Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Neighborly partners rather than rivals

By Ye Xiaowen (China Daily) Updated: 2011-12-27 08:19

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said he has long had a bond with China after he wrapped up his first official visit to the country on Monday.

"I made my debut appearance in China in 1984 as a member of a 3,000-strong Japanese youth delegation and have ever since forged a bond with China," Noda said in a written interview with the Xinhua News Agency and other Chinese media ahead of his two-day visit. "That is why I often describe myself as the 'son of Japan-China exchanges'."

In his maiden visit to China as prime minister, Noda said he expects to "reach consensuses with China's leaders on deepening bilateral strategic and mutually beneficial relations" on the 40th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties between the two countries next year.

China too attached great importance to his visit. President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao and Wu Bangguo, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, all held talks with him. During these talks, Chinese leaders made it clear that China is willing to work with Japan to make preparations for the activities to celebration the 40th anniversary of the normalization of bilateral diplomatic ties and the "Year of Friendly Exchanges" between the two people. The top Chinese leaders also said that China, on the basis of the principles embodied in the four political documents the two countries have signed as the foundation of their diplomatic ties, is willing to enhance mutual political trust and expand exchanges and cooperation with its neighbor in a bid to create a conducive environment for bilateral strategic and mutually beneficial ties. During the talks, both countries also vowed to be "good neighbors and partners rather than rivals".

Their geographic proximity has historically led to frequent friendly exchanges between China and Japan. But their geographic closeness has also brought occasional friction and clashes, which culminated in an aggressive war launched by Japanese militarists in the 1930s and 40s, a war that inflicted on both Chinese and Japanese people enormous pain and tragedies. However, the communications and exchanges both countries managed to open in the following decades have helped eradicate misunderstandings and enhance mutual understanding and entente.

The ups and downs in bilateral ties demonstrate that exchanges and communication on a friendly and candid basis remain the only way to defuse conflicts and crises.

The 2,000-year-long history of friendly exchanges and cooperation has bestowed on both countries some unique advantages to carry forward their traditional friendship. With a firm adherence to the development of Sino-Japanese friendship, some insightful people in both countries made unremitting efforts after World War II, a difficult period for bilateral ties, to promote non-government exchanges as the initial way to promote the thawing and development of official links. Their efforts made a significant contribution to the final resumption of diplomatic ties between the two neighbors.

We should take history as the mirror and carry forward the spirit of developing a "generations-long friendship", a target advocated by our forerunners, and work to develop a brighter Sino-Japanese relationship.

Sino-Japanese relations have experienced an uneven development road over the past four decades since their normalization. The alternating chills and thawing, however, have not changed its generally upward tendency. As indicated by past experiences and lessons, only by maintaining a clear-sighted and forward-looking perspective, can Sino-Japanese ties maintain a correct development direction and produce mutually beneficial and win-win results. At the same time, both countries are well aware that only by adopting a friendly attitude to resolving sensitive issues, can a stable bilateral relationship be maintained.

On the basis of the four political documents they have signed as the backbone of their diplomatic ties, China and Japan should carry out heart-to-heart exchanges in an effort to enhance mutual trust, as a way to carry forward the generations-long friendship.

The author is vice-president of the Central Institute of Socialism and a member of the 21st Century Committee for China-Japan Friendship.

(China Daily 12/27/2011 page8)

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