Japan Must Find Its Own Path to the Beijing Olympics

As the Beijing Winter Olympics in February draw closer and closer, more and more countries, the United States included, have announced a diplomatic boycott of the event. Japan’s stance, however, remains unclear. While we must stand firm against China’s human rights violations, with next year marking 50 years since the normalization of relations between the two countries, it’s equally important that Japan reach its own decision regarding its western neighbor.

Early this month, in response to China’s numerous human rights violations, America announced its intention of a diplomatic boycott, wherein no government representatives will be sent, of the Beijing Winter Olympic and Paralympic games. Other countries, such as the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, have followed suit, and with China’s heinous acts in recent years, such as the oppression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, the outrage is justified. China has shot back, saying, “The United States, Britain and Australia have used the Olympic platform for political manipulation.” It’s China, though, which has stamped out the “one country, two systems” agreement in Hong Kong and oppressed democratic sympathizers, all while branding any criticism as lies.

But, unlike the countries of the Western world, our country has a much closer historic and geopolitical relationship with China. This begs the question of whether or not we should fall in line with our ally. This whole debacle could have a negative effect not just on the athletes, but also the state of the international community, as tensions between China, which has been embarrassed, and the boycotting countries continue to rise.

Supposing we don’t take part in this boycott and make our own decision. Would it not be in our best interests to, for example, send the chairman of the Japanese Olympic Committee? While he doesn’t hold as much authority as, say, a cabinet minister, this would be an appropriate response to China, which only sent the director of the State Sports General Administration to the Tokyo Olympics. By sending a lower-ranking official, we can still show our misgivings toward China’s deeds. What we must not forget is to make it clear both to China and the international community that Japan will use all channels necessary, and that, no matter what, we will not stay silent on human rights abuses.

Next year will be a critical juncture as Japan and China mark half a century of normalized relations. There’s the possibility that Japanese-Chinese relations, which are at an all-time low due to the ownership dispute of the Senkaku Islands, can improve, but that’s not the case right now. While China is our biggest trading partner, bad blood over past events still remains. Together, our countries must use political common sense by maintaining a safe space to say what needs to be said while avoiding outright antagonism.

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