China and Japan, two Asian neighbours with a pivotal role in the region, should work hard to establish long-term, friendly bilateral relations.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of Sino-Japanese diplomatic relations. Since diplomatic normalization was realized in 1972, significant progress has been achieved with regards to bilateral ties.
The signature of the three landmark documents - Sino-Japanese Joint Statement, Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Friendship, and Sino-Japanese Joint Declaration - has laid a foundation for bilateral political and security relations.
On economic and trade ties, the two neighbours have also taken a large step forward during the past decades.
In 2001, the total trade value between the two sides amounted to US$89.2 billion, nearly nine times as much as the meager volume of US$1.4 billion in 1972.
Japan has remained China's largest trading partner for nearly 10 consecutive years, and China has become Japan's second largest trading partner.
Bilateral trade volume is expected to reach US$100 billion this year.
Japan has long been China's major investment country. By the end of July, 2000, China had attracted a total of US$37 billion of contracted investment from Japan, and US$26.6 billion actual investment.
A huge sum of Japanese official development aid (ODA) to China has also provided a stimulus to the strengthening of bilateral economic, trade, and political relations.
The establishment and development of Sino-Japanese ties in various realms stem from the efforts of the governments and peoples of the two countries.
However, history shows that the development of Sino-Japanese relations have also been affected by international factors.
Despite a honeymoon China-Japan ties experienced from the early 1970s to early 1980s, bilateral ties now face new readjustment with the changing international situation.
The end of the Cold War marked the collapse of the bi-polarized world pattern. The United States seeks to be the world sole superpower, while the rest of the world strive for a multipolar world order.
China has consistently held that it is unreasonable or impractical for one superpower to dominate the world. And the international community should make joint efforts to forge a just and reasonable new international order.
Since the middle-term of the 1990s, Japan has changed its US-Japan-European Union (EU) tripolar theory to "hegemonic stability."
In so doing, it attempts to scramble for a favourable international status by acting as a loyal supporter of US hegemonism.
China has been seriously concerned about the increasing enhancement of Japan-US military alliance in East Asia. Though Japan has denied that the alliance embodies any element to contain China, the military alliance seems to poise an involvement into the Taiwan question.
Such a position has become a major hurdle for enhancing mutual trust between China and Japan.
Japan's economic recession and China's economic boom in the 1990s has shaken to some extent the psychological balance between the two sides.
China's economic strength, especially its per capita gross domestic product (GDP) falls far behind that of Japan, but three decades of development has narrowed China's gap with Japan.
Some in Japan are worried about China's rapid development and hold a restless attitude towards the progress of China. That attitude results in the "China threat" theory in Japan.
At the same time, some Japanese right wingers' attitude towards its history of aggression also seriously hurts the sentiment of the Chinese people.
A series of moves taken by the Japanese Government, such as its approval of history textbooks codified by rightist activists, the homage-paying by high-ranking officials, including Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, to the Yasukuni Shrine which honours war criminals, and its intervention into the Taiwan question, China's internal affair, will severely compromise hard-won mutual trust between the two countries.
China has also been on high alert against Japan's military enhancement with the United States under the excuse of "China threat."
Under these circumstances, China and Japan should make joint efforts to prevent unfavourable factors from disturbing the smooth advancement of bilateral relations.
On Taiwan and history issues, which have always been the most sensitive in Sino-Japanese relations, the two countries should work together to establish concrete rules and mechanisms to settle their disputes.
The Japanese Government should not follow the United States to heel on the Taiwan question.
Facts prove that the US factor has always had more influence on China's relations with Japan than its relations with other countries.
Japan should adjust its US policy, face up to the mainstream of co-operation in East Asia, and make its contribution to promote co-operation.
That policy will be the best choice to change Japan's image in Asia and resume its economic vitality. It also serves as a necessary precondition for a mature Sino-Japanese relationship.
The author is a researcher with the Institute of Japanese Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.