Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Japan, China can share the same boat

By Cai Hong (China Daily) Updated: 2014-10-21 08:06

Yet some people in Japan are now measuring China's corn by their own bushel, drawing a parallel between Imperial Japan's expansionism and the rise of China.

It's true that a pattern can be seen throughout world history: empire emerges, hand in glove, with aggressive expansion.

The British Empire was a product of the European age of discovery, starting with England's maritime explorations in the 15th century. The entry of the United States into World War I in 1917 heralded the beginning of its own expansionist path to power.

But China's story is different. While it is attracting attention around the world because of its rapid growth, China remains a developing country that harbors no desire for world hegemony.

The rise of China is fundamentally altering the power configuration of the world, and its leaders are determined to accomplish this peacefully.

Premier Li Keqiang's recent visit to Germany, Russia and Italy was closely watched in Japan. Japanese media described the China-Russia relationship as a kind of“吴越同舟”, or being in the same boat.

A proverb alludes to an episode in ancient China in which combatants from the warring states of Wu and Yue found themselves in the same boat on a river in a storm. Despite their hatred for each other, they agreed to lay down their weapons for common passage.

Separated by a strip of water that is stormy now and then, China and Japan have often occupied the same boat. They are not only neighbors but also the world's second-and third-largest economies.

Though many characters in the Chinese and Japanese languages differ in meaning, the connotation of the term“吴越同舟” is crystal clear and the same.

The people of Wu and Yue states offer a lesson for us in modern times: When they bent their energies in a single direction, they weathered the storm.

This is the approach China and Japan should take today.

The author is China Daily's Tokyo bureau chief.

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