The China-Japan relationship is considered the most pivotal relations in world politics with considerable level of divergence and mounting tension in the Asia-Pacific. For China, for all purposes, Japan is the most developed nation on its border. Not a competition but a cooperation is needed. However, the significance of Japan just cannot be denied by China either. Both nations are trying to vie for influence in Asia in their own fusion and perspectives. Both nations celebrated the 40th anniversary of the peace and friendship treaty together. This gives us lot of sense to understand their recent attitudes and policy perspectives.

The recent visit of the Chinese Premier Li Keqian to Japan on 8-11 May has been taken as a normal visit to Japan to improve strained ties between the two neighbours in about eight years. The visit was considered a breakthrough in both countries’ strained relations over the years. Iran’s and North Korea are the daunting tasks and they are dealing well with them by building a greater understanding of these two issues. The denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula could be another success to forge closer cooperation between the two greater Asian powers.

There is a need of a sensible talks on the mutually disputed Senkaku Island / Diaoyu Island – something that was in the news for the past many years now. The Belt and Road is sending positive signs to Tokyo from Beijing. The Japanese BRI policy was taken a good gesture by China and China hardly disputes it. Both nations could share the dividends of the BRI in a positive manner. China’s offer of RMB 200 (US$ 31.4 billion) and avoiding maritime clashes at the South China Sea is a great steps to stop military escalation between the two nations. This is a good omen and kind gesture between the two powers.

There are more things to be done by the Chinese government such as strengthening protection of intellectual property rights and joining the World Trade Organization’s Government Procurement Agreement. Japan respect Chinese moves on these issues. Both nations will avoid protectionism and unilateral action to promoter mutual harmony.

They want to revive the trade talks with South Korea and to develop their own system. In the long run, these ties put their relations on a firmer stance. The loose South China Sea arrangement could defuse some tension mounting at the region and give space to mutual consultation depending on a number of factors.

During his stay in Japan, Li arranged a meeting with Japanese representatives who had participated in the process of signing the China–Japan Treaty of Peace and Friendship and urged Japan to continue to adhere to the spirit of the treaty, which states that Japan ‘fully understands and respects’ China’s stance on the Taiwan Straits and recognises ‘the serious damage that Japan caused in the past to the Chinese people through war, and deeply reproaches itself’.

Japan’s approach towards the BRI projects will be decided by the project-wise basis. This selective participation of Japan will allow it to pursue its own core foreign policy — the ‘free and open Indo-Pacific strategy’ — without missing the benefits the BRI offers. Japan well understand the benefits of the BRI. Digital cooperation is another area of consultation between the two countries. In this concern, they have been developing close contacts with each other and rapidly overcoming differences.

Tense relation between China and the United States particularly on steel tariff and aluminium on is another factor bringing ties between China and Japan one platform. Washington by no means is interested in the thaw between China and Japan. “The United States regards Japan as a deterrence tool against China. Recently, Japan, indeed, has become the US foothold in East Asia to counter China. At the same time, Japan… avoided extremes in its relations with China, realising that this could have a boomerang impact on its own interests, especially in case of improvement in the Sino-US relations. [Recently] a feeling has emerged in Japan that the Americans could leave it out in the cold”, told by Zhou Yongsheng, a Research Fellow with the Centre for International Relations Studies at the Diplomatic Academy of China.

Japan’s trade volume with China is on the rise and showing positive outcomes. China is Japan’s biggest trading partner. Japan should look toward China as a rising industrial power that would guarantee Japan’s economic success in future. A true partnership is needed than unfairly competition between the two power houses. The relationship between China and Japan is pivotal and strong and it is likely to last long. Asian stability and peace depend on them. A glaring peace in Asia depends on their mutual cooperation.


The writer is Director of the China-Pakistan Study Center at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad. He writes on East Asian affairs.