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Uphold Larger Interest and Manage Crisis for Sound and Steady Development of China-Japan Relations


Speech by H.E. Tang Jiaxuan
At the International Seminar on the 40th Anniversary of
Normalization of China-Japan Relations
Organized by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS)

29 August 2012

Ambassador Uichiro Niwa,
Executive Vice President Wang Weiguang,
Vice President Wu Yin,
Distinguished Guests,
Dear Friends,

Good morning. Today next month, we will mark the 40th anniversary of the normalization of China-Japan relations. With the support of the Japanese Embassy and the Japan Foundation, three prominent institutions of Japanese studies in China, namely the Institute of Japanese Studies of CASS, the Chinese Association for Japanese Studies and National Assembly of Japanese Economy are holding this major academic event to commemorate the occasion. Among the Chinese and Japanese participants, I see many old friends and some new ones. Taking this opportunity, I wish to pay tribute to all of you for what you have done over the years to promote academic exchanges and overall relations between China and Japan. I wish this seminar every success.

This year, which marks the 40th anniversary of the normalization of bilateral ties, is an important year for us to build on past achievements and open new prospects for China-Japan relations. Confucius said, "At forty, I no longer had doubts." Themed of "Moving from History to Future", this seminar will review the past, assess the present and look ahead to the future, and generate good recommendations on how to make greater progress in China-Japan relations from the new starting point. This is both timely and meaningful. I thank the organizers for their gracious invitation and this opportunity to share my views on China-Japan relations based on my own observation and thinking. And I welcome your comments and feedback.

China and Japan are neighbors linked by a strip of water. We have enjoyed over 2,000 years of friendly exchanges and experienced a painful period in our relations in modern times. Premier Zhou Enlai characterized this in vivid language: "2,000 years of friendship, 50 years of misfortune". Today, 40 years after the normalization of relations, it seems fair to add to his comment: "40 years of rich fruits". Truly, the past four decades have witnessed the fastest and biggest growth of China-Japan relations and the greatest benefits to our peoples. Unprecedented progress has been made in our relations at every level and in every field.

In the political field, the two sides have issued four political documents establishing the basic principles of developing peaceful, friendly and cooperative relations and the general direction of promoting the strategic relationship of mutual benefit.

In the economic field, two-way trade has jumped from one billion US dollars to over 340 billion. China has become Japan's biggest trading partner and Japan, China's second biggest trading partner and largest source of foreign investment.

In the cultural field, the number of people visiting each other's countries each year has increased from 10,000 to over 5 million. There are 250 pairs of sister provinces and cities between the two sides. Every day, nearly 100 flights carrying 18,000 people travel between the two countries.

It must be pointed out that these impressive achievements of the past 40 years does not mean that the journey has been a smooth one. Indeed, there have been twists and turns and enormous challenges. But on the whole, our relationship has moved forward by overcoming difficulties, obstacles and challenges. Marking the 40th anniversary of normalization gives us an opportunity to learn the experiences and lessons of history so as to better develop China-Japan relations. As I see it, the extraordinary journey of China-Japan relations in the past 40 year has repeatedly borne out the following principles, which we should bear firmly in mind:

First, we need to uphold the political basis of bilateral relations with great care. The four political documents embody the important consensus the two sides have reached at different stages of bilateral relations by summarizing both positive and negative lessons. Crystallizing the commitment and wisdom of generations of leaders of both countries, they should be cherished and upheld. The important principles enshrined in these documents, such as "taking history as a guide and looking to the future", following the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence and settling disputes through consultation and negotiation provide important and long-term guidance for the development of our relations and should be reflected in the concrete actions of both sides. The course of our relationship since normalization shows that as long as these principles are followed, the relationship can develop smoothly. However, whenever these principles are violated, our relationship would suffer from frictions and setbacks.

Second, we need to keep firmly to the general direction of peace, friendship and cooperation. This is the very purpose of the normalization of relations. China and Japan are neighbours that will not go away. Our only choice is to live in amity. A peaceful, friendly and cooperative relationship not only serves the fundamental interests of the two countries and peoples, but also echoes the call of our time and the aspirations of the people. It is the eternal theme of our relationship. At no time should we abandon the banner of peace and friendship.

Third, we need to bear in mind the larger interest. There are both historical and practical issues between China and Japan, many of which are very complex and sensitive. A single careless move could trigger confrontation of public sentiments and deal a serious blow to bilateral relations. There are many lessons in this regard, which should always be remembered. When faced with complex issues, we should always seek solutions through dialogue and consultation and safeguard the overall interests of bilateral relations. This will enable us to appropriately resolve the issues in question and truly uphold our shared interests.

