After the convincing victory of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in the Japanese parliamentary elections, China and the new government appeared to take a step back from the recent tensions..
The official Chinese news agency Xinhua, while noting that the move to the right in Japan was arousing concern, nevertheless appealed to Japan's self-interest by claiming that Japanese prosperity was a product of "its 1947 Constitution that insists on pacifism and bans the use of force."
Xinhua also shared the opinion of many analysts that the victory of the LDP was not a vote for anti-Chinese jingoism, but a rejection of the Democratic Party of Japan over the economy and the mishandling of the nuclear disaster.
The Chinese took note of the conciliatory statements by Shinzo Abe, leader of the LDP and the next prime minister, that bilateral ties etween Tokyo and Beijing are extremely important and that the current tensions between the two countries were harmful to Japanese national interests. Abe promised to revitalize strategic cooperation..
This does not mean that Abe, now that he is Prime Minister, will adopt a supine policy towards China. He announced that his first visit will be to the United States and that while he will improve communications with China to further bilateral relations, a visit to China is currently not in the cards.
Shinzo Abe was also modest in commenting on his party's landslide victory. Speaking to reporters he said: “We recognize that this was not a restoration of confidence in the Liberal Democratic Party, but a rejection of three years of incompetent rule by the Democratic Party,”.
Voter turnout dropped by 10% from the 2009 elections and those who did vote were intent on punishing the DPJ, that came into the elections with 230 seats but went down to 57.
In a sense, the DPJ defeat was reminiscent of the massacre of the British Conservative Party in 1997. Not only did the party suffer a crushing loss of seats, but many of its prominent leaders were wiped out in the electoral massacre. This will delay the DPJ's efforts to put the pieces back together and mount an effective opposition.
In addition to the DPJ, the other big losers in the election were the so-called third force parties. The Restoration party, that had hoped to win 100 seats, contented itself with 54 and this net gain of 43 seats was counterbalanced when the Tomorrow Party of Japan dropped from 61 seats to a mere 9 seats.
The third force parties, according to an analysis by the Asahi Shimbun, actually contributed to the LDP victory in the district races. The LDP won an even larger share of seats contested by one or more third force parties as they tended to take away votes from the DPJ.