Japanese official mentions Taiwan export mistake, Chinese official pursues it relentlessly

Recently, Japanese politicians twice referred to Taiwan as a country in internal speeches, prompting a strong backlash from Chinese officials, with the Chinese Foreign Ministry, the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office and official media condemning the Japanese officials’ remarks in quick succession.

On Wednesday (June 9), Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga referred to Taiwan as a country alongside Australia and New Zealand during a parliamentary debate on the preparation for the Tokyo Olympics and epidemic prevention measures for the new crown, saying that the epidemic prevention measures of the “three countries” severely restrict the private rights of citizens.

At the debate, Yukio Enno, leader of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, also referred to Taiwan as a country and praised Taiwan as a successful country in curbing the expansion of the epidemic.

The Chinese side expressed strong dissatisfaction with the Japanese side’s erroneous remarks, and has made serious representations to the Japanese side, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on October 10. Wang Wenbin said Japan’s move is a serious violation of the “Sino-Japanese Joint Declaration” and other principles of the four political documents, and asked the Japanese side to be careful with their words on the Taiwan issue, not to damage China’s sovereignty and not to “send wrong signals” to the Taiwan independence forces.

Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said Friday that China opposes the “erroneous expressions” of Japanese officials and is “shocked by the repeated wrongdoings” of the Japanese side on the Taiwan issue.

China’s official response apparently sees these statements by Japanese politicians as deliberate, which is clearly linked to the recent period of closer relations between Taiwan and Japan, the United States and even some European countries.

However, analysts say this judgment seems too arbitrary. Taiwan has been an independent political entity for more than 100 years, and when it comes to the epidemic or international political, economic, technological and other issues, people consciously and unconsciously juxtapose Taiwan with many countries, and it is easy to call Taiwan a country. This “mistake” is easy for journalists and translators to make, so someone coined the term “countries and regions”. This phrase must be added when Taiwan must be placed alongside other countries, otherwise it will be considered a “political mistake” by Beijing. This is not difficult to do in writing, but not in impromptu speech.

In the light of subsequent official reactions, it is clear that the comments by Kan and Yukio Enno were a slip of the tongue rather than a significant change in Japan’s policy toward Taiwan.

Japan’s official cabinet chief Kato Katsushin said at a press conference Friday about Kan’s remarks calling Taiwan a “country” that “Japan’s position is to maintain non-government working relations with Taiwan in accordance with the 1972 Japan-China Joint Communiqué.

Katsuharu Kato also stressed that “this is our policy, and that has not changed.”

Observers point out that Chinese officials often mobilize the state apparatus and spare no effort to lash out or impose sanctions for certain “slips of the tongue” in internal speeches by Japanese or Western personalities and tweets that ordinary people turn out to dislike in Beijing. Observers argue that this practice not only interferes with freedom of expression in democratic countries, but also runs counter to China’s long-held principle of “non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries.