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Frozen China-Japan Relations Hold Hopes
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Most news about the China-Japan relations in 2005 is negative, which led people to truly believe in a crisis. However, the China-Japan relations have their intrinsic exuberant vitality, holding hopes beneath the hard ice and calling for new breakthroughs.

There is no denying the existence of some sticking points, which does not, however, mean complete gloominess for the future.

It is already known to all that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's repeated visits to the Yasukuni Shrine are the crux for the development of the China-Japan relations. A few years ago, although bilateral visit exchanges could not be realized due to this, a "side door" was still left open for Chinese and Japanese leaders to meet on the sidelines of multilateral activities. Even this door has been shut this year.

So is it true that no vitality is left in the body because of the existence of some persistent ailment?

The answer is negative and the China-Japan relations will continue to develop forward. The rationale is rather obvious the China-Japan relations cannot develop in isolation from the overall international situation.

In the process of multipolarization it goes without saying that China and Japan will both benefit if cooperate and both suffer if fight each other. The deterioration of the China-Japan relations has already made impact on the development of East Asian cooperation. It was no accident that many countries expressed repeatedly their concerns for the China-Japan relations at the East Asia Summit. PM Koizumi was also isolated at the summit therefore and had to "borrow pen" from Premier Wen to create some atmosphere.

It should be noted that there is no lack of insightful people and advocacy within the Japanese leadership for developing the China-Japan friendship. They keep criticizing Koizumi's acts for placing personal beliefs above national interests. What is particularly conspicuous is that among those who publicly rebuke cabinet members fanfaring "China threat theory", many are key figures in the Liberal Democratic Party, including some of Koizumi's close friends who help him rise to power.
The Japanese political field does show signs of turning conservative with quite a few right-wingers and hawkish figures among Koizumi's possible successors.

Nevertheless, dealing with right-wingers in foreign relations is not the first time for China. Mao Zedong said when opening up the China-US relations that he liked dealing with right-wingers. The China-Japan is no surprise either. The China-Japan peace and friendship treaty took seven years or so to negotiate and was signed eventually with Fukuda Takeo who was regarded hawkish at the time. Today the treaty has developed into one of the three basic political documents for the China-Japan relations.

The sense of closeness is declining. However, the foundation of economic complementarity has not changed.

That sentiment of the two peoples has changed is undeniable. According to the latest survey conducted by the Japanese Cabinet Office on December 24, 32 percent Japanese felt closeness with China, the lowest since 1978 when the survey was first conducted and over half less than last year's 71.2 percent.

In the meantime, some have modified the phrase summarizing the China-Japan relations in recent years from "politically chilly and economically hot" into "politically chilly and economically warm".

Declining closeness and cooling of economic exchange are, of course, not a good thing, and are particularly worrying in a time when the political relationship experiences setbacks. However, the development of anything is not of one direction and straightforward, but rather complex and tortuous. Contrary to the decline of closeness was the remarkable development last year of exchange between personnel in the two countries. Chinese visitors to Japan alone reached 650,000. Contrary to the sign toward "chilly politics and cool economics" was over US$200 billion to be realized by the China-Japan trade in 2005, which would be a record high. The China-Japan trade has shown a trend of surpassing that between Japan and the United States.

What this contradiction demonstrates is, in a word, economic cooperation. On the one hand China's economic growth has become an external force helping the Japanese economy out of the ten-year hesitation. On the other hand, as Commerce Minister Bo Xilai said the US$200-billion trade volume has created 9.2 million jobs for China. These are the foundation for the development of the China-Japan relations and must be cherished with great care.

The China-Japan relations see setbacks that should not have appeared due to various reasons. However, China's guideline to develop friendship with Japan has not changed. The trend of multipolarization of international situation, the development of East Asian cooperation and the need of economic complementarity are the internal dynamics for the development of the China-Japan relations. Now is the time for making big decisions, breaking through the difficult situation in the China-Japan relations with masterstrokes.

The article written by Fan Yongming, director of the Japan Research Center of Fudan University, and carried on the front page of People's Daily Overseas Edition on Dec. 29 is translated by People's Daily Online

(People's Daily December 31, 2005)


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