilateral ties "by learning from history and facing the future."

Chinese media and some experts expressed concerns over a potential negative impact on already strained bilateral relations that may arise from the election outcome and said that they will be closely watching Abe's remarks in the days ahead to gauge whether he would moderate or toughen his already firm stance toward Beijing.

"It's none of China's business whether Japan has a stable government or not," said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University of China. "As long as Prime Minister Abe is in power, it would be difficult for the two countries to find ways in the near future to improve diplomatic ties."

China views Japanese politics as having shifted to the right since Abe assumed the premiership for the second time last December following the Liberal Democratic Party-led coalition's landslide victory in an election for the more powerful lower house.

"The election win will allow Abe to push forward his agenda to revive Japan's economy and paves the way for his long-sought pursuit of revising the country's pacifist Constitution, a move that would further complicate Tokyo's relations with its neighbors," China's state-owned Global Times said Monday in a front-page story.

Not just continuing friction over a group of islands in the East China Sea, China has been irked by Abe's major political goal of relaxing the Constitution's war-renouncing Article 9 to allow a full military, as well as his repeated comments suggesting that he is unapologetic over Japan's wartime aggression.

Shi said there are increasing worries that the big win in the House of Councillors election would make Abe and his backers in the LDP more confident in pursuing a nationalistic agenda. If their push for amending the Constitution becomes more apparent, he added, that would have "repercussions on relations with China and South Korea," which is embroiled in a territorial dispute with Japan over a separate set of islets.

The professor believes that the time is far from ripe for China and Japan to arrange a meeting between their top leaders later this year on the sidelines of multilateral gatherings.

"To have a summit meeting, both sides need to have some tangible achievements that can be explained to their own people, but the current situation is not like that," he said, citing mainly ongoing tensions over the islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan and Diaoyus in China.

Liu Jiangyong, vice dean of the Institute of Modern International Relations at Tsinghua University in Beijing, expects momentum for rewriting the Constitution to build up in Japan, given that not only is there "no real opposition party any more, but also that many opposition lawmakers are now right-leaning."

"As foreign policy is an extension of domestic policies, I am concerned that repairing bilateral relations would be harder," Liu said, adding he will focus on what kind of role the LDP's coalition partner New Komeito, which has kept a friendly relationship with China and adopted a cautious stance on revising the Constitution, will play in the government.

In the latest national election, Abe's LDP and the New Komeito party won 76 of the 121 seats up for grabs. The two parties now have a total of 135 seats in the 242-seat upper house, combining with the 59 they already held that were not contested this time.

Liu also believes that the United States has been frustrated by Japan's frayed relations with China and South Korea over historical and territorial issues.

He said, "There is a possibility that Mr. Abe will not listen to what the United States may say" after the latest election, although the LDP had constantly criticized the previous government headed by the Democratic Party of Japan for its "diplomatic failures" such as weakening the security alliance with Washington.