Xi agrees to pay state visit after meeting with Abe

By Li Xuanmin in Osaka and Yang Sheng in Beijing Source:Global Times Published: 2019/6/27 23:41:36 Last Updated: 2019/6/28 7:32:48

Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the start of their talks in Osaka on Thursday, ahead of the G20 Osaka Summit. Photo: AFP

It's a rainy and gloomy day in Osaka - where the G20 Summit will be held - on Thursday, but China's relations with Japan are warming up, marked by the meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. 

In the meeting, Xi agreed in principle to accept Abe's invitation to pay a state visit to Japan in spring next year, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

"Next year around the season of cherry blossoms, I wish to invite President Xi Jinping as a state guest to Japan and elevate the relationship between two countries to the next level," Abe said, according to a spokesperson of Japan's Foreign Ministry of Affairs. 

Xi and Abe agreed that China and Japan have entered a new era of development, and the two sides need to make efforts to construct the bilateral ties that meet the demands of this new era.

They also agreed that the two countries should work together to safeguard multilateralism and the free trade system, and build an open world economy.

Abe's official visit to China in October marked the return of bilateral relations on a complete normal track, the spokesperson from Japan's foreign ministry said. Japan's new emperor was enthroned in May, while China will celebrate its 70th anniversary in October. "In such an important year, we will build a new era of China-Japan relations hand-in-hand," he noted.

Xi arrived in Osaka on Thursday afternoon for the summit, where he will expound on China's views and stand on the world economy and global economic governance.

On the sidelines, Xi is also scheduled to attend a leaders' meeting of the emerging-market group of BRICS, which also includes Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa. 

He will also take part in a China-Russia-India leaders' meeting and a China-Africa leaders' meeting, and hold a series of bilateral meetings.

This is Xi's first visit to Japan under the Reiwa era since the enthronement of Japan's new emperor in May. 

Japan, as the host of the summit and an island country which desperately needs multilateralism, has high expectations for the summit and will make the best use of the multilateral platform to improve its international influence, Da Zhigang, director of the Institute of Northeast Asian Studies at the Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

"As another victim of US protectionism and unilateralism, Japan shares common interests with China, and pressure from the US might bring a new driving force for China and Japan to establish a more pragmatic relationship for the new situation," Da said.

A middle-aged Japanese white-collar worker surnamed Watanabe told the Global Times that he is very "passionate" about the meeting between Chinese and Japanese top leaders.

"China and Japan really need to strengthen all-round bilateral communication after a normalized relation, and strike while the iron is hot. This will benefit not only Japan but also the world," another 60-year-old Osaka resident surnamed Matsuoka told the Global Times.

As two Asian economic powerhouses, China and Japan have the responsibility to join hands to promote regional stability and prosperity, especially in the context of meriting the multilateral trading system and guarding against unilateralism.

China and Japan are also the world's second- and third-largest economies, with a GDP of 90 trillion yuan ($13.08 trillion) and $4.9 trillion last year, respectively. A harmonized relationship also bodes well for the global economy, which has been hit by the lingering China-US trade war, observers said. 

Masashi Iwanaga, the general manager of the Beijing Office of the Japan-China Economic Association (JCEA), said that Japan has common interests with China in "promoting a multi-party approach" and the nation will lead discussions on WTO reforms during the G20 Summit to help regain global confidence in the multilateral mechanism.

Japan has been leading efforts to sign the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a landmark trade deal considered Tokyo's push for multilateral free trade among 11 Pacific nations after the US withdrew from the TPP last year. The CPTPP took effect on December 30.

Iwanaga noted that the Japanese side also hopes to speed up talks on the free trade agreement among China, Japan and South Korea as an important way to counter protectionism. 

The Xi-Abe meeting is also expected to lay the groundwork for Xi's first state visit to Japan, an agenda that Tokyo has been longing to push forward, the Japanese Times reported. If realized, such a visit would be the first state visit by a Chinese President since May 2008, the report said.  

Leaning toward China

Some Osaka residents also believe that the meeting could lead to a rebalance of Japan's diplomatic relations between China and the US. "We all know that Japan has had very close ties with the US, and maybe Abe is considering a shift," Watanabe said.

Analysts said it seems Japan is forced to make a choice to tilt the scale more toward China under the Trump administration's "America First" policy, which poses massive pressure to many nations, and even traditional US allies are no exception.

"Japan needs pragmatic cooperation with other nations to spur its sluggish economy. Abe knows that the US won't open its market to Japanese firms despite their relations," said Liu Junhong, a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. 

"The tougher US policies on trade, tariffs and high-technology transfer become, the closer China and Japan will get," Eiichi Shindo, head of the Belt and Road Initiative Japan Research Center, told the Global Times. 

On the contrary, China's huge market, ongoing market openness efforts, plus soaring third-market cooperation between Chinese and Japanese firms under the Belt and Road Initiative, offers Japanese companies more business opportunities from emerging and developing countries, Liu told the Global Times.

In October, a total of 52 third-party market cooperation agreements valued at more than $18 billion in infrastructure, finance, logistics and information technology were signed between Japanese and Chinese firms, according to data provided by JCEA.

China's vital support  

This year's G20 Summit marks the first time for Japan to host the meeting. As G20 president, Japan also invited eight guest countries and nine international organizations, such as the United Nations, WTO and World Bank, to the summit. 

But the theme of the two-day summit, which will kick off on Friday, has not been released as of press time, a rarity for the G20 Summit, which insiders said was largely due to the difficulty for member countries to reach a consensus on their different political and economic structures. 

Japan hopes to expand its global influence through a successful summit. Observers said that Abe could look for support from China in pushing forward several key agendas, such as multilateral trade policies.

Whether a joint statement is released at the end of the summit also depends on the attitude of major economies, including China. "The G20 summit could lead to closer ties between China and Japan," Shindo said.
Newspaper headline: China-Japan ties warm up


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