Beijing welcomed a rare visit by Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa over the weekend to discuss their frayed relationship, from Japan’s concerns regarding Chinese belligerence against it to their stances on opposite sides of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The Chinese Communist Party, in its readouts from Hayashi’s multiple meetings in the country, appeared particularly concerned with Japan’s conservative government enacting provisions to limit China’s growing dominance in semiconductor manufacturing – namely, restricting the ability of Japanese companies to export materials used to manufacture them. On Friday, Tokyo added 23 goods to its list of products subject to export controls, including materials and equipment necessary to make semiconductors, used in high-end technology products and, American authorities fear, with the potential to be used for military purposes.
In October, America’s Department of Commerce announced similar export restrictions on computer chips and semiconductor equipment, particularly materials that may have military uses. The Netherlands, a key supplier of the goods in question, also enacted restrictions on sales to China in March.
“The U.S. in October imposed sweeping export restrictions on shipments of American chipmaking tools to China, but for the restrictions to be effective it needs other key suppliers in the Netherlands and Japan, who produce key chipmaking technology, to agree,” Reuters reported last month. “The allied countries have been in talks on the matter for months.”
Speaking to Hayashi on Sunday, his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Qin Gang, urged the Japanese government not to “help a villain do evil,” referring to America. Qin accused Washington of “us[ing] bullying tactics to brutally suppress the Japanese semiconductor industry, and now it is repeating its old tricks against China.”
“Japan has suffered that pain, and should not help a villain do evil. The containment will only further stimulate China’s determination to become self-reliant,” Qin said, according to the South China Morning Post.
The Chinese state-run Global Times propaganda newspaper paraphrased comments from other high-ranking Chinese officials who met with Hayashi this weekend, similarly discouraging Japan from improving its already friendly relations with America.
Top Politburo member Wang Yi, who Qin took over for as foreign minister this year, also met with Hayashi and reportedly blamed nearly all tensions between Japan and China on the United States.
“The fundamental reason [for disturbances between Japan and China], according to Wang, is because some forces in Japan are deliberately following the US’ wrong China policy,” the Global Times reported, “trying to provoke and smear China’s core interests. Such moves are short-sighted strategically, wrong on a political front and unwise in terms of diplomacy.”
The Global Times also cited Qin as urging Hayashi to “build correct recognition of China,” meaning to stop publicly expressing concern about the Chinese Communist Party’s belligerent Taiwan policies or years-long colonization of the South China Sea, among other issues.
The Global Times pilloried Japan despite Tokyo’s attempt to improve relations by sending Hayashi to Beijing, calling the country’s conservative government “paranoid” and dismissing Hayashi’s efforts as useless.
“With Japan yet unable to shake off its distorted views of China and willing to continue to assist the US in containing Beijing, experts said that one visit will unlikely bring substantial changes,” the state newspaper proclaimed. “The onus is on Tokyo to show more sincerity in improving China-Japan relations, they said.”
The “experts” are Chinese regime mouthpieces who regularly comment on the newspaper’s pages and work in regime universities and think tanks. Xiang Haoyu, “a research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies,” referred to the Japanese government as “paranoid” and “dangerous.”
“In recent years, Japan’s distorted China policy has propelled the country to stand on the US-led small clique’s diplomatic frontline of containing China, and now Japan is also following the US to decouple with China economically,” Xiang reportedly commented. “Japan should ask itself, is it the rational way to treat its biggest trade partner and close neighbor?… Such self-destructive deeds may bring serious damage to the Japanese economy.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not comment on Hayashi’s visit on Monday, though it did confirm that it would take place on Friday. At the time, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said, contrary to the Global Times‘ dismissal of the visit, that China “attaches importance” to Hayashi’s travel.
“China stands ready to work with Japan to follow the strategic guidance of the important common understandings between the leaders of the two countries,” Mao said last week, “and … deepen practical cooperation and manage and control differences, and together work to build a stable and constructive China-Japan relationship fit for the new era.”
While not remarking on the foreign minister’s visit to Beijing, Mao did address Japan’s export controls on Monday, condemning them vigorously during her daily press briefing.
“China has made serious démarches to the Japanese side at various levels to express our strong discontent and grave concerns,” Mao said. “The potential export control targeting China will not only affect the industrial and supply chains of semiconductors in the region and the wider world, and will also hurt Japanese companies.”
“We hope Japan can be prudent when making decisions and avoid creating new complex factors to mutual trust and bilateral relations,” Mao concluded. “China will assess the impact of Japan’s export control policy. If Japan imposes restrictions on normal cooperation in the semiconductor sector between the two countries and seriously undermines China’s interests, China will act firmly in response rather than sit idly by.”
The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not address the semiconductor issue at all in its official summary of Hayashi’s visit, instead highlighting a variety of issues that did not make it into the Chinese government discussion of the meetings with Qin and Wang at all.
According to Tokyo, Hayashi focused on discussing the recent arrest of a Japanese national in China, China’s illegal incursions into Japanese waters in the East China Sea, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Hayashi also reportedly pressured Qin to address human rights abuses in Hong Kong and the ongoing genocide of Uyghurs and other Turkic ethnic people in East Turkistan.
The Japanese government stated that Hayashi addressed economic concerns in the context of China’s restrictions on importing Japanese food and China’s rampant threats to intellectual property around the world. Hayashi “strongly urged China to ensure a transparent, predictable, and fair business environment and guarantee the safety and legitimate economic activities of Japanese companies,” the Japanese government said.
“He also expressed strong concerns regarding increased attempts to force technology disclosures and transfers of technology. He also strongly called for the prompt lifting of import restrictions on Japanese food products,” the Foreign Affairs Ministry said.