Joint Efforts towards China-Japan Friendship

By staff reporters LI YUAN & ZHOU LIN


DIFFICULTIES and Measures: How to develop long-term, healthy China-Japan Relations – East Asia’s Future and Roles to be Played by Both Countries” was the theme of the 11th Beijing-Tokyo Forum, jointly held by China International Publishing Group and Genron NPO, which opened in Beijing on October 24.


More than 500 senior Chinese and Japanese officials, diplomats and delegates from the political, economic, academic, and media fields gathered at the forum and exchanged opinions on a broad spectrum of topics, from politics and economics to environmental issues and tourism. In light of the status quo of the bilateral relationship, the forum also held in-depth discussions at five sub-forums on measures to promote a long-term steady, healthy bilateral relationship between the two countries.  

Participating guests include prominent figures from diplomatic, publicity, academic, and national security circles. 

Expand Cooperation and Build Mutual Trust


Wu Jianmin, former Chinese ambassador to France and former president of China Foreign Affairs University, said that mutual trust can be built through expanding the scope of cooperation to the extent of developing common interests. Japan has its particular advantages, as does China and whatever third party they deal with. Combining the advantages of all three parties can reduce the cost of competition and maximize common interests.


In his speech at the “Politics and Diplomacy” sub-forum, the diplomatic veteran spoke of the complexity and sensitivities in the relationship between China and Japan. After a long period of exchanges and strenuous efforts, however, both sides have pinpointed these taboos and made efforts to control differences in an appropriate manner, Wu said.


Yuji Yamamoto, a Liberal Democratic Party representative of the lower house of the National Diet of Japan, raised an alternative angle on bilateral cooperation. In his view, as trade relies on transportation, international trade, taking into account logistical costs and geographical factors, appears to be a three-way race whose contestants are North America, Europe and Asia. In other words, it is a race between the West and Asia. The rules of economics and trade are laid down through competition among different markets, particularly those relating to intellectual property, accounting criteria, and vehicle exhaust emission standards. The Japanese politician hence defined international trade as “economic war,” wherein “In Asia, the Chinese market should play a backbone role, while Japan can facilitate its development.”


Yuji Yamamoto acknowledged that some political issues, such as territory, territorial air space, and history, have impeded bilateral relations, but believed that they will be solved through increased Sino-Japanese exchanges, and the prospect of more expressway and railway network inter-connections and increasing flights between the two countries.


In response, Chen Jian, former UN under-secretary-general and former Chinese ambassador to Japan, endorsed the view of former Under-Secretary-General of the UN Yasushi Akashi – that it is unlikely that disputes over the Diaoyu Islands and historical issues will be resolved in foreseeable future. The two sides could, however, lessen the political sensitivity of these issues and control their differences, and meanwhile develop economic and cultural exchange and cooperation to the extent that they supersede the importance of disparities, Chen said. From this perspective, he agreed with Yuji Yamamoto’s point of view. Chen added, however, that the one thing that is clear is that all this rests on the foundation of political mutual trust, which is evaporating. Japan, therefore, should reverse its opinions about China, and treat China as a good neighbor country and cooperative partner. This is the basis on which to manage differences and cooperation, Chen said.


Ambassador Lü Fengding, vice president of Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs, agreed, saying that although economic and trade relations are imperative to the bilateral relationship, they are no substitute for good political relations. Mutual trust remains the main factor in warming the relations between China and Japan.


Frank Exchanges Increase Mutual Understanding


In the sub-forum on security issues, participants held proactive and constructive discussions on security policies and management mechanisms. Major General Yao Yunzhu, director of the China-U.S. Defense Relationship Research Center at the Academy of Military Science, listed the five major measures China has brought into effect in the past two years, and mentioned also various important publications on security. She stated that the changes in China’s security concept are manifest in three respects. First, the steadily expanding scope of national security; second, a more integrated approach; and third, achieving national security under the umbrella of international security.


“The main measure through which China can achieve its own security is to promote, rather than undermine, security in this region and the world at large,” the general said. “With this awareness, China is willing to become more involved in international security, and for the Chinese military to take greater responsibility in safeguarding it,” Yao said.


