China and Japan need to strengthen joint efforts to protect the environment and work toward energy conservation
Deepening exchanges between China and Japan have presented brighter prospects for cooperation between Asia's two largest economies in the fields of energy conservation and environmental protection.
Ever since China adopted the reform and opening-up policy, it has attached utmost importance to environmental protection in the course of its economic growth.
It has also actively cooperated with Japan and other developed countries to bring home advanced technologies and expertise related to environmental protection.
Japan kicked off cooperation with China on environment projects in the late 1980s as part of an official development assistance (ODA) program to its less-developed neighbor.
The two countries jointly funded the establishment of the Sino-Japanese center on environmental protection in 1996, which is now a research agency directly under the Ministry of Environmental Protection.
Supported by Japanese yen loans, Chongqing, Dalian and Guiyang launched a campaign in 1998 to develop themselves into model cities for Sino-Japanese environment cooperation. They have now shown remarkable progress in trimming air pollution levels.
Since 2001, loans aimed at helping China curb desertification, soil erosion, promoting afforestation programs and improving public health have formed about 70 percent of China-bound Japanese yen loans.
With Japanese aid, an environment information network has also been set up across 100 Chinese cities.
Japan's ODA to China consists of Japanese yen loans, gratis fund assistance and technological cooperation with the country.
The quantum of yen loans, however, started declining since 2002. The Japanese government announced in 2008 that it would stop all new yen loans to China.
Japan also cut off its gratis fund assistance, the other component of its ODA to China, at the end of 2006.
Currently, technological cooperation with China, which has been retained as part of the ODA, is playing a key role in pushing forward environmental cooperation between the two countries.
The Sino-Japanese center on environmental protection, jointly funded by the two nations, launched in 2008 a plan to promote the development of a cyclical economy.
As with bilateral relations, environmental cooperation between China and Japan has also encountered ups and downs over the years.
From 2001 to 2006, Sino-Japanese relations got stuck in the so-called "politically cold and economically hot" state.
During this period, Tokyo drastically cut down its ODA to China, the main funding source for bilateral environmental cooperation.
As a result, bilateral cooperation on environmental issues also dipped considerably. This began to change once leaders of both nations reached agreement in October 2006 to establish strategic reciprocity.