The relationship between China and Japan is at a crossroads, and Japan’s attitude and approach to dealing with the history of its militarist aggression can sway where the ties will head, a senior Chinese official said on Sunday at a bilateral forum.
Cai Mingzhao, minister of the State Council Information Office, said Sino-Japan diplomatic relations — which have survived 42 years of fluctuations since being normalized in the years following World War II — are supposed to be rational and mature, just like people are believed to be when in their 40s.
“But, unfortunately, the healthy development of bilateral ties is still beset by many issues,” he said at the opening ceremony of the 10th Beijing-Tokyo Forum held in Tokyo on Sunday.
“The fact that the ties have been stuck in a difficult situation in recent years is the concern of people in the two countries and has come to the attention of the international community.”
Under the theme of peace in East Asia and the responsibilities of China and Japan, the annual forum, which runs on Sunday and Monday, deliberates on the power of dialogue to overcome obstacles.
Cai attributed the stalemate to right-wing elements in Japan.
Some Japanese policies and approaches have gone against the principles guiding the normalization of ties and the consensus the two countries had reached.
For example, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the Yasukuni Shrine in December 2013, and the Japanese government “nationalized” China’s Diaoyu Islands, changing the four-decade status quo of the dispute and letting the territorial issue develop.
Without objective understanding of history, Japan’s right-wing figures are riding against the tide of history and walking down a dangerous road, Cai said.
After the relationship was normalized, the Japanese government and several leaders apologized for the hurt Japan caused other countries.
In his keynote speech, Cai differentiated Japan’s militarists and its people. He said the Chinese government and people blame Japanese militarists for the sufferings Japan’s aggression caused China, clearing Japanese people of war crimes.
“Keeping history in mind does not necessarily mean that we let hatred live,” said Chinese Ambassador to Japan Cheng Yonghua.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said the Japan-China relationship is one of Japan’s most important bilateral ties. He spoke highly of the non-government platform that the Beijing-Tokyo Forum has established in the decade of its existence.
Kishida acknowledged that attention should be paid to the fact that people in the two countries are worried about the status of relations. “Based on public opinion, the catalyst should be found to improve the ties,” he said.
China Daily and Japan’s Genron NPO initiated the forum in 2005 when China-Japan relations dropped to the freezing point.
“The forum is designed to help the two countries understand each other, find more common ground and promote friendship,” China Daily Editor-in-Chief Zhu Ling said.
The latest opinion polls carried out by the two sponsors in China and Japan in July and August found that people acknowledged the importance of the relationship, although their feelings about each other’s country have hit a record low.
“It is a shame if the strained relations between the world’s second- and third-largest economies become an area of conflict,” former Japanese prime minister Yasuo Fukuda said.
The GDP of China, South Korea and Japan equals that of the United States, and East Asia is the locomotive of the world’s development, Fukuda said.