November 22, 2002

Giving Peace a Chance

History has shown that a stable Sino-Japanese relation is beneficial to both countries, senior Chinese historians say.

Peace "not only serves the interests of the two nations but also contributes to their common world interest concerning regional security and economic development,'' said Tang Zhongnan, a professor at the Institute of World History Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), a think tank for Chinese leaders.

Peace and amity have been the defining points in the history of contacts that date back more than 2,000 years, though bilateral ties experienced a rocky spell in the last century, Tang said in an interview prior to the 70th anniversary of the ``September 18 Incident.''

History proves that a country could not develop without a peaceful environment, he said.

"Japan gained some profits at first in its modern-time aggression against China, which was marked by the September 18 Incident,'' he said. "But the growing aggressive ambitions of the Japanese militarists ultimately led to the blow-up of Japan's national economy at the war's end.

"The war has given nothing good to Japan and harmed its own people while bringing disasters to the people of other Asian countries.

"The fast post-war progress Japan made is clear proof that Japan thrived through peaceful development instead of brutal war.''

China and Japan realized the normalization of bilateral relations in 1972 by signing the China-Japan Joint Statement.

The document, together with the China-Japan Treaty of Peace and Friendship issued in 1978 and the China-Japan Joint Declaration signed in 1998, constitute the political and legal basis governing bilateral relations.

The past three decades are regarded as the glory days of bilateral ties, said Jin Xide, a professor at the Institute of Japanese Studies with the CASS.

Economic interdependence has served as one of the most important foundations for bilateral relations. With a bilateral trade volume exceeding US$83 billion last year, Japan is one of China's most important trading partners. It is expected to outrun US$90 billion this year, Jin said.

People-to-people exchanges has also played a positive role in enhancing bilateral ties. There are now nearly 200 pairs of twin cities between China and Japan, and 3 million people from both nations are involved in the people-to-people exchanges each year, Jin said.

But bilateral relations were strained just this year by Japan's official approval of a history textbook that critics say whitewashed Japanese atrocities during World War II.

Other flashpoints, such as Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to a controversial Tokyo war shrine, former Taiwan leader Lee Teng-hui's visit to Japan and a trade row, have added to the tensions.

But many agree that the Japanese people are not to blame for the aggression. Both the people and the ordinary soldiers were themselves victims of the war, Tang said.

He said the militarists who waged and commanded the war should be held responsible for it.

The Japanese should step out of the historical shadows and show their respect for history, Tang said.

"Both nations should try to put themselves into the other's shoe and enhance mutual understanding and communication,'' he said.

(Chinadaily.com.cn 09/18/2001)

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