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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 16:03, October 09, 2006
Need to keep up effort in wake of Abe's "icebreaking" trip
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New Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited China on Sunday to reopen the talks between Chinese and Japanese leaders after an interval of five years, a major event of historic significance in the annals of Sino-Japanese relations.

China and Japan are close neighbors separated only by a strip of water, and it is abnormal that there has been practically no exchange of visits by their leaders for such a long period of time.

Abe's China trip has provided a turning point for the improvement of Sino-Japanese relations. The high-level contacts and communications, and an exchange of visits and meetings between their leaders will facilitate bilateral relations warming up.

What particularly conspicuous is that Abe arrived in Beijing at the same date on which the Six Plenary Session of the 16th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) opened. This reminds people of the fact that restarting mutual visits by Chinese and Japanese leaders constitutes one of China's practices in applying a "harmonious society" concept to international relations.

Hopefully, there will be a sustained growth in Sino-Japanese economic ties, which has recorded an expansion in recent years. Compared to a rapid, in-depth development in the China trade of the United States and Europe, Japan's economic exchanges with China, nevertheless, are obviously at a "stalled speed." This is of course owed partially to factors deriving from Japan's domestic economic structuring, but more to political interference. What Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has done on various historic issues has cast an enormous shadow on Sino-Japanese economic relations.

To date, the political and economic issues between China and Japan are so closely interrelated that they are inseparable from each other. Personages from the Japanese economic circle have repeatedly criticized the erroneous policies of Former Prime Minister Koizumi and his followers for the fear that "cooled political relations" might result in "coolness in economic relations" between the two nations. Upon learning Abe's visit to China, Fujio Mitarai, president of the Japan Business Federation who was then touring Britain, voiced his endorsement, saying that "civilian business activities (between Japan and China) are sure to warm up once the political environment (between the two nations) is relieved."

Prime Minister Abe himself is clear and sensible on this issue. In his policy speech on constructing an open economy full of vitality, he said "economic growth is possible, even when faced with a declining population. I will channel in new vitality to the Japanese economy through the power of innovation and openness." Evidence has proven that as an important member of the "emerging market", China is crucial to the Japanese economy and this truth is self-evident. So Abe once again underscored prior to his China trip that Japan's economy and Japan-China ties are so inseparable, and he also described politics and economics as the "two wheels" of Japan-China relations.

The crux of matter for growth of Sino-Japanese friendship lies in seeking and expanding the common interests of both nations. If Abe's visit to China is an "icebreaking" one, then there will be still a need to keep up the effort in its wake. From a strategic point of view, to truly develop Sino-Japanese friendship, it is imperative to actively seek and expand the common interests of both nations, thus providing an internal driving force for the healthy growth of Sino-Japanese ties. Bilateral trade represents the maximum common interests, apart from such issues as Asia-Pacific economic cooperation and the establishment of the East Asia free trade zone, the stable supply of global energy resources, and the environment protection, all of which demand the concerted efforts of China and Japan. This is what "surmounting difficulties to expand common interest" meant as underlined by the two sides repeatedly in their talks.

Abe's China trip is only the first step toward improving Sino-Japanese ties. In choosing Beijing as the destination of his first overseas trip after his assumption of premiership, he showed his resolve and courage to improve Japan-China ties. From this sense, Abe indeed made an "icebreaking" trip to do away with the stalemate in the Asia diplomacy of his country. As is known to all, some figures in the Japanese leading group have kept challenging China's core state interests through their repeated visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, where Japanese War dead, including 14 convicted Class A war criminals in World War II, are honored, to hurt time and again the feelings of the Chinese people. Consequently, Sino-Japanese ties have been impaired and degraded over recent years. So more time is still needed to truly retrieve Sino-Japanese relations, and more of Abe's concrete deeds are required to resolve knotty problems one after another existent in the present relations between China and Japan.

By People's Daily Online

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