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China-Japan Ties Benefit Both
The 30th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between China and Japan comes amid a flurry of celebrations in Beijing, culminating in the grand commemorating gathering held in the Great Hall of People last Sunday.

Assessing these ties over the past 30 years, what upbeat expectations should we have?

In the early 1980s, China's senior leader Deng Xiaoping told then Japanese Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki that the Chinese Government attached great importance to developing friendship between the Chinese and Japanese forever, from generation to generation. At a time, exchanges between China and Japan were flourishing.

In 1984, the China hosted 3,000 Japanese young people in an effort to enhance understanding and communication between the younger generations of both countries.

Bilateral ties, however, were hurt in the later 1980s when the Japanese prime minister visited the Yasukuni Shrine and a history textbook glorifying Japanese wartime atrocities was published. These individual actions seriously offended the Chinese people.

In the 1990s the Japanese economic bubble burst and plunged it into a recession, while the Chinese economy continued to boom.

Japan is acutely aware of a rising China. Some Japanese are worried about the "potential threat" China may pose to Japan's security in future. Such a ridiculous notion has even made its way into some Japanese media.

In addition, as the Cold War drew to a close, Japan set out to promote itself not only as an economic powerhouse but also a political one.

In East Asia, therefore, China and Japan appear to have a competitive rather than complementary relationship. Facing a sluggish domestic economy, some Japanese viewed China's growth as a threat rather than an opportunity to Japan.

As a result, some Japanese began to needle China over insignificant issues. This year, for example, the controversy over the Shenyang asylum seekers escalated needlessly. Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's decision to ignore the opinion of neighbouring countries such as China and visit the Yasukuni Shrine twice also poisoned the atmosphere.

China sincerely hopes that it can maintain and improve its friendly relationship with Japan. It also hopes that Japan will view China's growth as an opportunity rather than a threat. China is willing to see Japan play a more constructive role in East Asia and the world.

As a responsible member in East Asia, Japan should acknowledge the tremendous pain its past militarism inflicted on Asian people.

Only by adhering to the principle of "viewing history as a mirror," can Japan gain the trust of its neighbours, and look forward to the future with them.

Otherwise, a country lacking the courage to confess its historic atrocities will also be devoid of cordial cooperation with others.

Since the end of the Second World War, Japan has adhered to the policy of peace and development, achieving mammoth success.

If it is serious about becoming a political powerhouse, Japan should continue with its pacifist policy and refrain from aggressively expanding military budget.

Japan is reluctant to pay close attention to its neighbours' concerns over any expansion in the second largest military budget in the world, and its tightened military alliance with the United States.

China and Japan are important countries in East Asia. Since the mid-19th century, Asia has been divided and ruled de facto by Western colonialism or hegemonism.

After the Meiji Reform, Japan became extremely powerful.

Choosing a policy of "seceding from Asia and teaming up with Europe," Japan inflicted disastrous harm on Asian people in the modern era. It was this policy that caused the prevailing distrust in Asia over the following years and decades.

Asia is still torn by distrust that has its roots bedded in history and has lacked any concrete measures for economic and political integration, especially in comparison with the rapid growth of European Union and NAFTA.

Japan has been China's largest trading partner for seven consecutive years, and China is the second largest trading partner of Japan.

Japan is one of the most important sources of investment in China. Since the end of 1970s, Japan has provided considerable official development aid (ODA) to fuel China's economic growth.

Friendship and cooperation can bring both sides visible benefits, and distrust and confrontation can only cause damage. As President Jiang Zemin said in the address to the grand gathering in the Great Hall of People, "There is no reason why we should not cooperate with each other as friends."

(China Daily September 29, 2002)

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