Xi’s trip to Japan could be a trendsetter

By Chen Yang Source:Global Times Published: 2019/6/27 17:43:40

Photo: IC

President Xi Jinping is attending the 14th G20 leaders' meeting at the invitation of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the Japanese city of Osaka from Thursday to Saturday. It is the seventh consecutive time President Xi attends or hosts the G20 summit, and the first time he has traveled to Japan after taking office as Chinese president in 2013. Hence, President Xi's trip has attracted attention.

It is worth noting that the announcement by China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated President Xi would "travel to" Japan rather than "pay a state visit," which Tokyo has long expected. The difference in the use of words has set the tone for President Xi's first trip to Japan.

Japanese public opinion has attached great importance to Xi's trip, even if it's not a state visit. The summits between Abe and US President Donald Trump for three straight months are no match for Xi's trip, since Japanese people are somewhat fatigued by Trump's frequent appearances.

During the anticipated Xi-Abe summit, the leaders will discuss third-party market cooperation and joint promotion of multilateral free trade.

For the continuously improving China-Japan ties, whether Xi is traveling to Japan or paying a state visit is of little importance. Trump visited Japan as a state guest in May. During his trip, Trump received extraordinary hospitality from the Japanese government and became the first foreign leader to meet Japanese Emperor Naruhito. Hence, some believe President Xi should be treated as a state guest.

Such public opinion is understandable. However, China's diplomacy is different from that of Japan. China pursues pragmatic outcomes rather than bells and whistles. Besides, even after being received warmly as a state guest, Trump did not pull any punches in Japan regarding the economic and trade deficit issues, but still persisted with his "America First" policy.

China is more concerned about how to promote bilateral ties in a sustained and stable way, rather than whether Xi should be treated as a state guest or not. This is the pragmatism of China's diplomacy.

Since last year, China-Japan relations have continued to develop, and increasingly positive interactions between the two countries have been witnessed. But how to ensure stability and sustainability of bilateral ties in the new era has become a fresh topic.

China and Japan have an extensive basis for cooperation in third-party market, technological innovation, aging and healthcare issues. But Japan has undermined the relations over Huawei and territorial and maritime issues. The moves not only impede better China-Japan relations, but also restrict the upward trend of the ties in the new era.

Both China and Japan have clearly defined each other as "partners." Abe has called on the two sides to turn competition into coordination. Currently, competition between the two countries is becoming less intense, but coordination has not yet been highlighted.

In fact, as the world's second- and third-largest economies, China and Japan are able to coordinate in various realms. With the rise of trade protectionism and changes in the international political and economic order, coordination between the two is particularly cherished and significant.

Hence, future coordination between the two countries should go beyond traditional areas such as third-party market cooperation and technological innovation. The focus should be more on macro-level fields including maintaining free trade and international political and economic order. In the new era, China and Japan should stick to these new fields in the long run.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China and the first year of Reiwa. Looking back at China-Japan relations in the past 70 years, cooperation in economy and trade is a principal line of bilateral relations, but collaboration in coping with international issues is relatively limited.

The comprehensive national power of China and Japan has undergone tremendous change. In the context of an increasingly complicated international situation, the stability of China-Japan relations is the cornerstone of not only the development of this bilateral relationship, but also an attempt at joint maintenance of global peace.

The author is an editor at the Global Times and a Japan watcher. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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