They can’t escape each other
Japanese and Chinese cannot escape from each other. They are intertwined. Japan has emerged as a lucrative market for China. Recent reports reveal that over 4.69 million Chinese tourists visited Japan in 2015 and they spent over US$ 12.6 billion. In Olympic 2020, over 10 million Chinese are expected to come to Tokyo. They will form quarter of 40 million tourists to watch Olympics. The number of Japanese visitors to China has gone to 2.6 million. This greatly steps down their differences and builds a momentum of trust between these two powerful nations in North East Asia.
China and Japan are adversaries. Both have deep-rooted historical differences. The Cold War further divided the two nations. The treaty of peace was signed on 12 August 1978, twenty-eight years after China’s liberation. Relations were normalised between them in 1972 when Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka visited Peking and signed the joint communiqué. This was a good beginning.
China’s road to economic reforms and its opening of economy and its peace treaty with Japan coincided. It was an opportunity for both countries. Japan as a developed nation has much to offer to China and the latter’s road to reforms opened up a new chapter in their bilateral relations. China could instantly learn from Japanese experience. “Made in China” was the result of “Made in Japan”. Mammoth Japanese investment poured into China.
Measures to counter each other would also go away gradually, which has risen after the 2010 Senkaku/Diaoyu clash. Japan nationalized these Islands in 2012, triggering a strong protest by China. Public protest damaged business, which has gone down. Bilateral trade has rather decreased to US$ 278.6 billion last year. Japanese investment in China also shrunk.
Since the 1980s, the cumulative Japanese inflow of investment into China had been US$ 102 billion. This spurred dynamic growth in China and made it competitive in many sectors. Following political mishaps and tightening control by Chinese Government on capital transactions, Japanese firms are adversely impacted. In 2014, Japanese investment in China was shrunk by 38.8 percent, followed by 29 percent in 2015.
Bilateralism normalisation achieved in the 1970s, was badly affected by territorial claim and counter-claim by each side since 2010. As emotional nationalism rose, Japan conservative political alliance and leaders’ repeated visits to the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo, sent negative message to Beijing. Bilateral high-level visits were cut-off since 2010.
Both nations should re-establish diplomatic good-will connection as worked in the three decades proceeding diplomatic normalisation. Both nations much have to offer to each other. China is now second largest global economy and developing ties strong ties with the nations across Asia and Europe under the Silk Road initiative.
Japan is the third largest global economy. Together they could offer a lot. Together, they formed the biggest global outcome than the United States and Europe. In 2014, the formed the world’s largest trading partnership of US$ 340 billion after China-US and China-Hong Kong trade.
The meeting between the Chinese foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida held on 30 April in Beijing could lead toward building more trust between the two nations. Within conservative Liberal-Democratic Party, Kishida heads the China-friendly faction. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s anti-China rhetoric has not ended yet.
Kishida’s visit is considered an important factor in normalising Japan’s ties with China at this point in time. Beijing-based influential Global Times writes on 3 May “as long as Abe holds to his ruling principles, Japan’s double-dealing in its relations with China will be unlikely to end”. Kishida made a breakthrough and Japan’s harsh attitude toward China might change.
Kishida’s visit resolved around to improve fraying Sino-Japanese ties as put forward by The Japan Times on 25 April. Efforts have been initiated by Kishida to repair damaged ties. A new relationship might be formed. Amid tension in the Sea China Sea, Kishida has shown that Japan is interested in talks in resolving issues. China urged “Japan to walk the talk on improving ties” as stated by the Chinese Foreign Ministry while commenting on the speech of Kishida delivered in Tokyo on 25 April before coming to Beijing.
Both countries interest largely diverse on South China Sea, economic activities is, however, greatly welcome. “Seikei Buneri” policy (separation of politics and economy) as devised by Japan in 1950s to promote economic interests without touching down strategic issues might work to boost economic ties between China and Japan. The issues of South China Sea might be taken up sometime later after improved relations and trust was built up.
A relationship based upon firmed foundation meeting the dynamics of the new era is the need of the hour in Asia-Pacific’s geo-political realities. Kishida has realised that at least. Hope others in the LDP might be convinced. These powerful neighbours need to accommodate each other to built peace in Asia-Pacific.
The writer is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad. He writes on East Asian affairs.