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Japan 'must end outdated policy'

By Li Xiaokun and Ding Qingfen in Tokyo  (China Daily)

08:33, July 04, 2012

Invited speakers enjoy a light moment during a news conference at the Beijing-Tokyo Forum on Tuesday. In attendance are, from left, Chen Jian, former Chinese ambassador to Japan, Wei Jianguo, former vice-minister of commerce, Zhao Qizheng, head of the foreign aff airs committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and Yasushi Akashi, former United Nations under-secretary-general. ZOU HONG / CHINA DAILY

Japanese politicians and prominent academics from China and Japan urged Tokyo on Tuesday to abandon its outdated foreign policy of leaning on the West and accept China as a key partner as important as the United States.

The Tokyo Consensus, a joint statement issued at the end of the Beijing-Tokyo Forum, also called on both countries to expand trade and promote a free-trade agreement for China, Japan and South Korea.

The consensus, the first document to suggest solutions to problems agreed by non-governmental elites from both countries since the forum started in 2005, called on Beijing and Tokyo to join hands to help ease the European debt crisis.

Koichi Kato, a member of the Japanese House of Representatives, told the forum in Tokyo that it is time for Japan to distance itself from the theory of being separate from Asia.

The theory, first enunciated by Japanese author Yukichi Fukuzawa, an influential figure during the Meiji Era (1868-1912), has guided Japan's foreign policy.

Fukuzawa wrote that Japan should not wait for its neighbors, including China and Korea, to start their modernization but ought to "leave Asia" and follow Western countries.

It also suggested that the government should not treat China and Korea — which he called "bad friends in Asia" — with "special sympathy", but to treat them as the West did.

"We used to follow the path of breaking away from Asia and joining Europe," Kato said.

"But look at Japan's foreign trade now, its trade volume with the US has fallen behind the one with China. The current situation has changed too much from the old one, which originated from the old theory. We should propose a completely different one," he said.

He supports the idea of "returning to Asia and keeping close to the US".

Ye Xiaowen, Party secretary of China's Central Institute of Socialism, said that the theory was proposed during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and "nourished imperialism in Japan".

Ye noted mainstream Chinese economists generally believe that the economy can continue growing above 7 percent for two decades.

"Japan will be underestimating China if it sticks to its old foreign policy," Ye said.

Chen Haosu, president of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, suggested that the Japanese government should treat all countries as potential friends.

The benefits of the proposed free-trade area involving China, Japan and South Korea were also highlighted at the forum.

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