Recently, frictions have continuously arisen between China and Japan, which not only influences high-level exchanges, but also makes the two societies have hostile feelings toward each other. From Japan's "nationalizing" provocations and China's unprecedented scale of counter-measures to the current impasse, the Diaoyu Islands dispute has brought the Sino-Japanese relationship has come to a dead end.
Top leaders on both sides have changed during this process. The power transition in China has seen foreign policy remain persistent, but in Japan, the rotation of the ruling party can bring significant change to the policy. New leaders particularly can cause unpredictability.
Since being reelected as prime minister, Shinzo Abe has greatly amplified the uncertainty of Sino-Japanese ties. The damage brought by him to the bilateral ties might be even worse than Koizumi Junichiro.
Though China-Japanese relationship suffered greatly due to repeated visits by Koizumi to the Yasukuni Shrine, it didn't affect economic exchanges. Trade still grew quickly while strategic mistrust and guard between the two countries were not prominent. Exactly because of this, Abe easily initiated an "ice-breaking" visit to China after he took office in 2006.
But Abe's reelection has seen all areas of bilateral ties upset by the Diaoyu conflict. He might be the one who shapes the strategic confrontation between Japan and China.
What Abe is trying to do is fundamentally change the direction of Japan's development. He is attempting to completely alter the historical recognition of Japanese society. In addition, Abe is aiming at revising its current constitution, diverting Japan from its peaceful development path since World War II. The previous two steps will be utilized by Abe to challenge the post-war order in East Asia and seek a totally different geopolitical role for Japan.
But set against the background of Japan's economic depression, Japan's national political ambitions which Abe represents are full of loss, resentment and urgency.
In the few months since taking office, Abe impressed Japanese public by his hatred of Japan's defeat in place of a normal hard-line diplomacy. He hates the result of World War II instead of hating those who started the war. He does not accept China's rise through peace and hard work and rails against the general trend of East Asia's development.
China cannot change Abe's value nor influence his strategic choice. China should lower its expectations toward the bilateral relationship.
As for Abe himself, we should have no expectation. We believe that there is no need for Chinese leaders to meet him during his term. That would not alleviate the bilateral relationship but will undermine our own image. China should maintain its current indifferent interactions with Japan and try to reduce chances of crisis.
The next chance for China to improve the bilateral relationship will come after Abe's term. Before this, China should show Japan its confidence through indifference.