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the second decade of the 21st century, the international and regional situation is undergoing profound transformation and China and Japan are growing and evolving constantly. This presents China-Japan relations with more opportunities and more challenges. On the one hand, our increasingly close ties, rapidly interwoven interests and ever deepening interdependency create more space and broader prospects of cooperation. On the other hand, due to changes in the internal and external environment and other factors, some deep-seated problems have surfaced, exposing a deficit of political trust and the fragility of mutual goodwill. Thoughtful people in both countries should pay high attention to this.

This year, some new and old problems in our relations have heated up, the most notable of which is the issue of Diaoyu Dao. Since the start of the year, Japan has made a series of negative moves, in particular the unfolding of "island purchase" initiative. More recently, Chinese citizens and boat were illegally detained near Diaoyu Dao and its adjacent waters. This was followed by the landings of Japanese personnel on the island. These developments have aroused strong indignation among the Chinese people and caused serious interference in the bilateral relations.

There are many reasons behind these developments, but the root cause is that some individuals and forces in Japan do not want to see smooth development of China-Japan relations. They attempt to use the issue of Diaoyu Dao to provoke confrontation between the Chinese and Japanese people so that they can gain political capital and disrupt bilateral relations. If they should succeed in their attempt, the Diayu Dao issue could spin out of control and bring endless trouble to China-Japan relations. The two governments face a big test to manage the crisis in a timely and effective fashion, appropriately handle relevant issues and prevent them from seriously undermining the overall relationship.

Diaoyu Dao is a long-standing issue on which China and Japan have different positions. At the time of the normalization of relations in 1972, Premier Zhou Enlai and Prime Minister Tanaka Kakuei reached the consensus on "leaving the issue to be resolved later". When concluding the Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Friendship in 1978, the two sides reached the common understanding of "shelving the dispute and leaving it to be resolved later". Mr. Deng Xiaoping said very clearly at the time, "When we nornalized relations, the two sides agreed not to touch this issue. Negotiating this time on the Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Friendship, we didn't touch it either. If we cannot reach agreement on the issue, it may be wise to put it aside. If our generation do not have enough wisdom, the next generation will surely be smarter than us. They will find a good solution acceptable to both sides." Nobody can deny that had the older generation of leaders not handled the issue of Diaoyu Dao from a strategic height and with political wisdom, China-Japan relations could not have made such enormous progress in the years that followed. The important consensus reached at that time has been the essential guarantee for the bilateral relationship to overcome interferences and keep moving forward in the last 40 years. It remains an important guideline of relevance to us today as we address the Diaoyu Dao issue and work for steady development of China-Japan relations.

In recent years, Japan has obstinately stuck to the wrong position of denying the dispute over Diaoyu Dao and refused to recognize the important consensus and understanding reached between the two sides. This flies in the face of historical facts and the objective reality, and constitutes a serious backtrack from Japan's original position. It is the very reason why Japan has made repeated missteps in managing the Diaoyu Dao crisis. Let me point out that China's position of having sovereignty over Diaoyu Dao has been consistent, clear-cut and firm. Diaoyu Dao and its affiliated islands have been an integral part of China since ancient times. This is supported by indisputable historical facts and legal evidence. Any kind of unilateral action taken by Japan is illegal and invalid. It cannot change the fact that the Diaoyu Dao islands belong to China, or shake the will and resolve of the Chinese government and people to safeguard China's territorial sovereignty. Having said this, the Chinese side has always kept in mind the larger interest of bilateral relations, exercised calm and restraint, and made enormous efforts to prevent the issue from affecting the overall relations with Japan. Territorial issues are highly sensitive in any country and bear on national sentiments. Confrontation and conflict are not the way to go. Unilateral action does nothing to resolve the issue, but will only lead to further complication of the situation. The only right way is to work through dialogue and consultation.

I have noticed that some thoughtful people in Japan, including former senior government officials and renowned scholars, have called on the government to face reality squarely and handle the issue in a practical way. The Japanese government should pay attention to these rational voices and return to the right track of resloving the issue through negotiation and dialogue with China. If Japan continues to avoid the issue or tries to force its position on China, it will only drive itself into a corner, and further escalate the situation, even pushing the issue out of control.

