The Abe cabinet was officially installed yesterday. There have been many guesses about how this new cabinet will approach the Sino-Japanese relationship. However, China should not get tangled up in this question. When it comes to the always-changing Japanese cabinet, China should maintain a stable attitude.
It is already impossible for China and Japan to resume the friendly ties they had before the Junichiro Koizumi-era. In the short term, it's impossible for the relationship to be what it was before the outbreak of the Diaoyu Islands conflicts.
This should be the starting point of China's future diplomacy toward Japan.
Officials from both China and Japan will continue to stress mutually beneficial relations. However, we cannot realistically expect this. Tension has existed in the Sino-Japanese relationship for more than a decade. Given that the situation in the Asia-Pacific hasn't improved, the relationship of the two countries cannot really become warmer.
China does not intend to confront Japan. However, at this stage, we can only adjust our policies based on reality.
The "cold politics but hot economics" relationship between the two countries is transforming to "cold politics and cold economics." China's economy has also suffered from this.
Sino-Japanese relations have been filled with suspicion and misunderstandings. Both sides expect the other to be overawed by hard-line attitudes, while they also worry about escalation leading to war. We should have the proper strategic vigilance to avoid war. However, we should not transform this vigilance into excessive anxiety.
We can have normal interaction and frictions with Japan under the premise that the bottom line is that both sides won't fight a war. With the rise of China's national strength, we should not pay too much attention to the details of Sino-Japanese relations.
There's a possibility that Japan may decide to tie its future to the US and become an anti-China country even more radical than the US. However, whether this comes true depends on the overall situation in the region. China does not have the capability to take the initiative to prevent this from happening. China's increasing strength may be more effective in defusing Japanese hostility.
There's no domestic political room for China to ease its attitude toward Japan on the issues of the Diaoyu Islands and the Yasukuni Shrine. If Japan does not want to see worse Sino-Japanese relations, it should take on more responsibilities to maintain the friendship between the two countries.
The problems with Sino-Japanese relations were caused by power shifts in East Asia. Both China and Japan should get used to the new reality.
In the final analysis, Japan is different from the US. Confrontation with Japan to a certain extent will not destroy China's overall diplomacy. The US factors deeply into the Sino-Japanese relationship. In this sense, the US is a major concern for China while Japan is only a minor one.