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Launching a new era in China-Japan relations
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By Tao Wenzhao

Chinese President Hu Jintao and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda signed the China-Japan Joint Statement on Advancing the Strategic Relationship of Mutual Benefit last Wednesday during Hu's state visit to Japan. This is the fourth political document the two countries have inked after the China-Japan Joint Communique of 1972, the China-Japan Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1978 and the China-Japan Joint Declaration of 1998.

This latest document clearly indicates the China-Japan relations have entered a new phase of development. The guiding principles contained in it have pointed out the direction for the bilateral ties to proceed in the new era and expanded the horizon for cooperation. I find three aspects in the document particularly significant.

It devotes quite some space to elaborating on the issue of enhancing strategic mutual confidence between the two countries. Some of the terms in it are clearer than before, while some others are new. It states in affirmative and unmistakable terms the two countries support each other's peaceful development.

Premier Wen Jiabao said clearly in his address to the Japanese parliament during his visit to Japan in April last year that China supports Japan's peaceful development. This time the Chinese side puts in the joint document its endorsement of Japan's contribution to world peace and stability by following the track of peace and playing the role of a peaceful nation in six decades since the end of World War II.

Meanwhile, following the path of peaceful development is also one of China's strategic decisions. Chinese leaders have reiterated this principle on many occasions at home and abroad in recent years.

This is a solemn pledge China has made to the world and clearly stated it again in the China-Japan joint document this time. The Japanese side has given its acknowledgement of China's remarkable development since the start of the economic reform and opening-up and the enormous opportunities it has presented to the rest of the world. It also expressed support for China's wish to build a world of lasting peace and common prosperity.

The joint document has also confirmed with no ambiguity that the two countries are partners in cooperation and pose no threat to each other. Since the mid-1990s, the world has heard the "China threat theory" every now and then and this writer believes such accusations against China will recur in one form or another as long as China continues to develop.

Sometimes the "China threat theory" stems from suspicions about China's strategic intent and sometimes it reflects a kind of psychological imbalance caused by China's development, but at other times it is simply made up by people who deliberately spread such notions in order to hamper China's development.

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