World / Exchanges

Forum seeks to bridge Sino-Japan divisions

By ZHANG YUNBI (China Daily) Updated: 2014-09-27 05:41

Veteran officials and prominent think tank analysts from China and Japan are gathering in Tokyo this weekend for an annual forum, seeking a way to narrow the widening gap between the two countries.

Forum seeks to bridge Sino-Japan divisions
Survey finds pessimism in ties with Japan 
The Beijing-Tokyo Forum is co-hosted by China Daily and the Japanese nonprofit think tank Genron NPO. It is being held for the 10th consecutive year.

It serves as one of the few mechanisms for dialogue between the nations, with bilateral ties nose-diving under the administration of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The forum is being held ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders' summit in Beijing in November.

More than 200 influential participants from both sides will attend the forum on Sunday and Monday.

Observers at the forum say one of the biggest problems to be discussed is the lack of positive momentum for mutual trust, which is badly needed to bridge the widening divide in relations between the countries.

Relations have sunk to a record low since Abe took office in December 2012. He has made a pilgrimage to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which houses the remains of 14 Class-A convicted war criminals, has pushed to expand the role of Japan's defense force, and has several times stated positions that have been interpreted as paying tribute to his country's wartime past.

A public opinion poll conducted in China and Japan and co-sponsored by China Daily and Genron NPO shows that the impact of the Diaoyu Islands dispute on bilateral ties appears to be declining, but pessimism still prevails over the future of relations between the countries.

Yang Bojiang, deputy director of the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the forum is a "great opportunity that deserves to be cherished".

"The China-Japan relationship is extremely special because both sides have a strong will to improve it. This is rare between any other countries (whose relationship is strained)," Yang added.

Wang Xinsheng, a professor of Japanese studies at Peking University in Beijing, said: "Japan has tended to interpret criticism from others as aimed at apportioning blame, or as a challenge. Japan's repentance for its wartime atrocities is far from sufficient, as are official efforts."

This has diminished Japan's hopes of shaping good relations with its neighbors and led to a series of stumbling blocks for the Abe Cabinet, Wang added.

Wu Huaizhong, a researcher of Japanese political and defense policies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Japan is trying to shape a regional order in which it aims to "secure its power and say ‘follow Washington's agenda and mainly target China'".

The opinion poll shows that the Chinese public's view of Japan has improved slightly in the past year. However, dislike for China in Japan has risen to a record-high 93 percent, it found.

Liu Junhong, a researcher of Japanese studies at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said one of the issues is whether Tokyo will abandon its assumption that China's rise is dangerous to Japan.

The Abe Cabinet is unlikely to drop its strategy of hedging against China, which will make nonsense of its calls to rebuild a strategic mutually beneficial relationship.

This year, 62.9 percent of Chinese interviewed supported the idea that "the two economies are highly complementary and they could cooperate to achieve a win-win situation", compared with 58.6 percent last year. "When neither side trusts the other, substantial economic cooperation is unlikely," Liu said.



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