Some extreme arguments have emerged recently in Japan and they should put us on high alert. Some Japanese go as far as to suggest the dispatch of the Japan Self-Defence Forces in the interest of Diaoyu Dao. This dangerous suggestion does not serve the fundamental interests of the two countries and peoples and runs counter to the spirit of the Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Friendship. The treaty clearly stipulates that the two sides should commit themselves to the peaceful settlement of all disputes and refrain from the use or threat of force. This has been an important basic principle guiding the development of China-Japan relations. We should never allow the above-mentioned extreme argument to hijack public opinion and ruin the hard-won achievements of the past 40 years.

A hard lesson should be learned from the boat collision incident in 2010. To appropriately handle the Diaoyu Dao issue, we must face facts honestly, engage in timely and effective communication and manage the crisis in real earnest. We must make sure that the situation do not spiral out of control and affect the overall relations. To be more specific, there are three DOs and three DON'Ts: we must recognize the dispute rather than deny it, shelve the dispute rather than intensify it, and act to stabilize the situation rather than take unilateral actions to further complicate and escalate the situation. Past experience shows that this approach will help to appropriately handle the issue and contribute to the sound and steady growth of China-Japan relations.

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The China-Japan relationship is one of the most important bilateral relationships for both China and Japan, two major economies and influential countries in the world. Whether our relationship is stable or not has a direct bearing on peace, stability and development in the region and beyond. Under the new circumstances, our two countries share more and more common responsibilities and common interests. The relationship is more, not less, important than before.

China has always attached great importance to growing the bilateral relations and is committed to fostering friendship with Japan. China has prioritized the bilateral relationship in its diplomacy and stands ready to work with Japan to deepen our strategic relationship of mutual benefit so that we can achieve the goal of peaceful co-existence, everlasting friendship, mutually beneficial cooperation and common development. This commitment will not be changed by temporary incidents. Faced with the current complexity in the relationship, we should adopt a farsighted, strategic vision and focus on long-term and larger interests so as to remove disturbances from our relationship with greater confidence, determination and patience, and bring our relationship back to track of sound development. I suggest that the two countries make the following efforts:

First, enhance mutual trust and consolidate the political foundation of bilateral relations. The reasons behind the mutual mistrust in political and security fields are varied, consisting of historical and geopolitical factors and conflict of interests. But at the heart of it is how we view and react to each other's development. Japanese leaders have stated on many occasions that China's development is an opportunity for Japan, a statement that we welcome. In fact, Japan's continued prosperity and development is also an opportunity for China. At the same time, there are all sorts of misgivings in Japan about China's development, especially China's rising military power. Some Japanese individuals and media outlets, under the Cold War mentality, still preach the "China threat" and trumpet the idea of "regulating" and "containing" China's development. The recently released annual white paper Defense of Japan makes groundless accusations about China's defence policy and military activities, and some people in Japan spread sheer rumours. This has caused strong concern among the Chinese public, seriously misled Japanese people and done new damage to mutual trust.

China's continuous development in recent years has affected Japanese mentality. Influenced by this as well as media hype, some Japanese people have failed to approach China-Japan relations from the right angle or find the right answer to the question of whether China is a partner or adversary. Actually, the fourth Sino-Japanese political document has given a clear answer to the question: The two countries are "each other's cooperative partners and do not pose a threat to each other" and the two countries "support each other's peaceful development". Both sides should make efforts to translate this important political consensus into the general view of the two societies. Much needs to be done in this regard.

To this end, the two sides should maintain high-level exchanges and contacts to give unceasing political impetus to the development of bilateral relations; the two sides should strengthen strategic dialogue and in-depth dialogue and consultation between the foreign ministries on major issues in bilateral relations, and on each other's domestic and foreign policies and direction of development; political parties and legislative bodies should enhance exchanges and candid communication to build and expand consensus; and continuing efforts should be made to push forward dialogue, exchange and cooperation in defence and security fields to remove misgivings and prevent strategic miscalculation.

Second, deepen cooperation to deliver benefits to the people of the two countries. In the 40 years since the normalization of relations, China and Japan have expanded and strengthened shared interests, bringing tangible benefits to people of the two countries and laying a solid foundation for the long-term development of bilateral relations. The two countries should remain committed to mutually beneficial cooperation and make the pie of common interests bigger to better serve people of the two countries.

