Looking at their slogans, he added: “It seems that the two leaders are pursuing ghosts of the past instead of charting a new course for their countries.”
So far, the two men’s only encounters as leaders have been a brief meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Russia in September and a handshake at October’s APEC gathering in Indonesia. China says the shrine visit has closed the door on dialogue.
However, both leaders are seeking to revitalize their economies, offering a potential fail-safe against escalating their confrontations too far, analysts say. Unlike after Tokyo nationalized some of the disputed islands in 2012, Abe’s shrine visit has not so far led to attacks on Japanese interests in China, Lam said, adding: “Economic ties are a very strong restraining factor in further deterioration.”
Abe and Xi also face similar challenges, according to David Zweig, a professor at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
“Power-wise China is in ascendancy, but morally it’s in decline and so that’s why you get this effort by Xi to impose a new morality, a Maoist morality, an anti-corruption morality, a dream-of-greatness morality, a unification morality,” he said.
“Abe is clearly trying to end the 22 years of decline. And the way you do that, he probably figures, is through enhancing nationalism, rewriting the past, giving people a more positive sense of who they are as Japanese, strengthening the military, not being so passive in international affairs,” Zweig added.