The Chinese and Japanese people should remember how bilateral relations were steered onto the right track when they celebrate the 30th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties, said the late Premier Zhou Enlai's interpreter.
"It is little known by young people but it is well worth being remembered forever," said Wang Xiaoxian, now the 72-year-old vice-president of the China-Japan Friendship Association.
Wang served as an interpreter for Zhou when the then premier held talks with then Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka in September 1972, when bilateral relations were normalized.
"Civilian exchanges were the path-breakers for the normalization of Sino-Japanese ties," Wang said.
"People in both countries should respect the history of how the friendship was restored," she said.
She quoted Tanaka as saying that bilateral friendship is groundless without friendly exchanges between the two peoples.
Wang recalled that three members of the Japanese Diet -- Hoashi Kei, Miyakoshi Kishuke and Kora Tomi -- visited China via Moscow in 1952 to seek trade opportunities, lifting the barrier between the two countries.
The three parliamentarians struck the first trade agreement with the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, worth 30 million pounds (around US$83 million at the then rate of exchange).
"That amount is insignificant compared with today's bilateral trade status, but everything is hard in the beginning," the former interpreter said.
Last year's bilateral trade between the two countries was US$87.85 billion.
The United States had embargoed the newborn People's Republic of China and Japan was also in a face-off situation with China in 1952.
"The three Japanese Diet members thought it was against historical trends not to acknowledge the New China and they worked to open up channels of exchange," Wang said.
Three Japanese peace groups, including the Japanese Red Cross, visited China and nearly 30,000 Japanese people who had been kept in China since the war were sent back to Japan in 1953.
The first Chinese Red Cross delegation visited Japan in 1954 and Wang was a member of that group.
"The only objective of the delegation was to show the Japanese people that we were friendly towards them," Wang said. The delegation was warmly received, she added.
She said many Japanese took up the cause of conducting friendly exchanges with their Chinese friends.
"They did all this for no pay and some of them even risked their lives," Wang said.
"It was the two-decade-long friendly exchanges between the peoples that finally led to the normalization of diplomatic ties," she concluded.
(China Daily September 30, 2002)