Concentric Circles
Japan and China can work together for the common good of the world
By Yukio Hatoyama  ·  2019-09-29  ·   Source: NO. 40-41 OCTOBER 3, 2019

Earlier hardships and difficulties led to the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. Under the leadership of Chairman Mao Zedong, socialist transformation of private ownership of the means of production was carried out in the 1950s. Since reform and opening up began in 1978, a large amount of foreign investment has entered the Chinese market. China's industrial structure has undergone tremendous changes, while the country has become one of the fastest growing major economies in the world. In particular, after Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping's historic south China tour in early 1992, the socialist market economy was established, boosting the country's development.

I have witnessed China's development and changes and visited China many times. Every time I visited, the country impressed me with its rapid development, whether it was in the capital or some other cities. While marveling at China's development, I cannot but admire its leaders.

Now, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, China is making great strides in anti-corruption and poverty alleviation, and the Belt and Road Initiative is another highlight. I think the initiative can promote the economic development of developing countries, strengthen connectivity among neighboring countries and make a major contribution to world peace through infrastructure construction. Fraternity between nations can help achieve these goals. In this sense, the initiative shares similarities with my proposal for an East Asian Community. Though the Belt and Road Initiative is more ambitious, both aim to build what President Xi called a community with a shared future for humanity.

In 1972, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai and Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka witnessed the normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The two sides signed the Treaty of Peace and Friendship in 1978, and Japan started to provide China with official development assistance. Bilateral ties continued to improve. But in recent years, political relations between Japan and China have been at a low point because of Japanese prime ministers' visits to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, the escalation of the Diaoyu Islands dispute and the spread of the so-called "China threat" theory in Japan.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's visit to Japan in May last year marked a turning point in bilateral relations. China believes that under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, the two countries can strengthen cooperation in third-party markets. It is gratifying that Japan-China relations have gradually improved, but the political issues have not been fully resolved. Therefore, I look forward to strengthening people-to-people exchanges in various forms, making friendship a bond between the two sides. The two countries could cooperate in areas such as healthcare, afforestation and energy, and could work together on their respective strengths in the production of capital and consumer goods.

I hope that China will not engage in big power rivalry with the United States and look forward to China's contribution to the peace and development of Asia and the world through the Belt and Road Initiative and the East Asian Community.

The author is a former Japanese prime minister

Copyedited by Rebeca Toledo

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