Address by State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan at Reception in Japan
21 February, 2008
It gives me great pleasure to meet all of you, my old friends.
Over the past half a century, China-Japan relations have gone from mutual estrangement to rebuilding and advancement. For years, we rejoiced at the growth of our friendship and worried about its setbacks. We have all worked hard for the healthy and steady growth of the bilateral relations and, in the process, forged profound friendship. I wish to take this opportunity to pay high tribute and express my heartfelt thanks to all those who have made valuable contribution to the growth of China-Japan friendly relations.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between China and Japan. Thirty years ago, Mr. Deng Xiao Ping and Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda made the political decision to conclude this Treaty, which for the first time in history, defined in a legal form the important guiding principles for our bilateral relationship on the basis of peaceful coexistence and lasting friendship. The Treaty consolidated and strengthened the political and legal foundation of our relations. As Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda said, it has built an "iron bridge" for the friendship and exchanges between our two countries. I very much agree with this vivid expression.
Over the past thirty years, China-Japan relations have made significant progress in all areas and reached an unprecedented level. At the same time, our relations have also gone through many twists and turns, and met with difficulties and setbacks. Thanks to out joint efforts, our relations have been improving and growing since last year. Leaders of our two countries have successfully made the "ice-breaking", "ice-melting" and "spring-heralding" visits, which brought China-Japan relations back to the track of healthy growth and redefined our strategic relationship of mutual benefit. At this moment, our thoughts are with Mr. Kakuei Tanaka, Mr. Masayoshi Ohira, Mr. Tatsunosuke Takasaki, Mr. Kenzo Matsumura, Mr. Tokuma Utsunomiya, Mr. Aiichiro Fujiyama and Mr. Masayoshi Ito, and other statesmen of the elder generation who were the pioneers of China-Japan friendship. We also recall the lifetime contribution to China-Japan friendship and business and trade ties made by Mr. Yoshihiro Inayama, Mr. Kaheita Okazaki and Mr. Ichizo Kimura, leaders of the business sector. We should never forget those who have made important contribution in recent years to overcoming the political difficulty in China-Japan relationship and to its improvement and growth. Their political vision is admirable.
Looking back at the evolution of China-Japan relations after the Second World War, I have four points to share with you. First, the growth and achievement in China-Japan relations have not come easily. It is our shared responsibility to protect and nurture our relationship carefully. Second, China-Japan friendship is the irresistible historical trend and has strong popular support. We should have firm confidence in it without wavering. Third, the development of China-Japan friendly relations serves the interests of both China and Japan and more importantly, our common interests. Fourth, in China-Japan relations, there are some issues left from history which remain to be resolved, and there may be new problems that we must face together. We should take a prudent approach and handle these issues carefully in order to prevent them from affecting the overall bilateral relationship. The recent "dumpling incident" in Japan has caused much concern to the Chinese Government. I wish to take this opportunity to express my sincere sympathy to the victims of the incident. I hope that we may bring truth to light as soon as possible through close cooperation between the two sides. I would like to emphasize that the Chinese Government puts people's interest above everything else. As for food safety, we are responsible not only to the 1.3 billion Chinese people, but also to the people of other countries who take food made in China. This is a firm policy of the Chinese Government. Just as Prime Minister Fukuda said during his recent visit to China, for Japan-China relations, there is no other possible option than the one of peace and friendship. This remark is simple but thought-provoking, and full of historical wisdom and strategic vision.
In this changing world, China and Japan are both at an important period of development. Looking ahead, our relationship is now at a new historical departure and has a broad prospect for development. Under the new circumstances, the common interests and opportunities for China and Japan are expanding and common challenges increasing. The main purpose of my visit to Japan is to have in-depth exchange of views with the Japanese government and friends from various circles on ways to develop China-Japan friendly relations and cooperation looking towards the future, and at the same time, prepare for President Hu Jintao's state visit to Japan in spring.
President Hu's visit will be the first by a Chinese head of state to Japan in the new century, and the first by China's top leader after the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. It will have a far-reaching significance for continued growth and opening of a new chapter of China-Japan relationship. We hope that this important visit will enable our two countries to plan for the future and set a new framework for the long-term, healthy and stable China-Japan relationship. We are ready to work with the Japanese side to ensure that this visit will be a complete success and elevate China-Japan relations to a new level. I have full confidence in this. I believe that as long as we join hands, share development opportunities and work together to address challenges, China-Japan friendship will show greater vitality in the 21st century. This is the call of the times and the common aspiration of our peoples. As Prime Minister Fukuda put it, spring is again coming to Japan-China relations. Spring brings us hope and strength, and I feel today right in this room the fragrance of spring. Let's work together to reinforce the bond of our friendship and usher in a better future for our relations.