Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to Japan is focusing the public’s attention firmly on the relations between the two countries right now for two reasons. One is that it is the first visit by a Chinese head of government in six years. The other, and perhaps more important one, is that there are growing expectations from Chinese citizens who wish to see China and Japan repair their souring relations on a broad scale.
During his three-day state visit, the premier is scheduled to hold talks with his counterpart Shinzo Abe, present indigenous Chinese red ibises to the Japanese people as a token of friendship, be a guest at Japanese farmers’ homes and, above all, address Japan’s parliament, which is unusual for a visiting foreign dignitary. This shows in part the Japanese Government’s desire and sincerity to defrost the chilly ties.
Before Abe was elected prime minister, Sino-Japanese relations had plummeted to an almost all-time low over Japan’s reluctance to admit its disgraceful role in World War II, when it invaded China and some other Asian countries and plunged millions of lives into tragedy. Some Japanese statesmen in the post-war era still are unprepared to face up squarely to the historical past, thus incurring more and more resentment and criticism from China and the world community.
The Chinese people are forgiving by nature and wish to put aside the ill feeling toward Japan, so long as Japan gives up its diehard attitude and expresses full regret for the war crimes of more than half a century ago. Only in this way will it win clemency from the once war-torn Asian countries and learn a hard lesson from the militaristic behavior of its older generations.
China and Japan are close neighbors, and their historical contacts date back over 2,000 years. The two countries not only share relatively the same cultural heritage, but also are highly complementary in economic structures. Japan is now China’s third largest export market, second largest supplier of foreign capital, and largest source of advanced technologies, with bilateral trade hitting a record high of $207.4 billion last year, up by nearly 200 times compared with 1972, when the two nations normalized diplomatic ties. Over the years, trade and economic relations have been mutually beneficial, helping China sharpen its export potential and facilitating Japan’s upgrading of its industrial structure. On the political front, both China and Japan are big powers with considerable clout, and both will make greater contributions to peace and prosperity in Asia and across the globe when they put aside past grudges, regain mutual trust and form closer cooperative ties.
To our delight, both China and Japan have been making efforts to improve their relations in recent months. Last October, Prime Minister Abe visited China, and later in the year, President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao met with Abe again on separate occasions, exchanging views on bettering bilateral ties and paving the way to forging a strategic and mutually beneficial partnership between the two countries.
This year is an eventful one for both China and Japan, since it marks, among others, the 35th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations and the launching of the Year of Cultural and Sports Exchange between China and Japan. While many problems persist between the two countries, they have more areas of common interests to explore and cooperate in.
Delicate as the relationship may be, the ice has been broken. It is hoped that with the Chinese premier’s “ice-melting” visit, the prospects for the two countries may soon begin to bloom.