Forum attendees from both China and Japan expressed opinions on the impact of Japan’s new national security laws on the Japan-U.S. alliance and China’s external security environment. Yang Yi, vice president of the Northeastern Asian Development and Research Institute, said that the growth of Chinese military is commensurate with national strength and economic demand. Furthermore, that the defense-oriented policy China has adopted poses no threat to other countries. Professor Zhu Chenghu from the National Defense University of People’s Liberation Army endorsed this observation, adding that China’s actions in the South China Sea are reactive and in the interests of maintaining stability in the region.  


Ken Jimbo, senior research fellow of the Canon Institute for Global Studies, proposed that the two neighbor countries strengthen mutual trust, to which end they should develop the capacity for crisis management to contain crises to a small scale. Professor Zhu Chenghu agreed, observing that the many misjudgments that exist between the two countries have resulted in their not having carried out any pragmatic or substantive cooperation on security.


The discussion then moved on to possible ways of eliminating misjudgments and promoting cooperation. Zhang Tuosheng, chairman of the Academic Committee of the China Foundation for International and Strategic Studies, said that China and Japan have achieved progress and resumed dialogues on multilateral issues since reaching the four-point principled agreement. He added that both sides, however, should waste no time in commencing dialogues on a crisis management mechanism, and vice-ministerial negotiations on national defense, thus promoting bilateral cooperation. Major General Yao Yunzhu also spoke of the enormous potential for cooperation in safeguarding security which, she said, largely relies on high-level exchanges among defense departments.


Japanese representatives expressed agreement with these points of view and opinions. Professor Kazuhiko Togo from Kyoto Sangyo University said that he did not think Japan would ever be a military power, and that he believes both sides will eventually resolve the Diaoyu Islands disputes.

 Chinese and Japanese guests present the calligraphic work they jointly created from an extract from an ancient poem. It means: “Ascending another storey to see a thousand miles further.”


Seek Mutual Benefit through Economy and Trade


As both China and Japan are undergoing economic reform in efforts to achieve sustainable growth, Japan’s experience of economic restructuring and financial reform has certain referential significance for China, deputy governor of Japan’s central bank Hiroshi Nakaso said.


His Chinese counterpart Yi Gang’s response was that under the “new normal” economy, China expects to maintain medium-to-high-speed growth, fueled by industrial structural transformation, innovation, urbanization, administrative streamlining, and government decentralization.


Shoei Utsuda of Mitsui & Company, having had first-hand experience of the Chinese market, expressed confidence in the Chinese economy. He mentioned the highlighted policies recently put forward in China’s mid- to long-term development plan, including the “new normal” economy, the Belt and Road Initiative, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and, most difficult but also most important, reform of state-owned enterprises.


Tatsuo Yamasaki, former vice minister of finance for international affairs, remarked on the AIIB, saying that he believes the new bank will promote development of the region as a whole and that it promises to be a responsible, influential institute. Although not a member country, Japan is willing to work with its founder members to make the bank effectively enact an important role, Yamasaki said.


Zhang Jianping, director of the Institute of International Economic Research, National Development and Reform Commission, said that the Belt and Road Initiative is an open and inclusive platform that welcomes Japan to participate in various forms. He added that many Japanese institutes, such as JBIC and JICA, cognizant of the importance of the new initiative, have expressed willingness to be involved in it.


“The forum is held against the backdrop of dwindling mutual trust among our two peoples, and plummeting bilateral trade,” said Wei Jianguo, executive deputy director of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges. “However, we are full of hope about cooperation.” He called on the two countries to treat one another according to the principle of equality and mutual benefit, and to aim for a win-win outcome. To this end, communication and dialogues are essential, while criticism and confrontation should be discouraged.


During the two-day forum, guests also exchanged ideas on the role of the media in achieving a healthy bilateral relationship, and discussed cooperation on environmental issues and tourism.


At the closing ceremony held on October 25, CIPG Vice President Wang Gangyi concluded that the forum had energized the bilateral relationship, added new momentum to economic cooperation, and sought new solutions to enhancing political mutual trust and improving strategic reciprocal relations.


 “We have exchanged our ideas frankly and held objective discussions,” Chairman of the Public Service Corporation International Cultural Centre Yasushi Akashi concluded. “Both sides have focused on and made efforts towards reaching a substantive consensus and reducing differences.” Yakushi praised the outcome of the forum, saying that it constitutes a correct common pursuit for China and Japan.