By Feng Zhaokui
As two influential powers in East Asia, China and Japan should do whatever they can to benefit each other.
Generally, Sino-Japanese relations can be divided into three phases.
The first stage was characterized by friendly exchanges, lasting for more than 2,000 years from ancient times until the late 19th century.
The second stage, a span of about 50 years, was from 1894 to 1945. This period could be generalized as one of Japanese aggression towards China.
The third phase started in 1972, when diplomatic relations were normalized. During this period the two countries enjoyed a friendly relationship.
Reviewing bilateral relations between the two neighbors from 1894 or earlier to the present day, we can see there were good times and bad times.
Starting from the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95 up to 1945, Japan launched a prolonged war of aggression against China.
In 1945 the Chinese people won a great victory in their arduous War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression.
Up until today, some Japanese politicians only admit that Japan lost to the United States in World War II but refuse to admit the victory of the Chinese people. This is an important part of the wrong conception of history held by some in Japan.
It would be extremely dangerous if the country attempts to apply such a false concept to its future national strategy.
During a 30-year period, starting from 1972, the year when the two nations witnessed normalization of bilateral relations, to 2002, China and Japan benefited from their ties.
Resumption of diplomatic ties provided a rare opportunity for normalization of state-to-state ties, which was undoubtedly beneficial to both sides.
From 2002, the second year of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's term of office, till now, the relationship between the two neighbors has begun to deviate from the hard-won mutually beneficial path.
This is a demonstration of the "politically cold and economically warm ties" that many international relations scholars use to illustrate current Sino-Japanese relations.
With the prolonged chill in bilateral political relations, there is a risk economic and energy partnerships could suffer.
From the economic perspective, China and Japan have become increasingly dependent on each other.
That is the result of globalization and the highly complementary nature of the economies of the two countries.
Since the resumption of bilateral diplomatic ties, it has been obvious that promoting economic co-operation helps both nations.
From the military perspective, the world has undergone and is undergoing enormous technological revolutions. A sea is no longer a large enough barrier to stop a country from taking vengeance on another if it suffers wanton bullying.
At present, neither China nor Japan is a weak nation. If they have a head-on collision, the consequences would be disastrous.
Possibly, Japan is more sophisticated than China in terms of naval equipment and other military technologies. However, even a small-scale military engagement at sea could re-ignite tensions that could trigger a situation that gets out of control.
From the energy perspective, some oil exporters are selling crude oil to China, Japan and other Asian nations at a higher price than they sell to other regions.
This is a result of excessive competition between the two neighbors and among other oil importing countries in Asia.
Currently, the largest flashpoint between China and Japan lies in disputes over oil and gas exploration in the East China Sea.
Japanese rightists have long made a fuss over China's completely normal oil and gas exploration within its undisputed waters. To stop China's normal drilling activities, Japan has even claimed it would use force to safeguard its "maritime rights and interests."
If Japan continues to turn a blind eye to the general situation and attempts to spark even the smallest strife, the result will be like two babies trying to scramble for a cup of milk on a table and in the process knocking off all of the other objects on it.
Two babies can be forgiven for upsetting a cup of milk.
But Japan would be making an unforgivable mistake if it declines China's proposals to seek a peaceful solution to the controversy and takes reckless action on this matter.
The author is a researcher at the Institute of Japanese Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
(China Daily November 11, 2005)