So it looks as if Vice Premier Wu Yi's abrupt cancellation of a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and her subsequent departure have rather bewildered her hosts.
In Japan, it seems, the matter is being talked about and called a breach of etiquette.
Our neighbor feels hurt, apparently.
Frankly, we are rather surprised at their lack of awareness.
The Foreign Ministry has told inquisitive reporters we are indignant and that we feel the Japanese prime minister's personal remarks on his past and future visits to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine are intolerable.
Sending an official of Ms. Wu's stature to Japan, a country with whom we have had problem after problem over the years, is a significant signal that our government is serious about repairing strained ties.
During her visit, Vice Primer Wu impressed her hosts with a combination of diplomacy and business pragmatism. Her proposals for upgrading bilateral trade were a worthwhile move to maintain one of the few truly mutually beneficial ties between the two countries.
She was sent as an envoy of goodwill, a role she played perfectly well.
She left being considered the opposite.
The unhappy ending is something to lament, and not only by the Japanese.
Both sides said they want better ties.
In which case, surely it is in the interests of neither side to cause offence to the other.
It seems the Japanese have set out deliberately to do just that, despite previous overtures to the tune of building bridges.
As a politician elected to take care of a state of hundreds of millions, Koizumi knows what Yasukuni means to the Chinese mind.
Even had he not recognized this fact by himself, the Chinese side has told him and his colleagues clearly and loudly enough how it hurts and remains a major threat to relations.
We cannot but wonder what was on his mind when he again reiterated a resolve to go on with his Yasukuni visits and said neighboring countries who oppose such visits were interfering with his country's "internal affairs."
We do not care how often Prime Minister Koizumi chooses to eat his words -- we have witnessed him doing it often enough.
By making incorrect remarks during Wu's stay in Japan, Koizumi showed he was either not in the mood for constructive dialogue, or had an unrealistic anticipation that his guest would swallow the embarrassment from his remarks.
It must have been an extremely difficult decision to call Vice Premier Wu back when all seemed ready for a meeting that would otherwise have been the climax of her trip.
That such an order was given indicated Beijing is extremely unsatisfied with the situation.
If they are still unaware of how important this issue is to the Chinese, the Japanese prime minister and his peers must be told in clear terms that there is a limit to our patience on matters of principle, among which is Yasukuni.
There should be no more ambiguity on this, strategic or not.
The recent trouble between China and Japan is testament to the significance of reciprocity in state-to-state relations.
"One hand alone cannot clap," goes a Chinese saying.
No matter how sincere we are about good neighborly ties, they will never materialize until our goodwill is responded to with equal sincerity.
(China Daily May 26, 2005)