By Hiyoshi Hidematsu and Guan Zhaoyu Source: China Daily Published: 2018-10-26
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in Beijing on Thursday to start his three-day official visit to China, which is the first official trip to China by a Japanese prime minister in seven years. The last visit was by former Democratic Party Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko in December 2011.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to Japan in May was also an official visit, eight years after former Premier Wen Jiabao’s official visit to Japan. It is clear exchanges and communications between the two countries are greatly different from the frequent visits between the two sides in the 1980s.
This is due to well-known historical issues as well as problems of territorial disputes, which have existed in Japan-China relations since the resumption of diplomatic ties. Since entering the 21st century, Japan-China relations have been fluctuating, and are especially affected by events including former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi’s annual visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, and Shintaro Ishihara’s plan to raise money to buy the Diaoyu Islands — known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan — which arose tensions. Although all these problems still exist and Abe’s attitude toward history has not changed much, he recently demonstrated some scruples by not personally visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, showing he wants to improve relations between Japan and China. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and China, and both sides have the will to improve bilateral relations.
Japan-China relations are incredibly important for both sides. Today, Japan and China are supposed to encourage sincere and comprehensive cooperation, eliminate unnecessary mistrust, and build mutual trust. Only by doing so can relations between the two countries remain stable. Whether the question is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Belt and Road Initiative or aid to Africa, Japan and China are supposed to try to avoid vicious competition. Only through cooperation can we lay a new foundation for Japan-China relations. At the same time, promoting non-governmental exchanges and expanding channels for civil dialogue should be prioritized. Only in this way can relations between the two countries really improve.
Hiyoshi Hidematsu is an associate professor of international relations at the University of Japan. Guan Zhaoyu is an associate research fellow at Renmin University’s Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies.