(Bloomberg) -- China will send a former science and technology minister to the state funeral for ex-Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe next week, Japan’s top government spokesman said.
The selection of Wan Gang -- dubbed the father of China’s electric vehicle industry, but relatively unknown outside the country -- comes amid difficult ties between the neighbors. It contrasts with the US’s decision to send Vice President Kamala Harris to the memorial for Abe, who was shot while on the campaign trail in July.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said Thursday that Japan received word from China about Wan’s visit for the funeral Tuesday. Asked during a regular press briefing who China would send, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said only that an announcement would be made in due course.
Beijing dispatched Vice President Wang Qishan to the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in London earlier this week. Japan has long sought to balance ties with China, its biggest trading partner, and with the US, its only formal military ally. That task is becoming increasingly difficult as tensions rise over Taiwan.
Wan, vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, is credited with pushing the country to adopt the then-untested technology of vehicle electrification two decades ago. He heads one of the eight minor political organizations that the ruling Communist Party allows to exist in China.
Wan’s Zhi Gong Party, which organized anti-Japanese campaigns during World War II, has sometimes served as a go-between for the Communist Party and outside groups.
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Taiwan is also planning to send its own delegation to the memorial service, Japanese national broadcaster NHK reported earlier this month, a move that is likely to irritate China, which sees the island as part of its territory.
The funeral has faced growing criticism from the Japanese public. Polls indicate most people oppose holding the event, citing the cost and anger over Abe’s ties to a controversial religious group that came to light after he was gunned down in July.
(Updated with details about Wan Gang’s time as minister from second paragraph.)
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