China is hoping the "ping
pong diplomacy," which helped ease relations with the United States in the
1970s, will help improve China-Japan relations, which have reached their lowest
point due to the Yasukuni Shrine issue.
Councilor Tang Jiaxuan (R) is presented a table tennis bat by Koji Kimura,
general director of the Japan Table Tennis Association in Beijing, April
3, 2006. [Xinhua]
"The non-governmental friendly exchanges, including sports or ping-pong
exchanges, are very important (in bilateral relations)," said Chinese State
Councilor Tang Jiaxuan.
Tang made the remarks in meeting with a group of Japanese table tennis
veterans, who are in Beijing to reunite with their Chinese "rivals" to
mark the 50th anniversary of the 1956 world championship.
"I hope the Japanese sports circle will play a constructive role in
increasing understanding between the two peoples and pull China-Japan relations
back to the track of healthy and stable development," said Tang.
In 1956, the Chinese table tennis team was invited to take part in the 23rd
world championship held in Tokyo, the first sports exchange between the two
countries since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
"From historical perspectives, this is indeed a big event in the history of
China-Japan sports exchanges," Tang said.
"The sports exchanges have made delightful outcomes and played a positive
role in promoting mutual understanding and friendship between the two peoples
since the normalization of bilateral relations," said Tang.
Sino-Japanese ties have been soured by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro
Koizumi's repeated visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors 14 class-A WWII
The leaders of the two countries have halted exchange visits for more than
four years, ever since Koizumi began paying homage to the Yasukuni Shrine soon
after he took office in 2001.
Last Friday, Chinese President Hu Jintao hosted a rare meeting with the heads
of seven Japan-China friendship organizations, led by former Prime Minister
Ryutaro Hashimoto, reiterating China's stance on promoting China-Japan
friendship and the Yasukuni Shrineissue.
"I am ready to hold talks with Japanese leaders as long as they make a
clear-cut decision to pay no more visits to the Yasukuni Shrine," Hu said.
Hu also urged the non-governmental sectors of the two countries to help ease
bilateral ties, saying "the strive for a pleasant prospect of China-Japan ties
can not be separated from the extensive support and active participation of the
two peoples as well as the arduous efforts made by the friends of friendly
organizations in the two countries."
China and Japan, the two neighboring countries, have succeeded in promoting
bilateral relations through non-governmental exchanges in the past years.
"Now it is imperative to boost people-to-people exchanges to mend relations,"
said Feng Zhaokui, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
"The Chinese government and people, as always, attach great importance to
China-Japan relations," said Tang. "Despite many difficulties, China never
changes its fundamental principles of honoring China-Japan friendship."
"We are ready to make joint efforts with the Japanese side to enhance
friendly exchanges between the two peoples and carry out pragmatic cooperation
in various fields," Tang added.
Koji Kimura, general director of the Japan Table Tennis Association and a
veteran ping-pong player, said he will pass on to the next generation the
friendship cultivated in the past 50 years in an effort to contribute to the
hard-won bilateral relations.
Nearly 80 percent of the Japanese believe that their country needs to improve
relations with China, according to a survey released by the Japanese Foreign
Ministry on March 29.