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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is scheduled to visit China from Oct. 25 to 27. Such a visit is the first by a Japanese prime minster in seven years. The last time, then-prime minster of the country Yoshihiko Noda paid a visit to China in December 2011.
As the second- and third-largest economies in the world, the Sino-Japanese relationship is of crucial importance not only to the interests of both peoples, but also to the stability and development of Asia and even the world as a whole. At a time when the global free trade environment is increasingly fragile, China and Japan should make greater efforts to safeguard the open, rule-based trade system of multilateralism.
In my opinion, it is really good timing for Abe to visit China now. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the signing of the China-Japan Treaty of Peace and Friendship, and of China’s reform and opening up. Moreover, in September this year, Abe defeated former defense minister Shigeru Ishiba in a two-horse race for the leadership of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, on course to remain prime minister and become the country’s longest-serving premier.
During this visit, Abe will meet with top Chinese leaders, touch upon several important issues and chart the course for Japanese ties with China in the coming years. There have been many ups and downs in bilateral relations during the past decades. Nevertheless, due to joint efforts made by both sides, Sino-Japanese relations have witnessed steady improvements in the past year. For instance, President Xi Jinping met with Abe in September in Vladivostok, Russia, and Premier Li Keqiang also made an official visit to Japan in May.
It is reported that third-party market cooperation is also an important agenda for both countries. During the visit to Japan by the Chinese premier in May, the two sides signed the Memorandum on Cooperation between China and Japan in the Third-Party Market. This has created a favorable environment and laid a solid political foundation for further cooperation.
In order to find win-win solutions in bidding for infrastructure projects in other countries, China warmly welcomes developed countries as well as international organizations to jointly explore third-party market cooperation, especially in countries along the Belt and Road, so as to bring benefits to all parties concerned and avoid clashes of interest. Projects involving China, France, and some French-speaking African nations have already set good examples in this regard.
The first Sino-Japanese cooperative project may be based in Thailand. According to the Thai Transport Ministry, China and Japan have planned to form a consortium to build a high-speed railway which will link Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang and U-Tapao Airport. Both China and Japan are good at building railways and are important trading partners of Thailand. To avoid intensified competition, which will lead to lose-lose outcomes, the proposal is clearly aimed at seeking a new balance of interest. Other third-party market projects between China and Japan include the construction of an oil refinery in Kazakhstan and a solar power plant in the United Arab Emirates.
A healthy and stable development of ties will surely align with the interests of both peoples and promote regional peace and stability in Asia. However, some sensitive historical and territorial issues such as Japan’s atrocities during World War II, Japanese leaders’ visits to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine, Japanese joint military exercises with the United States near Chinese waters, the disputes over the Diaoyu Islands and affiliated islets, and the East China Sea issue, still pose a great threat to bilateral relations.
Under these circumstances, the two countries should try to enhance mutual political trust and draw on historical wisdom, so as to maintain the positive momentum of bilateral ties and build a friendly, forward-looking relationship.
(The author is the editor-in-chief of the Shenzhen Daily with a Ph.D. from the Journalism and Communication School of Wuhan University.)