How China-Japan ties to set sail again?

13:46, December 15, 2010      

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Sino-Japanese relations have been seriously affected due to Japan's illegal detention of a Chinese fishing boat and crew near China's Diaoyu islands in 2010 and in early December, Japan and the United States held their unprecedented, biggest joint military exercise.

Two members from Okinawa's Ishigaki City Council forced boarded the Diaoyu Islands south affiliated to the islands. Moreover, a new "National Defence Program Outline" final bill has been introduced with an aim to take the "southwest islands" as its focus.

All these events run counter to Sino-Japanese strategic and mutually beneficial ties and bring grave internal injuries to the Sino-Japanese relations. How to stem bilateral ties from continued declining, so that the agrounded Sino-Japanese strategic reciprocal relations are able to sail again -- this is an important issue facing the two Asian neighbors.

At a time when China and Japan encounter tough, difficult issues in their bilateral ties, if the two sides come out in the open on these issues and mull them from the philosophical height, they will feel much enlightened and become increasingly confident about the future.

During his recent meeting with members of the 21st Century Committee for China-Japan Friendship, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said he had never expected the Chinese government would take so tough measures on the collision issue of Japan's patrol vessels with a Chinese fishing vessel as he thought I had established the personal relationship of trust with Chinese leaders.

These words of Prime Minister Kan's immediately reminded me of an uproar caused by former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone's pilgrimage to the Yasukuni Shrine in 1985. Nakasone then also thought he had built sound personal ties with Chinese leaders then, but his acted otherwise, and the outcome of his moves also damaged bilateral ties.

With regard of Sino-Japanese ties, the fortune or misfortune, good luck or ill luck, is owed much to the decision-making moment sometimes. So, those in power should cherish the hard-obtained Sino-Japanese friendly relations. Otherwise, his "goodwill assets" accumulated over the years is sure to overdraw and he himself will be repentant.

The dispute between China and Japan over the Daioyu Islands' territorial sovereignty is an objective reality, and the great wisdom, not reckless action, is required to handle it properly and, otherwise, those in power would land themselves in a very awkward position.

Sino-Japanese strategic reciprocity is definitely meant to seek the "win-win" outcome and mutual benefits from an overall and long-term perspective. The Diaoyu Islands dispute is likely to negatively affect the overall situation of Sino-Japanese relations as a whole. Therefore, the two sides should be cautious, in part to the overall situation, and the principle of promoting the whole interests instead of impairing them should be observed appropriately.

China's classic works "Book of Change" admonishes people that "as things turn into their opposite when they reach the extremes," issues should be taken or viewed in an absolutely open outlook. Late senior Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping is a great man who understands philosophy and the overall situation. He set forth the wise principle of "shelving disputes and seeking common development" on the Diaoyu Islands issue. That is to take into consideration the overall situation of Sino-Japanese ties, to avoid the "Zero Sum" Game, which describes a situation in which one participant's gain results only from equivalent losses of another participant, and to seek the "win-win" outcome.

At the moment, the Japanese side claims that the Diaoyu Islands is its "inherent territory", which involves "no dispute with China", and it has even gone too far to pull in the United States to oppose China and set its defence strategic focus southwestward.

"Learning from history, we can see the rise and fall (of dynasties)," as a populous Chinese saying goes. Japan launched a war against the China's Qing (1644-1911) court government in the Yellow Sea area in 1894 and Japan's Meiji government signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki in April 1895 after winning the war and occupied the Diaoyu Islands.

However, Japanese militarists surrendered unconditionally without escaping its ill fate half a century later at the end of the World War II. Then, the Diaoyu Islands came under the U.S. Occupation of Okinawa. But the United States has no right whatsoever to decide to whom the Diaoyu Islands belong.

If our generation does not have enough wisdom to resolve this dispute, the next generation will have more wisdom and they can find a better way acceptable to both sides. But we can at least prevent the crisis from re-occurring today, and this will help China-Japan mutually-beneficial strategic relations to set sail again.

By People Daily Online and contributed by Liu Jiangyong, a PD special guest commentator, a senior scholar of Japan studies at the elite Tsinghua University in Beijing and a Chinese member of the 21st Century Committee for Sino-Japanese Friendship
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