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A Step Forward in Ties
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Non-governmental exchanges and communication made tremendous contributions to Sino-Japanese relations before the two countries established diplomatic ties 35 years ago.

They are as important today. The Beijing-Tokyo Forum jointly organized by China Daily, Peking University and the Japanese think-tank Genron NPO fits nicely into this context.

Sino-Japanese relations have improved a great deal since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ice-breaking visit last year. That was followed by Premier Wen Jiabao's trip to Japan in April. The forum, which opened yesterday in Beijing, will undoubtedly add to the warming relations.

Mutual trust and understanding between the two countries' peoples are the basis for improving diplomatic ties and long-term friendship between neighbors. Non-governmental exchanges and communication will facilitate mutual understanding.

Relations between the two during the past decade left much to be desired, despite the effective economic coordination. Different perspectives on history and a lack of mutual understanding on a variety of other issues have become stumbling blocks for the smooth development of ties and have resulted in freezes in relations.

Visits between government leaders are important to the improvement of ties, but non-governmental exchanges are indispensable when it comes to ironing out misunderstandings between the two peoples.

That is where the mission of the Beijing-Tokyo Forum lies.

The forum gives experts and scholars from both countries a platform to speak their minds and put forward suggestions about the development of relations between the two sides. This will make it possible for both sides to learn about each other's opinions on particular issues.

That is where understanding begins.

Many problems, including disputes over maritime territories, differences on historical issues and worries in Japan about the so-called "China threat", remain to be settled.

It will take understanding and further exchanges and communications at both the government and non-government levels before a consensus can be reached. The annual Beijing-Tokyo forum sets a good example and will push things forward at the non-government level.

(China Daily August 29, 2007)

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