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Week's special: Sino-Japan ties need a better public sentiment
 

Subject: Premier Wen's ice-melting trip to Japan
Read the chat
Guest: Jin Xide, Vice Director of Institute of Japan, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
Date: April 11, 2007
Host: Strong Nation Forum, People's Daily Online

Public has a role to play

Jin thinks the political efforts are the main driving force of the improvement of the Sino-Japanese relations while it still takes time and efforts to improve the concrete interests, public sentiment and the opinion.

There are two problems in the troubled relationship. The structural problem refers to whether China and Japan can, strategically, realize reconciliation, good neighborhood and cooperation. The substantive problem includes disputes over history, Taiwan and territories.

China prefers solving the structural problem first, hoping for a real strategic reconciliation and cooperation on the condition of the removal of the Cold War mentality and the alienation by differences in ideology and system. In addition, China expects Japan to abandon the strategy of containing China through the Japan-US alliance and the so-called "value oriented diplomacy".

However, on Japan's side, it wants China's commitments on concrete issues. It seeks China's support for its ambition of becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council. It demands China's concession on the disputed East Sea. And it asks for China's support to solve the deadlock of kidnapped Japanese by the DPRK.

The dilemma in the Sino-Japanese relations is the result of combined impacts from the governments and people of both countries. In recent years, there is growing voice from the Chinese public. Generally, the Chinese government takes a more prudent attitude toward Japan than the public. That contrasts with Japan where the government takes a hawkish stance and there is not much attention among the people to the relations with China.

Premier's ice-melting trip

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Japan, the first by a Chinese premier in seven years, is the result of the common choice of the two countries.

China and Japan share the desires of a stable strategic mutual beneficial political relationship, a win-win, interdependent economic relationship, and erased estrangement between people and between the public opinion from the two countries.

What Jin values most is the security dialogues and military exchanges between China and Japan. He described the breakthrough, if there is, on this front is a "wind-vane" of whether the Sino-Japanese strategic relationship is making real progress.

Economic cooperation is the field where a win-win situation is most likely to be achieved. Development on this area will possibly be the most "direct, most substantive" fruit of Wen's visit.

Three good results can be expected from the visit. Firstly, it may lead to a regular exchange of visits by leaders of the two countries. Secondly, Wen's speech at Japan's Diet, the first by a Chinese leader in 22 years, will have a positive impact on Japan's opinion toward China. Thirdly, the visit defines the strategically mutual beneficial relations and creates consensus on pushing the comprehensive cooperation in all fields.

However, Jin also believes that Japan has adopted a "soft containment" strategy toward China by opposing EU's lift of arms embargo against China, advocating a Japan-US-Aussie-India alliance based on shared common values, calling for an "Arc of Freedom and Prosperity" (Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso), etc.

International factors

The United States has more impact on the Sino-Japanese relationship than any other country. It hopes to see a Sino-Japanese relationship in which there are problems but not conflicts and both China and Japan attach great importance to the US.

China should resist the US intentions of erupting antagonism on one hand and recognize the US role in maintaining the stability in the region on the other. The US has tacitly consented and even contributed to the improvement on the Sino-Japanese relationship.

But Jin is not sure about Japan's strategy of dealing with its relationship with the US and China. He hopes that the easement of the Sino-Japanese ties would help to lead to a healthy triangular situation.

There are four possible scenarios for the future of the East Asia. Firstly, China, Japan and South Korea make joint efforts on the prospect of a East Asia unity. Secondly, if China and Japan cannot agree on this issue, then the relationship with the US will be likely still at the top of the agenda of the two countries. As a result, the US will remain the sole power in the region.

Thirdly, China may overtake Japan and catch up with the US after years of stable, sound development. In that case, China and US will combine to play the biggest role in this region. And finally, if the US goes downturn while Japan, China and Russia all flourish day by day, then the three powers, together with the US, will play the leading role in this region.

Jin thinks the best result is the first scenario. But he recognized that needed a strategic consensus between China and Japan. The current situation suggests a very dim prospect of an East Asian union like the European Union.

The Sino-Japanese relationship has also drawn much attention of the EU. Both EU and the US host many seminars on that issue and try to understand through various ways what happens between the two neighbors, how that relationship will affect their countries.

Jin concluded that China and Japan defined their ties against the backdrop of the world order dominated by the EU and US after the World War II. The future of the bilateral ties is up to the two countries' choice based on their strategic dialogues and the public opinion.

By People's Daily Online

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