Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

The end rather than the means

By Li Wei (China Daily) Updated: 2014-07-01 07:40

Japan needs to recognize that its strategy toward China should be in pursuit of lasting friendship not just benefits

In order to realize the goal of becoming a "normal" state, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has adopted the strategy of trying to revise Japan's peaceful Constitution and break up the post-war order, build up its alliance with the United States, and play up the "threat" from China to support its military buildup.

This strategy, along with the denials of Japan's military past, have aroused opposition from domestic political parties as well as neighboring countries such as China and the Republic of Korea. It will almost certainly lead to contradiction with the US as well, because it seeks stronger military forces and more independence in the alliance between the two countries, and relies heavily on an assumed strategic confrontation between China and US, underestimating the growing cooperation between them.

There is also a danger of Japan's problematic policies bringing instability to the Asia-Pacific, for which there is a historical lesson that should be heeded. After World War I, the days of imperialism were already over, but Japan insisted on launching wars to conquer new colonies; it also mistook its industrialization fruits as the products of a more advanced civilization and fabricated the "ethnic superiority" of the Yamato nation; the result was the Asia-Pacific became a battlefield.

With Japan becoming a war-capable nation again, but refusing to apologize for its historical wrongdoings, it is natural the countries in East Asia that were the victims of Japan's aggression feel uneasy.

Japan's policy change has affected its relations with China the most. When China and Japan normalized bilateral ties in 1972, they issued a joint statement that stressed "eternal friendliness for generations to come". China considers friendship to be the goal of bilateral diplomacy, but during Abe's first term as prime minister in 2006 and 2007, friendship was merely the means for Japan and benefit the ultimate goal. As well as being the reason that relations have soured, Japan's change in diplomacy reflects Abe's attitude toward the relationship between the two countries. As two close neighbors with deep animosity in history, China and Japan need something to define their special relations and the "eternal friendship" statement in 1972 offered that. Japan's recent statements have degraded that high moral value into an interest-oriented partnership.

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