China, Japan exchange congratulations on 45th anniversary of peace, friendship treaty, a ‘significant move’ in stabilizing tense ties
Tokyo urged to correct its misperception on China-related issues, return to original intention of treaty of peace and friendship
Published: Oct 23, 2023 09:48 PM
China-Japan Photo: VCG

China-Japan Photo: VCG

Despite the severe difficulties facing the China-Japan relations,  Chinese Premier  and Japanese Prime Minister exchanged congratulations on Monday on the 45th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship Between China and Japan. Some experts considered the move a significant gesture of stabilizing bilateral relations, as Tokyo could make some tactical diplomatic adjustments in engaging with Beijing and easing tensions, considering its domestic political and economic dilemma as well as geopolitical challenges on the global stage. 

The current tension between the two countries amid low public sentiment firstly pertains to geopolitical security, including the dispute over the Diaoyu Islands, in addition to Japan's revised national security strategy that refers to China as a threat, along with its growing defense and security cooperation with the US in order to deter China, particularly on the Taiwan question, which could eventually lead to some essential changes and deliver a heavy blow to bilateral relations, experts warned. 

Premier Li Qiang and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Monday exchanged congratulations on the 45th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship Between China and Japan. 

In his message, Li said that China is willing to work with Japan to revive the spirit of the treaty, stay the course in steering bilateral relations, and commit to building China-Japan relations suited to the requirements of the new era.

On the occasion of the 45th anniversary of the treaty coming into effect, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at the recent 19th Beijing-Tokyo Forum that Japan's perception of China has noticeably regressed, mistakenly seeing the country as an unprecedented major strategic challenge. By repeatedly overstepping boundaries on the Taiwan question, Japan has caused substantial harm to the political foundation of bilateral relations, the Chinese top diplomat warned. 

Wang also put forward a five-point proposal on bilateral relations, including acting upon the political promises with common understanding on such important sensitive issues as history and the Taiwan question, preventing decoupling and manmade limits using the excuse of "economic security", and taking seriously the opposition to and concerns at home and abroad over the discharge of Fukushima nuclear-contaminated water and jointly opposing any attempt to seek a new Cold War and small cliques. 

Besides the disputes over territorial sovereignty, Japan has been frequently sending out negative signals suggesting a "strategic containment of China" and "economic decoupling from China," and some Japanese politicians have provocatively declared that "a Taiwan emergency is a Japanese emergency," making China-Japan relations increasingly tense, some experts said. 

However, facing rising geopolitical risks, such as the Ukraine crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and considering the increasing engagement between the US and China in recent months, Japan could use this opportunity to make some tactical adjustments in easing tensions with China for the sake of its own economic recovery and political stability, according to experts. 

Upholding original intention 

The leaders of both countries have reached a consensus on continuing to uphold the Treaty of Peace and Friendship Between China and Japan, maintaining the development of bilateral relations and contributing to peace and stability in East Asia and the world, which is truly significant, Liu Jiangyong, vice dean of the Institute of Modern International Relations at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times on Monday. 

"However, bilateral relations are facing severe challenges including the misunderstanding inside Japan on the territorial sovereignty issues such as the Diaoyu Islands, which has made more Japanese people support enhancing the alliance between Japan and the US and hyping the Taiwan question," Liu said. 

A public opinion survey released at the 19th Beijing-Tokyo Forum ahead of the 45th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship Between China and Japan showed that 55.4 percent of Chinese respondents hope to "minimize the impact of the China-US rivalry and promote China-Japan cooperation," while only 29 percent of Japanese respondents share this view.

However, nearly six in ten Japanese respondents hope Japan "will not take sides and should strive to contribute to international cooperation." 

Zhao Qizheng, former director of the State Council Information Office was quoted as saying in media reports that "friends can be chosen, neighbors must be friendly." China and Japan need to uphold the original intent of their normalization of diplomatic relations and the spirit of the treaty, striving to extricate themselves from the interference and constraints of the third countries, he said. 

The treaty's stipulations, such as adhering to the principles of the China-Japan Joint Statement, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, and opposing any nation's quest for hegemony, remain fundamental guidelines that must be followed in handling China-Japan relations, Mao Ning, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, told a press conference on Monday. 

These principles are also relevant and instructive for addressing risks and challenges faced by today's world, she said. 

Some experts believe that Japan "has gone too far" by perceiving China as a major threat in its revised national security strategy and hyping the Taiwan question. It has been continuously increasing its defense budget and purchasing cruise missiles from the US, intending to show deterrence to China through military strength, which completely violates the treaty. 

"Besides the disputes over territorial sovereignty, Japan's growing containment of China and its mindset of creating a new Cold War in Northeast Asia brings more uncertainties, even risks to bilateral relations," Da Zhigang, director of the Institute of Northeast Asian Studies at Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Monday. 

A possible adjustment

The Japanese government is considering naming the current ambassador to Indonesia, Kenji Kanasugi, 64, as ambassador to China to replace Hideo Tarumi, officials said Sunday, according to the Japanese news agency Jiji Press. 

The government apparently hopes that the appointment of Kanasugi, who is not a member of the so-called China School of diplomats who have received Chinese language training, will help stabilize relations with Beijing, Jiji Press reported. 

Kanasugi, an expert on US affairs, joined the Foreign Ministry in 1983, and has served in posts such as secretary to then Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, director-general of the ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau and senior deputy foreign minister, the Japanese media said. 

"I believe that the appointment of a new ambassador to China, while seemingly just a diplomatic personnel reshuffle, holds deeper implications, considering the current state of China-Japan relations," Da said, indicating some level of expectations for the new ambassador. 

We hope the ambassador can work with China in the same direction and actively foster a healthy and stable progression of China-Japan relations, he said, noting that from Japan's perspective, the hope is firstly for stabilizing China-Japan ties.  

A stable overall relationship with China would serve as a foundation for Japan to push its regional and global diplomatic agendas, Da added. 

The fundamental reason for the stable development in Asia is that regional countries, including China and Japan, have overcome ideological differences and conflicts of interest through dialogue and cooperation, paving the way for peaceful coexistence, Wu Jianghao, the Chinese Ambassador to Japan, said at a seminar on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of the signing of the treaty. 

"We need to break through the false narratives of 'democracy vs. authoritarianism,' 'economic decoupling from risks,' and 'today's Ukraine, tomorrow's East Asia,' and to work together to maintain the positive momentum of cooperation and development in Asia," Wu said. 

Given the growing geopolitical challenges such as the Ukraine crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian  conflict, in addition to the intensifying internal contradictions in US politics, there seems to be an emerging possibility for dialogue and improvement between China and Japan at this stage, Liu noted. 

"As China and the US possibly move toward more engagement, Japan needs to make tactical adjustments. As it seeks economic recovery and political stability, it must consider appropriately easing tensions with China," he said.