Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Friday last week announced that he would not seek re-election for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party chairmanship, which means that he is to step down as prime minister when his party leadership ends later this month. Several contenders for the post have emerged, and they are jostling behind the scenes.
Two days after Suga’s announcement, the Asahi Shimbun daily published a quarter-page report, titled “Deeply implanting Japan-Taiwan friendship in people’s minds.”
The report introduced three Taiwanese who have built a “bridge of friendship” between Taiwan and Japan: Huang Chin-san (黃清山), chairman of the Hatta Yoichi Memorial Foundation for the Culture and Arts; Tommy Lin (林逸民), president of the Formosa Republican Association; and me, after Taiwan donated 400,000 masks to Japan in June in return for the Japanese government’s donation of COVID-19 vaccines to Taiwan.
Last month, I was interviewed by the newspaper, but it chose to print the article at a sensitive time as Japan is about get a new prime minister, portraying us as examples of friendship between Taiwan and Japan, amplifying old news, which could imply ulterior motives.
Huang, a low-key gentleman, said: “When Taiwan had a vaccine shortage, Japan was the first to help. The masks were merely a return gift to express our appreciation.”
Not claiming credit for himself is admirable.
Lin said: “Taiwan and Japan are like brothers, and Japan coming to Taiwan’s aid when we experienced a shortage of vaccines was an expression of the kindred spirit of the Taiwanese and Japanese. Returning a favor by offering a few masks is not worthy of mention.”
Their intention to promote Taiwan-Japan exchanges is evident.
On June 4, during Taiwan’s COVID-19 outbreak, Japan donated vaccines to help Taiwan resolve its shortage. Five days later, Taiwan offered 400,000 masks to Japan in return. Although it was not our intention, the gift attracted the attention of the Asahi Shimbun, which was also first to report the event.
Later, the NHK and other mainstream Japanese media followed up with their own reports, and one newspaper even covered it more than once, a rare event in the ever-changing history of Taiwanese-Japanese exchanges.
The Asahi Shimbun claims to be the widest circulated newspaper among Japan’s intellectuals. Because of its left-leaning stance, favorable reports of Taiwan have a big impact, and it sets the trend among Japanese media.
When it gave so much space to this report on three occasions and chose a particular time to publish it, the newspaper seemed to be setting an example by using the bridge of goodwill that we have built between Taiwan and Japan to encourage readers to emulate us and deepen the mutual friendship further.
Additionally, whomever becomes the next Japanese prime minister, the media coverage indirectly tells the successor to establish this relationship deep in people’s minds. Nearly 80 percent of Japanese support Taiwan, and such great potential must not be overlooked.
A free democratic country always takes public opinion seriously. The sensitive Japanese media have sensed the private sector’s friendly attitude toward Taiwan. Naturally, as a longstanding news medium, the Asahi Shimbun is following mainstream opinion in speaking out for justice for Taiwan.
Despite the newspaper’s past pro-China stance, it has stressed the importance of the friendship between Taiwan and Japan, just as Japan is about get a new prime minister, which is admirable.
Wang Hui-sheng is chief director of the Kisai Ladies’ and Children’s Hospital in Japan.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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