The 87th "Diplomatic Roundtable" meeting on "Prospect of Japan-China Relations" Held

JFIR and its two sister organizations, the Global Forum of Japan and the Council on East Asian Community, taking advantage of an occasion of a visit to Japan of a prominent person on international and other affairs, monthly organize a "Diplomatic Roundtable" meeting, which is an informal gathering of members of the three organizations for a frank exchange of views and opinions with the visiting guest. The 87th "Diplomatic Roundtable" meeting was held on December 14, 2012 on the topic of "Prospect of Japan-China Relations." An outline of the presentations by Dr. JI Zhiye, Vice President of China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations and Prof. ITO Kenichi, President of JFIR was as follows:

(1) JI Zhiye, Vice President, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relation 
(a) It is true that the Sino-Japanese relationship is in an extremely difficult period, but conversely, exactly for that reason we must explore the best way to cooperate with each other and to tackle with those challenges. Leaders of both countries, who dedicated themselves to the Sino-Japanese friendship, emphasized that China and Japan were "neighbors who could not move away from each other" and accomplished the normalization of diplomatic relations between China and Japan. Without diplomatic normalization with Japan and the United States, the "Chinese economic reform" since 1978 shall have never been attained. In this sense, the prosperity of China today owes much to normalized diplomatic relations with Japan and the United States. Although the "Mutually Beneficial Strategic Relationship" agreed in 2006 is an important principle, it is not sufficient for both countries to share "benefits" only, and I would like to point out that "friendship" is a prerequisite for the development of our bilateral relations.
(b) Generally speaking, China is still a poor country. There are 100 million people living in poverty. Its Gini coefficient is as high as 0.61%. And the urbanization rate has reached 50% only recently. Economic development is the most important national agenda for China. On the other hand, Japan is an aging society and its economy has been stagnant for the last two decades. That explains why the economic recovery was the top issue in the last general election. Therefore, the leaders of both China and Japan share the common policy priority. Both China's "economic reform" and Japan's "economic recovery" benefit from the development of Sino-Japanese relations. There is no reason for Chinese and Japanese leaders to ruin the Sino-Japanese relationship furthermore.
(c) In order to foresee the future of Chinese-Japanese relations, we must focus on the present situation where China is shifting from "the factory of the world" to "the market of the world." According to an expert, China's domestic demand will grow to about 4 trillion dollars in a few years, and China, which is already the biggest trade partner of Japan, will be increasingly important for Japan. Also, in the report of the 18th Communist Party Congress, the term of the "eco-civilization building" was used for the first time. In view of the rising domestic demand, China will find it very attractive to cooperate with Japan which has technological advantages in the fields of energy saving and environmental measures.
(d) On the other hand, in order to improve the relationship between China and Japan, we hope Japan to act wisely not provoke China on the three issues of "history" of the past, "unification" related to Taiwan, Tibet, etc; and "territory" like the Senkaku Islands. Conversely, China should not provoke Japan either. The government must guide the people in the right direction, and should not leave the irrational popular voices unattended. In both countries, the governments should not be swayed by emotional and myopic populism. Instead, they should lead the nation in the rational direction. In other words, politicians, the media, and intellectuals must be aware of their responsibilities and ready to assume their roles.
(e) The fundamental cause of the latest deterioration of the Sino-Japanese relations over the Senkaku islands problem is the perception gap between China and Japan about the concept of "shelving" the territorial issue. It is understandable to some extent that the Japanese government apprehended the Chinese fishing boat in the collision incident off the Senkaku islands in September 2010, but was it not the denial of the concept of "shelving" that the Japanese government treated the case in accordance with the Japanese domestic law? Similarly, is it not the denial of the concept of "shelving" either that the Japanese government nationalized these islands in response to the initiative of Governor Ishihara of Tokyo. Though the cancellation of the nationalization may be impossible, I hope at least things will be calmed down without further escalation.

(2) Kenichi ITO, President, Japan Forum on International Relations
    The report by Vice President Ji is very helpful to chart the future of Japanese-Chinese relations, which stands the "test of time." It was indeed a report worth for Japanese leaders to listen to. Frankly speaking, I was expecting to hear more bitter criticism of Japan in his report, but Vice President Ji made future oriented proposals to explore the Japanese-Chinese relationship from rational and constructive standpoints. I would like to express my respect to him. The Japan Forum on International Relations released its 35th policy recommendations "Expansion of China and Japan's Response" in January 2012. While the recommendations pointed out the necessity of founding a system of Japan's "survival and self defense," it did not necessarily advocate the logic of "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," but called for China to "participate in establishing and steering international institutions" as a "responsible stakeholder"in view of "comprehending the macroscopic background of the problem before reacting to each of the microscopic phenomena." China repeatedly violates our territorial airspace and waters around the Senkaku Islands, and makes us feel a sense of distrust. However, if we can clear misunderstandings and deepen understandings as we did so today through exchanges between intellectuals on both sides, that is sure to set the ground for future constructive Japanese-Chinese relationship.

(JFIR secretariat is responsible for this article)

The Japan Forum on International Relations (JFIR)