Will China-Japan relations come back from the edge?
By Li Hong (chinadaily.com.cn)
Updated: 2006-08-23 15:44

The economic implications are so heavy that we cannot sit idly by and watch the political relations between China and Japan continue to freefall.

The majority of the world press mocked the intransigence, or, to put it bluntly, stubbornness of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, when he went to worship at the Yasukuni Shrine on August 15, the anniversary of Japan's official surrender in World War II. It was his sixth visit to the shrine since he became Prime Minister of Japan in 2001.

The fact that 14 convicted Class-A Hitler-like war criminals are enshrined there, and the top leader of Japan pays homage to them, makes us indignant and angry. The Chinese and Koreans have strongly supported their governments' decisions to halt summit meetings with Koizumi. The icy relationship between us is in nobody's interest.

Hopes are high now in China, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Japan that, with Koizumi set to go on September 20, his successor will reverse course and give up worshipping at the shrine, pulling diplomatic relations back from the edge.

The Chinese are always ready to trade kindness with gratitude. At present CCTV, China's national television broadcast station with tens of millions of viewers, is showing a 30-part TV series during prime time, titled "Norman Bethune", after a Canadian doctor who came to China and helped treat injured soldiers who fought for Mao Zhedong in the early 1940s. He died in north China after falling ill after an operation. The play, depicting Bethune's selfless contributions to China, has moved many here to tears and has ingrained the country of Canada deeply in our minds.

Thanks to the architect of China's reform Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese, through hard work, have seen the country's rapid rise in economy and world clout, of which we are all proud.

Although the growing number of affluent residents should remain humble and modest, as the great Confucius instructed, we are not expected to take others negating history and opening old wounds by worshipping at a shrine where the remains of the masterminds of the grisly war are interred. The Chinese will never waver in their demands for Japanese politicians to stop visiting the shrine, as it is a matter of profound national feeling.

The front-runner to replace Koizumi, chief cabinet secretary Shinzo Abe expressed concern over Sino-Japanese relations at the Tokyo-Beijing Forum held in Tokyo earlier this month. Abe said he was "saddened" by two numbers; that only 32 percent of his countrymen polled hold positive feeling towards China, and a mere 15 percent of Chinese polled think well of Japan. Nevertheless, Abe expressed confidence that the flawed mutual ties could be addressed.

Abe even said that the somber statistics are no more than "the throes before China and Japan return to good relations." From Abe's words we see a light at the end of the dark tunnel we have been running through for five years.

Flexibility is the core of diplomacy, and both China and Japan know the importance of knowing how to seek common ground while putting aside differences. Occasionally, the Japanese press has advocated the removal of the 14 Class-A war criminals from the shrine. That is flexibility.

Only in this way can we lay the foundations for possible better ties in the future. The Japanese invaded China and Korea and brought war to these countries. Rehabilitation can be achieved on both sides. Chinese angst is fully justified, and the hand of friendship and display of remorse must come from the Japanese.