A tale of two leaders in China and Japan

A tale of two leaders in China and Japan
Above: Prime minister of Japan Shinzo Abe (left) and China's president Xi Jinping (right).

BEIJING - China's President Xi Jinping and Shinzo Abe of Japan are locked in a spiralling diplomatic standoff but their burgeoning rivalry contrasts with striking personal parallels between the two, analysts say.

While they have emerged through very different systems, one a democracy and the other a one-party state, they are both sons of elite politicians, have suffered serious personal or political setbacks and spout dreamy, patriotic visions for the future.

Similarities in outlook underlie their nationalist and economic agendas, and both are seeking to rejuvenate their countries, the world's second- and third-biggest economies.

"These personality traits and similar historical background, I think they do matter because for both Xi Jinping and Abe, nationalism has been a potent force which they can exploit to consolidate their position," said Willy Lam, a politics expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Abe's visit to Tokyo's controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which honours several high-level officials executed for war crimes after World War II, is the latest spark between the countries after Beijing declared a defence identification zone in airspace over islands claimed by both but controlled by Tokyo.

Abe and Xi both came to power in late 2012, Xi anointed as Communist Party general secretary and Abe elected Japan's prime minister after an aborted first term five years earlier.

Xi has pushed what he calls the "Chinese Dream" and has referred to the "great renaissance of the Chinese nation", vowing to pursue a stronger military, overhaul an outmoded economic growth model and cleanse a ruling party riven with corruption.

Abe was voted in vowing to rejuvenate Japan's long moribund economy after two so-called "lost decades", amend its war-renouncing constitution and take a more positive view of Japan's past with the slogan: "Take back Japan".

Purchase this article for republication.



Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.