Hard to warm up frozen ties with Tokyo

Source:Global Times Published: 2014-8-15 0:23:01

As the 69th anniversary of Japan's surrender in WWII, August 15 has become the perfect time for Japanese nationalists to put on a farce to draw world attention. Will Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visit the notorious Yasukuni Shrine? This has become the most disconcerting mystery in the geopolitics of Northeast Asia.

Abe released some messages, saying he wouldn't visit the Shrine. But media outlets guessed he might offer tribute instead. This could be called a positive signal sent to China from a Japanese perspective. It was also reported that he is looking forward to having a bilateral meeting with Chinese leaders at the forum of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Beijing in November.

Bitter confrontations over historical issues have dragged both China and Japan into a tug-of-war. With years of friendliness buried, China and Japan seem to be locked into a blood feud.

The conflicts over historical issues are no longer limited to different understandings of history. They have become a major manifestation of the geopolitical rivalry between both sides. A sober mind can tell that such a conflict can only result in a lose-lose situation: Japan is losing its upper hand in the international community due to its irresponsible attitude toward history, and China has spent too many unnecessary resources and attention on it.

But now, it could be anticipated that warming Sino-Japanese ties are still impossible, even though Abe acted mildly on the Yasukuni Shrine issue this year and Chinese leaders might meet him at the APEC forum.

On historical issues, both sides are just speaking to themselves. These issues have become a battle of public opinion in the international community. In this case, only national strength matters.

Japan was the side which took the initiative in the historical issues, as it was in full authority of whether to visit the Shrine and revise history books. But China has established a system to penalize provocative Japanese government officials. China has got back part of the initiative. The fact that China is getting used to the political deadlock and carries forward economic cooperation also requires full attention. The unfolding tensions between both nations have not inflicted many losses on China, which is able to sustain a long-term standoff with Japan.

China's rise has changed many foundations of the former Sino-Japanese ties, and we must accept and get adapted to the fundamental changes.

The biggest force that can transform Sino-Japanese relations is the rise of China. It probably won't make Japan and China regain rapport, but it will drive Japan to assess the outcome of a full confrontation with China.

In the past 20 or 30 years, China has not been engaged in such tense relationship with a major power as it does with Japan. There are so many uncertainties ahead, and Japan is destined to offer unavoidable and significant challenges to China's confidence and patience when the latter is rising.


Posted in: Editorial