Since the beginning of this year, although various problems have interfered greatly with the development of bilateral relations, the two countries have still made some positive progress in practical cooperation. On 1 June, direct trading commenced between Chinese Yuan and Japanese Yen, marking substantial progress in our financial cooperation. In early August, the relevant authorities of the two countries signed a new agreement on expanding air transportation, paving the way for more travels between the two countries. Also in early August, the seventh China-Japan Comprehensive Forum on Energy Saving and Environmental Protection was held successfully in Tokyo, with 47 cooperation agreements signed. These achievements contribute positively to our business cooperation and show the great complementarity and enormous potential of cooperation between the two economies. The two countries should, in line with the global economic trend and our respective development needs, intensify cooperation in such important fields as energy saving and environmental protection, green and low-carbon development, high and new technology, fiscal and financial matters, and work hard to promote cooperation on major projects so as to make a qualitative leap in our business cooperation. The two countries may also actively explore cooperation in medical, old-age and health care to expand our practical, win-win cooperation in social fields.

Third, expand exchanges to solidify public support for bilateral relations. Amity between the people holds the key to sound state-to-state relations. Friendship between non-governmental sectors has long been the fine tradition and unique strength of China-Japan relations. It is worrying to see the continued decline of goodwill between people of the two countries. A recent survey shows that the number of Chinese and Japanese having favourabe views of each other's country has hit a historical low, although the majority of the public in both countries see China-Japan relations as very important. I believe, it is very important for the two sides to adopt a multi-pronged approach to reverse the declining public sentiments with a renewed sense of urgency and persistent efforts.

The two sides should vigorously carry out youth exchanges by creating more platforms innovative in form, rich in content and effective in outcomes. The two sides should foster conditions for better understanding between ordinary Chinese and Japanese people. We should make full use of sister cities and other arrangements to promote community-level exchanges. We should explore our shared cultural tradition and ideals and harness popular culture and creative industries to conduct exciting exchanges welcomed by the people. We should also intensify exchanges between media professionals and encourage them to give objective, comprehensive and rational coverage of each other's country, thus becoming a positive and constructive force in developing bilateral relations.

This year is the "Friendship Year of People-to-People Exchange". The two sides have decided to hold more than 600 events. I believe that under the current complex situation, it is all the more important to hold these events as planned to show people in both countries the significance and achievement of friendly cooperation. In so doing, we can offset the sinister moves that damage China-Japan relationship, thus creating the conditions and atmosphere for improving bilateral relations.

Fourth, broaden our horizon and expand cooperation in regional and global affairs. China-Japan relations have long gone beyond the bilateral dimension and taken on growing regional and global significance. The two countries should pursue peace, development and cooperation as these are the call of the time and the trend of the world, and continue to expand and enrich our strategic relationship of mutual benefit on the regional and global stage.

The two countries should see Asia as the main arena of interaction and take solid steps to promote communication, coordination and cooperation in regional affairs. We should work together to advance Asian integration, strengthen regional financial cooperation and engage in concrete cooperation on Asian connectivity and development of the Mekong subregion. We should remain committed to maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and pushing forward the Six-Party Talks process, thus contributing to denuclearization of the Peninsula and durable peace and stability in the region.

The debt crisis in Europe and the United States has taken its toll on the world economy and worsened the external environment for both China and Japan. We should work together to handle the destablizing and uncertain factors in world economy and use the UN, G20, APEC and other multilateral fora to stay in close communication and coordination on safeguarding global economic stability, advancing reform of international financial institutions and improving global economic governance. We should also cooperate to tackle global challenges such as climate change, terrorism, resource, energy and food security, and infectious diseases.

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As an eye witness of the development of bilateral relations for half a century, I know full well the development has not come easily and should be carefully nurtured and cherished. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the normalization of bilateral relations and also the "Friendship Year of People-to-People Exchange". What a great pity that so much trouble should lay in store for our relationship. Yet, I still have full confidence in the development of our relations. I for one believe that the long-term, sound and steady development of our relations serves the fundamental interests of the two countries and peoples and reflects the shared wish of the international community. The vast majority of the people in both countries have realized how important the relationship is and tend to approach it from the perspective of national strategy and long-term and fundamental interests. They are committed to passing on the friendship to future generations. As long as the two sides take a strategic and long-term approach to the bilateral relationship and handle the relevant issues on the basis of the four political documents and the consensus of the two sides, and as long as we set our sights on the future and bear in mind the larger interests when promoting win-win strategic cooperation, we can achieve the sound and steady development of bilateral relations and make continuous progress in the lofty cause of China-Japan friendship.

Thank you.

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