China, Japan must avoid slide into cold war

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/9/29 0:08:39

The 12th Beijing-Tokyo Forum kicked off Tuesday in Tokyo, where officials and experts from both sides are seeking to deepen communication and revamp bilateral ties. The efforts reflect the goodwill of the two countries.

Beijing-Tokyo ties have lingered at a low ebb and could still worsen. The two countries are stuck in a state of "cold peace" and they must avoid sliding into a cold war.

On the diplomatic front, they have turned into overall competitors. Each side lists the other as the top unfriendly country, while public sentiment toward each other has increasingly become negative.

While there is no overarching military tension, undercurrents indicate that the two consider each other as an imagined enemy. As they get accustomed to disputes surrounding the Diaoyu Islands, fears of an inadvertent military incident are becoming a topic of open discussion. The two societies are seemingly building psychological readiness toward the possibility of a military clash.

Compared with the Sino-US relationship, which is accumulating tensions but still has many certainties, Sino-Japanese ties are clouded in high degree of uncertainty. Resentment brewed during recent years may prompt both sides to act impulsively, leading to crisis.

However, China and Japan have no fundamental conflicts that they need to pour all their strengths into. The issue is more or less a contention of will.

Disputes over the Diaoyu Islands are small in scale but have attracted much more attention and energy. In comparison, border disputes between China and India, while broader in area, are managed well.

The China-Japan geopolitical contest has become seriously derailed and this is due in large part to Japan's distorted psychology. There are still many US troops stationed in Japan, compromising the latter's sovereignty. While Japan sought comfort from its outstanding economic performance in the past, its declining economic status has destroyed its confidence. Tokyo is too bewildered to sort out strategic ideas.

Both countries should try their best to prevent armed conflicts. China and Japan should discipline themselves to not fire the first shot or break the bottom line. Otherwise, the Sino-Japan relationship may be irreversibly destroyed.

The extensive Beijing-Tokyo economic cooperation is a determining force to prevent the two countries from slipping into a cold war.

The governments should keep a close eye on the direction of economic cooperation and avoid spillover effects from political coldness. Large-scale exchanges in trade and personnel will help prevent the two countries' mentalities from being dominated by politics and military.

China's rapid growth in military and comprehensive strength is a fundamental variable of the bilateral relationship, while turning to the right in Japanese society and its hawkish China policy are the most challenging factors.

The Sino-Japanese friendship of the 1970s and 80s won't be seen again easily. Both sides should accept the reality, maintain the cold peace, and create favorable conditions to improve ties. China and Japan should have the wisdom and capability to prevent a cold war, as neither wants it.

Posted in: Editorial

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