The year 2007 marks the 35th anniversary of the establishment of Sino-Japanese diplomatic relations. The two East Asian neighbors have a great influence on the entire Asia-Pacific region. Therefore, Sino-Japanese relations concern not only the geopolitical, economic and security interests of the two countries, but also the peace and development of the whole Asia-Pacific region.
This year, bilateral ties will focus on carrying out the common understandings of the countries’ leaders, strengthening the base of political, economic and social life and enlarging the strategic ties of the two sides, as well as avoiding the effect of negative influences.
Since last October, previously cold Sino-Japanese ties have begun to thaw. Newly elected Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe altered the positions taken by his predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, and did not worship at the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead, including Class A war criminals in World War II. China was the first country Abe visited after becoming prime minister. And his meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao was a successful one.
Through negotiations and communication, the two countries have overcome the political obstacles in bilateral ties and have begun to reestablish mutual trust.
The two leaders agreed that, based on the premise that one should “take history as a mirror and face forward to the future, learn from history and face up to the future,” the two countries should face the problems that affect bilateral ties and try to resolve them, so as to jointly establish a relationship based on mutual strategic interests and involving comprehensive cooperation. This important common understanding, which afforded sound political insurance for the continuing development of Sino-Japanese relations, provides a new starting point for the bilateral relationship.
With the precondition of maintaining political mutual trust, the two countries will hold exchanges of visits among high-ranking officials, including the top leaders. Meanwhile, these high-ranking officials will take advantage of multilateral discussions. By persistently strengthening the political base, political force can be put into further developing bilateral ties and carrying out dialogue in the economic, diplomatic and security fields.
Now that Northeast Asia faces the threat of nuclear proliferation, China and Japan should cooperate with other as concerned parties on the denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, thus easing the situation.
To develop Sino-Japanese ties in 2007, the two sides need to apply special caution in dealing with historical problems and the Taiwan issue.
Abe adjusted his predecessor’s shrine visit strategy due to internal and external pressures, changes in international relations and the country’s domestic strategic goals. This started to thaw the frozen Sino-Japanese political relations.
However, Abe’s attitude toward the Yasukuni Shrine is vague, which cannot erase China’s concern about the bilateral relationship.
The presence in China of chemical weapons abandoned by the Japanese during World War II is a serious crime to the Chinese people, and those weapons still threaten and damage Chinese people’s lives and property as well as the country’s ecological environment. In July 1999, the Japanese Government admitted in a memorandum it signed with China that the country had abandoned a large amount of chemical weapons in China during wartime and promised to perform its duty to remove them in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention. Therefore, Japan should take actions to destroy those chemical weapons quickly and thoroughly.
The Taiwan issue concerns China’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. In a joint statement signed by China and Japan in September 1972, the Japanese Government said it fully understands and respects the fact that Taiwan is an inseparable part of China. As the two countries commemorate the 35th anniversary of diplomatic relations, Japan should stick to its one-China promise and cut off all official communication with Taiwan’s leaders, saying no to any form of “Taiwan independence.”
In 2006, the bilateral trade volume was expected to reach $200 billion. And as of October, Japan’s direct investment in China totaled $57 billion, while China’s investment in Japan is also growing rapidly. At the same time, non-governmental communication between the two peoples is very active. This has greatly promoted the bilateral relationship and improved the regional situation. Moreover, the two sides will explore scientific and technological cooperation in such areas as energy conservation, environmental protection, telecommunications, finance and other high-technology fields. In addition, communication in the cultural, educational and media areas will be more active, which also will strengthen the public mutual trust between the two nations.
The changing economic and security situations in the Asia-Pacific region create a new task for Sino-Japanese relations. Now, the two countries’ gross domestic product (GDP) accounts for 80 percent of the total GDP of East Asia.
Their population and bilateral trade volume exceed 70 percent and 60 percent, respectively, of the total for East Asia. The two countries are the most important economic partners in the area.
In 2007, it is natural and reasonable that China and Japan will make a constructive contribution to the economic integrity of the region.
The author is with the China Institute of International Studies