By Chen Haosu
We give great attention to the current Beijing-Tokyo Forum, which, like the first one staged last year in Beijing, is of trail-blazing significance. The forum, which is to alternate between the two countries over 10 years' time, watches over the progress of Sino-Japanese ties and helps the two countries go forward along the road of friendship and co-operation.
We are optimistic about future China-Japan relations and confident that inter-country ties will again become smooth over eight or 10 years. By then, both the Chinese and Japanese, young people in particular, will be grateful for the painstaking efforts we are now making for the improvement of ties.
A Chinese saying goes: Good things never come easy. Grand undertakings such as friendship and co-operation between the Chinese and Japanese peoples are bound to meet difficulties and suffer setbacks. This is understood by all.
Upon entering the new century, China-Japan relations ran into political snags that have given rise to an abnormal situation marked by a freezing political climate and warm economic weather. Or, exchanges at the top are virtually frozen but those between non-governmental personnel and organizations are going well.
The root cause for all this has yet to be eliminated, which understandably worries those concerned for the future of Sino-Japanese friendship. Non-governmental personnel from both sides have thus been making great efforts to promote communication between the two sides.
In his meeting with the heads of seven visiting Japan-China friendship organizations on March 31, President Hu Jintao told the Japanese guests that the Chinese Government has always attached great importance to China-Japan relations and leaves no stone unturned to assure that bilateral relations are improved, and that he regards Sino-Japanese ties as one of the most important bilateral relations in the world.
President Hu emphasized that problems in China-Japan relations should be properly handled by the two parties, while being responsible for history, the people and the future as the point of departure.
He also suggested that relations follow the guidelines of peaceful co-existence, mutual benefit and co-operation, enduring friendship and development hand in hand.
All this is actually the solemn statement of commitment to the development of China-Japan ties on behalf of the Chinese Government and Chinese people.
I have heard Chinese leaders state time and again that the principles laid down in the China-Japan Joint Statement, China-Japan Treaty of Peace and Friendship and China-Japan Joint Declaration must be stuck to; that the problems between the two countries be properly handled through negotiations, "using history as a mirror and aiming at the future;" and that Sino-Japanese friendship, which is of overriding importance, be maintained.
In view that Japan is our close neighbor separated from China by just "a strip of water," we should push for co-operation and exchanges in a wide range of fields, applying the principle of "having good intentions towards one's neighbor and being a good partner to him."
China's leaders encourage its non-governmental organizations and personnel to have exchanges with the Japanese side in various forms in order to promote goodwill feelings between the two peoples.
In June, for example, the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and China-Japan Friendship Association organized a grand event in Huludao, Liaoning Province, in commemoration of the repatriation of 1 million Japanese from China to Japan. The event was meant to show that the Chinese side, barely one year after the war ended in 1945, set about forging post-war ties with Japan and started to settle complex issues left by the war, such as the question of 1 million Japanese staying in China, so that they would not turn into hidden risks in the future.
The Chinese people, while striving to make their own country prosperous, hope to make significant contributions to world peace and development. President Hu Jintao put forward the initiative to bring about a world of harmony in his speech delivered at the ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the United Nations last September.
At the mention of the harmonious world, the Chinese first associate the notion with a harmonious Asia and Sino-Japanese ties. All Chinese, leaders and ordinary citizens alike, look at the world with good wishes. We believe that the wisdom of the millennia-old Asian civilizations, with the notion of "harmony" as an example, will enlighten the minds of the Chinese, Japanese and other Asian peoples. Drawing upon this pool of wisdom, we will be able to resolve the problems of our own and between each other.
Last year, I suggested at a meeting in Beijing that "respect" constitutes the precondition to resolving all kinds of problems between China and Japan. This means respecting others as well as oneself, respecting moral principles as well as interests, respecting the future as well as history.
These ideas, in my opinion, are identical with those of President Hu's that we should be highly responsible for history, the people and the future.
I would like to emphasize here that we are more than willing to strengthen our non-governmental co-operation with the Japanese side in order to help improve official ties. This embodies our long-standing principle of "promoting official ties by non-governmental maneuvers."
This principle can be further broken down into "promoting mutual trust via cultural undertakings," "bringing about a win-win situation through economic activities" and "promoting common progress via political co-operation."
The current conflicts in the Middle East show the grave consequences that could be brought by mutual distrust and hatred. China and Japan also had similar painful experiences in the past. So, bringing about the two countries' future of peace and friendship rests on mutual trust, to begin with.
Economic co-operation will make China and Japan both winners. Japan wrought economic wonders in the latter half of the 20th century whereas China is writing a new chapter of impressive economic progress in the new century. The two countries' co-operation in this regard will not only power their own development but also help boost the economic progress of Asia and the world as a whole.
Politically, China and Japan ought to march towards each other and get closer to one another, instead of going in opposite directions and getting wider and wider apart.
The ongoing Sightseeing Year of China-Japan Friendship is a symbol in this respect. Let more Chinese visit Japan and let more Japanese visit China. In this way, they will get to know one another's history, culture and real life better. They will thus be able to find out their common grounds through acknowledging the differences.
Overall, mutual trust, mutual benefit and hand-in-hand progress are the keynote of China-Japan relations. They are also indicators for the fulfillment of the ultimate goals of this forum.
The author is the president of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries.
(China Daily August 9, 2006)