For amiable China-Japan ties

Updated: 2011-12-23 08:35

By Kumiko Haba (China Daily)

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The aim of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's visit to China is to develop and strengthen economic collaboration, because when Japan develops the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with the United States, he needs to show that Japan's stance is not disproportionately inclined toward the US.

Apart from economic collaboration, the Japanese government has to discuss security matters, too, with its Chinese counterpart. When Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba visited China, he and the Japanese government wanted to develop common regional security arrangements with China, especially a crisis management mechanism. Constructing on this mechanism, the Japanese government has been trying to discuss the development of mutually strategic reciprocal relations.

But the postponement of Noda's visit to China last week, apparently because the original date coincided with the 74th anniversary of the Nanjing incident (called Nanjing Massacre by Chinese), which brought untold sufferings and numerous deaths to the Chinese people, has had a complex influence on Japanese people, one of which is akin to embarrassment. Noda will now visit China on Dec 25-26.

Strengthening economic collaboration and development will undoubtedly be the most important topic on Noda's agenda. But the restoration and strengthening of political relations, mutual reliance and security, especially the crisis management mechanism to settle maritime disputes, and hearing Chinese leaders' opinions will also be important. It won't be an exaggeration to say that Noda's visit to China will be an extremely important moment in Japanese contemporary political history, because of the instability of the dollar and euro and the US' decision to deploy 2,500 Marines in Australia.

The unexpected death of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's leader, Kim Jong-il, will also make the Korean Peninsula issue a vital subject during Noda's visit.

Relations between China and Japan have soured in recent times mainly because of the territorial dispute over the East China Sea islands, which are called Diaoyu Islands in China and Senkaku Islands in Japan, and the collision between a Chinese fishing trawler and Japan Coast Guard ships. Bilateral relations deteriorated swiftly after that and mutual feelings between Japanese and Chinese peoples changed for the worse. The two governments and peoples need to be cautious if they want to strengthen mutual collaboration.

The territorial dispute has the potential of affecting mutual feelings further if it continues to drag for long. So the two countries have to act prudently on territorial questions, so as not to hurt the feelings of their citizens.

In the long term, I believe China and Japan can develop a common regional security policy and non-traditional security policy and/or a common management policy to exploit energy resources jointly. This is not only our hope but also a necessity that the two sides have to fulfill.

Both countries use each other's rising defense spending to justify their own military build-up, saying the other poses a threat. This promotes mutual distrust and has to stop. We have to understand the pressure that people's opinions in both countries create on their governments.

I think the historical question is not relevant to the contemporary military build-up. A country has to take measures to defend its territory and sovereignty, but it should behave cautiously and show its strength without becoming a threat to its neighbors and other countries, and maintain peace and security in the region and the world beyond.

I don't think Japanese politicians, in general, believe that they can win elections by taking a hard stance against China. Contrary to that, because domestic, not diplomatic, issues such as social security, employment and the ability to tackle natural disasters win a party the votes.

It is true that the Japanese government and politics are unstable. But it is also true that the Japanese government considers stable relations with China important. But the US is afraid that strong ties between Japan and China might weaken its position. That's why a win-win policy is needed among the US, China, and Japan.

Four factors influence the establishment of mutual understanding in the long term between China and Japan. First is strengthening of economic collaboration. Second is strengthening of social and cultural relations (especially exchanges between young students, scholars and people in general of the two countries). Third is strengthening of maritime security and non-traditional security. And fourth is political collaboration.

Politics focuses on national interests in any country. That's why it is so difficult to establish mutual understanding in politics. But a relationship can be good and progressive even without a political alliance.

Japanese have learned much from China historically and respect Chinese culture, history and society. Mutual respect is a pillar of East Asian identity and promotes mutually warm ties. Therefore, amiable relations between students, scholars and the general public will be as important as the understanding between officials for a friendly and progressive East Asia.

The author is a professor of East Asian regional studies at Aoyama Gakuin University and research fellow at Harvard University.

(China Daily 12/23/2011 page9)