Neighbors' ties warming up like spring season
By Li Xiaokun
Updated: 2008-02-21 07:22

China-Japan relations are entering a warm season just as spring follows winter, experts say.

President Hu Jintao's visit to Japan during the "cherry blossom season" will be preceded by the publication of the Chinese edition of Wen Jiabao, Pitcher No 35 in Japan.

The book, to be published about one month before Hu's visit, has many interesting anecdotes from the Chinese premier's ice-thawing visit to Japan last spring.

The interaction Wen had with the Ritsumeikan University baseball team and his cultural exchanges with the Japanese public are among the highlights of the book, according to its Tokyo-based publisher, Duan Press.

Duan Press chief editor Duan Yuezhong told China Daily that the book shows the other side of Wen, who has the ability to mix with ordinary people in the most casual and mundane manners. And that is a genuine and touching aspect of his character.

"For example, Wen had his own sport suit for the baseball game, but when the university team's coach gathered enough courage to ask the premier if he would like to wear the one they had made for him, he accepted it," Duan said.

"The most interesting point is that the coach couldn't speak Chinese. We don't even know how they communicated."

The name of the book comes from the number on the jersey Wen wore, which initially sparked a hot debate among Japanese Foreign Ministry officials.

"Number 8, which is most favored by the Chinese, and numbers 6, 9 that symbolize good fortune had all been discussed. Finally, the two countries agreed on No 35 (because) that represented the 35th anniversary of the normalization of Sino-Japanese relations," the book says.

Wen brought back the outfit to Beijing, and wore it again during the baseball practice he had with visiting Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda in December.

Tokyo-based Koki International Company's chairman Li Xiaoyan, who initiated the idea for the book, said: "Premier Wen took part in the baseball game with Japanese college students with sincerity. This is a touching story beyond age, position, language and national boundaries."

After conducting interviews with a host people for six months, the Japanese edition of the 140-page reportage was published in December 2007, with its cover depicting a smiling Chinese premier in baseball suit.

The response of readers has been overwhelming, said Duan Yuezhong. Many people bought this book as a New Year gift for friends and some schools are even using it as a textbook to promote China-Japan cultural exchanges.

"The book has also been read widely by officials of both the countries' foreign ministries, and the response from them has been excellent," he said.

(China Daily 02/21/2008 page2)