By Jiawei Liu
Former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda briefly met with President Xi Jinping on Sunday during the annual Boao conference, held on Hainan Island, according to the South China Morning Post. No Chinese state media reported on the meeting.
According to the SCMP:
Fukuda said he and other forum executives attended a meeting with Xi that lasted about 20 minutes during which discussions were focused largely on conference issues.
“It’s not the kind of place to talk just about Japan and Japan-China relations,” Fukuda said.
Liang Yunxiang, a professor of Japanese studies at Peking University, said the meeting between Xi and Fukuda was not very significant.
“As a retired official who has been away from mainstream politics for years, I don’t think such a meeting would alleviate the current tension between Beijing and Tokyo,” Liang said. “It more feels like a non-governmental communication.”
“It could pave the way for future meetings between top leaders from the two sides. The relationship between the two countries won’t be so bad if such communication continues,” said Lian Degui, deputy director of Japanese studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.
The diplomatic relationship between Japan and China has deteriorated dramatically since the Japanese government nationalised several islets in the Diaoyu chain that were previously owned by private Japanese citizens, violent demonstrations took place in more than 28 Chinese cities, with at least 60,000 protesters taking to the streets.
In a speech to the Boao conference, Xi Jinping emphasised China’s desire to settle disputes through dialogue. Could this unofficial meeting be seen as the beginning of a rapprochement between China and Japan?