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People Exchanges Key to Sino-Japanese Ties
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By Feng Zhaokui

Now that China-Japan relations have warmed up somewhat, compared with the situation during former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi's tenure, what is the best way to get along with our neighbor? What should we do to forge a Sino-Japanese relationship that benefits both strategically?

While safeguarding national interests as the point of departure, China's foreign policy should take into full consideration other nations' interests, their strategic bottom line in particular.

The progress of Sino-Japanese ties is a process of interaction. China's attitude toward Japan is largely dictated by Japan's attitude towards China, and vice versa.

It should be noted that, in the statement issued at the end of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's China visit last October, the word "strategic" was used for the first time to describe China-Japan relations.

Promoting the relationship between China and Japan goes beyond the scope of mere bilateral affairs with its impact on the region and the world. So the two countries are duty-bound to assure a better bilateral relationship. In the course of bringing about the East Asian commonwealth, neither China nor Japan should vie for so-called leadership. It should be borne in mind that the world's most successful economic commonwealth the European Union is not unilaterally led by any one country.

Chinese diplomacy is orientated toward promoting economic globalization with the goal of shared prosperity among all nations.

Consequently, we should continue to advance China-Japan economic ties, a vitally important link in economic globalization.

More cooperative projects, especially in the fields of industry and information technology, are needed. This facilitates bringing the complementary nature of the Chinese and Japanese economies into full play.

The evaluation of economic cooperative projects should be based on national interests and economic feasibility while political and emotional factors should not be allowed to play a role.

At the same time, exchanges between different sectors and at various levels should be promoted, particularly so-called "non-governmental diplomacy".

The most influential factor in international relations boils down to people. So, cultural and academic exchanges, a kind of exchange between people's hearts and feelings, ought to be largely promoted. These interflows serve to bring countries and peoples closer to each other.

With regard to the seafloor resources in the East China Sea, China and Japan should shelve their disputes and engage in joint exploration.

If the two countries get into conflicts over the resources in the region, it is like two children scrambling for the cup of milk on the table. The result will be nothing but spilt milk.

In addition, the two parties should join hands in fighting non-traditional threats to their security. Terrorism and environmental damage are more devastating, dangerous and proliferating more rapidly than traditional security threats. Cooperation in these fields will constitute a strong strategic foundation for China-Japan relations in the new century.

Japan's advanced technology and managerial expertise in energy saving and environmental protection are of great importance to China, which is shifting to green development from the traditional growth model orientated exclusively to GDP.

With regard to historical questions, in particular Japanese leaders' paying homage at the Yasukuni Shrine, we should, on the one hand, look squarely at history and, on the other, actively promote China-Japan relations.

Questions left by history can be resolved in the course of the development of bilateral ties and exchanges between the two peoples. We cannot afford to let historical questions delay our addressing more urgent and imperative matters.

The Chinese government has long been opposed to Japanese leaders' paying their respects at the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan's war dead including 14 Class A war criminals. However, the Chinese government has also been stressing that the Japanese people should be differentiated from a handful of militarists responsible for launching aggressive wars. This is aimed at preventing unabated hatred between the Chinese and Japanese nations.

However, former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi repeatedly paid visits to the war shrine, in defiance of opposition from Japan's neighbors, including China and the Republic of Korea, which fell victim to Japan's aggressive wars.

Koizumi's unreasonable conduct helped trigger emotional conflicts between China and Japan. The Yasukuni Shrine made the historical issue a political and diplomatic one. The thorny question got increasingly more difficult to deal with and became a detonator that could set off national feelings any time.

More and more Japanese, however, are showing their disapproval of Japanese leaders' paying homage at the war shrine, out of consideration of separation of religion from politics and safeguarding Japan's own diplomatic interests.

Japanese politicians also want to find a solution to the Yasukuni problem. This finds expression in the suggestion that the war dead be worshiped separately.

China and Japan are neighbors. Neighbors hope to live in harmony, rather than constantly quarrel. This is the simple wish of the Chinese and Japanese public. Improvement of bilateral ties represents the mainstream of public opinion in China and this is fully reflected in the Chinese government's current Japan policy.

The author is a researcher with the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

(China Daily January 25, 2007)

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