Thursday, April 12, 2007

The first day of a new Sino-Japanese relationship?

So after years of the Sino-Japanese leg being the weakest in the US-Japan-China strategic triangle, it seems that Premier Wen's visit will go a long way towards strengthening the Sino-Japanese relationship to a level similar to the Sino-American relationship.

Similar to the US Military's links with the PLA, Japanese Defense Minister Kyuma announced before Wen's arrival that the JSDF and the PLA are planning reciprocal port visits, a historical first during the postwar era. Otherwise, the agreements reached are extremely modest: China's lifting restrictions on Japanese rice, cooperation on the environment, and expanded cultural exchanges.

But summitry and high-level talks between senior Japanese and Chinese officials, regardless of the tangible benefits, ensure a regularized relationship, and will perhaps moderate each government's behavior in bilateral disputes.

So Wen speaks to the Japanese Diet, speaking frankly about the historical and other issues that divide Japan and China? Great. The evolving Sino-Japanese relationship is little different from China's relationships with other regional powers, the US included: equal parts challenge and opportunity. There's going to be tension, and the problems will not go away overnight. I like Representative Nagashima's response, which emphasized the structural challenge posed by a China rising in all areas (except demographics).

China is not going away -- and whether as a strong, unified great power or a weak, divided, corruption-ridden environmental disaster area, it will profoundly impact the region and the world. All of which calls for realistic expectations about what the Sino-Japanese (and Sino-US) relationships can achieve.

1 comment:

David said...

I agree, "China is not going away" and I believe their adventure into capitalism will not turn them into a democracy.

I guess that is why I think it's important for Japan to be strong and play a greater, more assertive role in the Region.