Chinese netizens praise Abe for his calligraphy

BEIJING • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe earned unusual praise from Chinese netizens yesterday - but for the quality of his calligraphy, rather than his diplomacy.

Beijing and Tokyo are at loggerheads over disputed islands and wartime history, and Mr Abe has raised hackles with his criticism of his neighbour's assertiveness in the South China Sea.

But the Japanese leader was lauded after he purportedly left a handwritten note in Chinese thanking a cleaner at the hotel he stayed in for the Group of 20 summit in Hangzhou last week.

It gave Mr Abe's name, title and the date, adding: "Thanks." It was posted on China's Twitter-like Weibo last week by a journalist who founded what is said to be Japan's largest Chinese-language news website, and had been reposted more than 700 times as of yesterday.

"His characters are good-looking," wrote one poster. Another appreciated his attention to detail, saying: "This small gesture shows the nation's breeding," and added that the country was "formidable" and worthy of respect.

A spokesman at Mr Abe's office could not confirm the authenticity of the note, but said he had stayed at the Sheraton Grand hotel, on whose notepaper it was written.

Mr Abe has regularly been blasted by state-run Chinese media for his impenitent comments on Japan's wartime history and its invasion of China.

The two countries are locked in a long-running dispute over uninhabited islets in the East China Sea, and Mr Abe has criticised China for rejecting a July ruling by an international tribunal invalidating its extensive claims to the South China Sea.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2016, with the headline 'Chinese netizens praise Abe for his calligraphy'. Print Edition | Subscribe