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Cover Stories Series 2013> Japan's Pacifist Constitution at Risk> Archive
UPDATED: January 4, 2011 NO. 1 JANUARY 6, 2011
Challenged Sino-Japanese Ties
Japan's new defense guidelines lead the country in the wrong direction

A SHOW OF FORCE: Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force stages exercises on August 24, 2010 at the foot of Mount Fuji (JI CHUNPENG)

Based on the new guidelines, Japan will adjust its army deployments and strengthen the JSDF's naval and air forces in the years to come. Deploying more naval forces off its southwest coast, Japan is also planning to pay more attention to information collection along China's southeast coastline. This seriously threatens China's security in this region, and Japan and the United States intend to confine China by creating a type of sea blockade.

Fluctuating relations

Communication between the two sides has been deepening since China and Japan established a diplomatic relationship in 1972. The bilateral relationship enjoyed a golden era from the late 1970s to the early 1980s. According to a poll in 1980, China surpassed the United States to become the nation most favored by Japanese people.

In the 20 years since then, historical issues have frustrated the development of bilateral ties. Yet the two countries were able to make joint efforts to develop a mature and rational relationship. When the Sino-Japanese relationship and East Asian regional cooperation were developing well, the United States tried to come between the two neighbors. Japan played right into the United States' hand.

Last year can be considered a turning point in the Sino-Japanese relationship. The Kan cabinet, along with the United States, actively chose to deter China, changing Japan's China policy. Recently, people in China and Japan have been working hard to repair bilateral relations damaged during former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's term (2001-06). This new wound may not fully heal until Japan finally treats China rationally. Therefore, the recent disputes between the two sides—such as the ship collision in September last year and territorial disputes over the Diaoyu Islands—are the result of, but not the reason for, a cooling Sino-Japanese relationship.

Right-wing Japanese politicians can't wait to tear up the peaceful Constitution. They hope to resume the right of collective defense and modify principles on Japan's arms exports. Besides, many industrial conglomerates also supported the Kan administration's move to modify the principles, since they will reap major benefits from future arms sales.

China follows the road of peaceful development, is committed to building a harmonious world with lasting peace and common prosperity and pursues the principle of "treating neighbors as friends and partners." It never considers invading any country. It has tried to advance the Sino-Japanese relationship for the revival of Asia. The Chinese Government also guides its citizens to treat Japan rationally.

There are also many Japanese people that make great contributions to the development of the bilateral relationship. But the Kan administration is sacrificing East Asia's need for regional cooperation in order to satisfy political interests. Its moves have not only jeopardized the development of the Sino-Japanese relationship, but also harmed the peaceful environment in East Asia.

When Japan had a transition of power in 2010, China looked forward to seeing some new policies. However, the changed policies unexpectedly headed in the wrong direction. Instead of seeking a truly equal position with the United States, Japan has chosen to follow U.S. footsteps, straying further and further from its original self-independence goal.

Japan's internal political situation is quite unstable right now. Hopefully, some far-sighted Japanese politicians can lead the country back to the right track. As a member of Asia, Japan should know what type of Asian policy can both benefit the whole region and itself.

The author is a research fellow with the Institute of Japanese Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

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