The year 2002 marks the 30th anniversary of the normalization in 1972 of Sino-Japanese relations, which have been developing in a profound way since that time. However, several new characteristics that entered the picture at the beginning of the 21st century might influence the future development of relations between the two countries.
Up until now, the story in the long ancient history of Sino-Japanese relations was of “China stronger than Japan” while the story in the 100-year-long period modern history presented a different picture of “Japan stronger than China.” After World War II, China and Japan experienced over 20 years of isolation because of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. The normalization of Sino-Japanese relations in 1972 opened the door for future development. The reform and opeing-up policy adopted by China since 1978 paved the way for changing the previous status-quo of “strong Japan versus weak China.” Since the 1990s, China has been growing towards an economic power while Japan has been seeking to become a political power. Therefore, for the first time in history, Sino-Japanese relations are stepping into a new period of “strong China and strong Japan.”
On the one hand, Japan is still much more powerful than China economically. In terms of US dollars, the GDP of Japan is 4 times that of China and its per capita GDP is 40 times that of China. On the other hand, China had already shortened the gap with Japan in the past decade in terms of national power, and China is predicted to catch up with Japan in economic scale and to shorten the gap with Japan in economic quality in next 15 to 20 years.
What’s more, China has established its own unique political position for years in the fields of international politics and foreign affairs. In the field of economy and technology, China is also leaping forward to catch up with the world. This trend has a great impact on the strategic philosophy, foreign policy and bilateral relations of the two countries.
In politics, the Sino-Japanese Joint Statement issued on September 29,1972, along with the Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Friendship signed on August 12, 1978 established the principle rules for politics and security, the most important issues between the two countries. The Sino-Japanese Joint Declaration issued on November 26, 1998, set additional guidelines for new Sino-Japanese relations after the Cold War. Under the guidance of the three basic documents, Sino-Japanese political relations have developed smoothly with frequent high-level exchanges and government cooperation.
In regard to security, the three fundamental documents set a tone of friendship and no war for the two countries. Reviewing the modern and current history of Sino-Japanese relations, it is clear that the past 30 years were the best time since the middle of 19th century. Security dialogue and communication has began recently, a high level exchange is going on, an exchange of military officials as well as navy ships is expected to start soon.
In the economic and trade field, the bilateral trade volume in 1972 was only US$1.038 billion while it reached US$89.2 billion in 2001 (according to Japan’s statistics). For the past ten years Japan has been the biggest trading partner of China while China remains as the second biggest to Japan. Japan is one of the major nations from which China attracts investment and imports technology. By the end of July 2000, the contracted value of the Japanese investment in China was US$37.026 billion while the actual amount used was US$26.58 billion. So Japan has become the second biggest investor to China next only to the United States. The Japanese government has provided development aid to China since 1980. By 2000, the government loans to China totaled 2650.707 billion yen, donations reached 123.325 billion yen and technology cooperation was worth 124.414 billion yen.
In the non-governmental field, personal exchanges have developed rapidly from only thousands in 1970s to millions per year now. In 2001, a total of 2.38 million Japanese visited China. So far, there are 200 pairs of sister cities between China and Japan.
Far back in ancient history, Chinese formed a self-consciousness in which China was superior to all other nations in the world. However, modern history enabled Japan to establish a superior sense of “joining Europe and breaking away from East Asia.” The history of Sino-Japanese relations proved that the different national psychological sentiments formed in different historical periods, as well as the historical hatred and emotional barrier is deeply rooted, which takes time to resolve. At the turn of the 21st century, China and Japan have been experiencing sharper frictions in national feeling. This actually is a necessary phase and turning point with China and Japan tending to be more equal psychologically.
Against the background of changes between China and Japan in terms of national power, interests as well as mentality, China and Japan began to reexamine their policy towards one another. On November 1998, the two nations reached consensus in “establishment of a partnership of friendship and cooperation for peace and development.” Since 1999, Sino-Japanese relations have developed fruitfully in the fields of high ranking official exchange, economic trade relations, security dialogue, regional cooperation, etc. The process of building up the partnership is a process for the two countries to adjust their policies, mentality and bilateral relations.
(Dr. Jin Xide, researcher in the Institute of Japanese Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, china.org.cn, edited and translated by Zheng Guihong, May 27, 2002)