During the recent Japan Week at the Shanghai Expo, the country’s former prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, paid a visit. But the Japanese Pavilion would have generated a lot more star power if reform minister Renho Murata had shown up. China has become fixated with the new Japanese minister. That’s because – for the first time in history – the Japanese cabinet features someone with Chinese blood.
Renho was born to a Taiwanese father and a Japanese mother. After an early career as a model, she became a household name as a TV news anchor for TV Asahi. She then ditched her TV career to enrol at Peking University to learn Chinese in 1995. She has since given her daughter and son Chinese names (Cui Lan and Lin respectively).
Her Chinese blood and linguistic skills will distinguish her in Beijing, where political tensions with Tokyo are often close to the surface (see WiC62). For example, she has declared she will not visit the controversial Yasakuni Shrine, which honours Japan’s war dead, including war criminals. That will endear her to China’s leaders, as well as to a wider population that remains very much aware of Japanese atrocities between 1931 and 1945.
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