Former PM Toshiki Kaifu dies aged 91: A friend of China (1989-1991)

Former PM Toshiki Kaifu dies aged 91: A friend of China (1989-1991)

Kanako Mita, Sawako Utsumi, and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The former Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu dies at the age of 91. According to the Japanese government, he passed away earlier this month. He led Japan between 1989-1991. However, in China, he is fondly remembered for his positive attitude towards this nation during a difficult period.

Kaifu was born in the industrial city of Nagoya. He studied at Chuo University and Waseda University during a time of rapid change in Japan concerning the convulsions of World War Two. Therefore, being born in 1931, he understood the tragedy of war and took a pragmatic tone throughout his life.

Understanding the need for rapprochement in Northeast Asia, he took a positive stance towards China. Not only this, the events of Tiananmen Square in 1989 meant negative repercussions for China internationally. However, Kaifu bravely became the first major leader to visit China after the Tiananmen Square crisis.

Hence, Kaifu ended the economic sanctions quagmire against China and provided important loans. The loan of 949.9 million dollars was a considerable sum in this period of history. More important, it showed that Japan was respecting the internal dynamics of China by refraining from making a negative political statement under Kaifu.

In 2009, the China Daily (Larry Lee), Kaifu said, “I am not so sure if I am popular in China. However, I was the first Japanese prime minister who laid a flower at the Monument to the People’s Heroes in Tian’anmen Square. While I stood there, I was thinking about the leaders in Chinese history who had made various efforts to win a better China. Contemporary China’s history originated from Tian’anmen Square. I am a pacifist. I dedicated my flower to all the deceased and prayed for everything to get better.”

In the last part of the interview, Kaifu said, “I hope China, Korea, and Japan can work together and play a leadership role in Asia. Mr Hatoyama also said so. Japan shouldn’t keep its arrogant mentality like it had in the past. We also introduce this at schools in Japan and ask students to learn. I have given suggestions to the Education Ministry and said the same words to the ministers. I have passed the same message to the education ministers of China. In a word, China should be more confident in handling Japan-China relations.”

Overall, Kaifu served his country with passion and sincerity. He also hoped that Northeast Asia would open up to greater diplomacy. Hence, he belongs to the old school of Japanese diplomacy that is far from the nationalist leanings of several recent leaders. Therefore, another part of history dies with the death of former Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu – rest in peace!


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