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BEIJING - The Japanese economy, under the burden of years of deflation and an aging population, has been the "Patient of Asia" for the last two decades.
The Japanese people can cite many reasons for their economic malaise, from bad government policies that led to the forming and bursting of a giant economic bubble in late 1980s and early 1990s to cumbersome mega companies that have been losing money and shedding jobs due to increasing global competition.
More recently, the Japanese economy has suffered another blow due to a bitter row with China, a crucial trade and investment partner, ignited by Tokyo's repeated provocations over the Diaoyu Islands, an integral part of Chinese territory.
Yet new Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe turned the facts upside down when he claimed Friday that China has deliberately targeted Japanese companies as part of a strategy to confront Japan over the territorial dispute.
It is true that economic ties between China and Japan have chilled considerably since former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's cabinet decided to "buy" part of the Diaoyu Islands in September despite strong Chinese opposition.
The outcome is nothing but natural, as good economic relations are always based on sound political ties. It is naive to believe that Japan can maintain strong trade and investment ties with China while repeatedly provoking China on critical issues.
In addition, the pinch felt by Japanese companies results largely from an across-the-board boycott of Japanese goods spontaneously staged by Chinese consumers who felt betrayed by the bellicose Japanese government. The Chinese government has nothing to do with this.
Japanese politicians, including Abe, have only themselves to blame, because their brinkmanship is the root cause of the deterioration of China-Japan economic ties.
They have also been stoking fears about the so-called "China threat" in the broader Asia-Pacific region and trying to build a coalition of countries against China.
For many in China, Abe's latest remarks are just part of an attempt by the Japanese government to depict China as the villain and gain an upper hand in the territorial dispute.
But Tokyo is doomed to lose the gamble, as more and more countries have come to realize that China acts responsibly in the international arena and its development is a real blessing for the whole world.
Meanwhile, Japan has raised concerns in capitals worldwide that its increasingly hawkish policy toward China will further escalate the situation and pose a serious risk to regional peace and stability.
For Japan, its fragile economy is in urgent need of the opportunities a sound China-Japan relationship brings, but Japan's unwise foreign policy has made these opportunities harder to come by.
Thus it is of pressing importance that Abe immediately arrest his country's self-destructive tendency and put its foreign relations and economic recovery back on track so as not to waste his second chance at the top.