Panelists voiced hope of an early ending to the “frigid winter” of China-Japan ties as the 10th Beijing-Tokyo forum concluded on Sept 29.
The annual event took place as the Sino-Japanese relationship has plummeted, though the governments have shown signs of increasing liaisons over the East China Sea and historical feuds.
At the closing ceremony of the forum, co-hosted by China Daily and Japanese non-profit think tank Genron NPO, veteran diplomat Wu Jianmin, former Chinese ambassador to France, suggested that “people should always keep hope in mind”.
He was also concerned over lingering hostility that has led to shrinking scholarships for international students.
The “Tokyo Consensus 2014”, a declaration unveiled on Sept 29 by the forum co-hosts, warned that the relationship is at its most critical time since it was normalized in 1972, and the public feelings for the other side “have witnessed a serious standoff”.
Junko Kawaguchi, former Japanese foreign minister, reminded the Japanese public that with the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II next year, they should realize that “there is a gap existing between their understanding of Japan’s wartime past and the version in the eyes of their neighbors”.
Yang Bojiang, co-chair of the forum’s political panel, said his fellow panelists have agreed that the two sides should boost strategic dialogues and interactions.
According to this year’s Tokyo Consensus, dialogue partners agreed that problems regarding history and territory should be properly handled, which “affects whether ties will be improved and developed further”.
They called upon the governments to “meet halfway”, and lauded consultations last week where a preliminary agreement was reached over restarting negotiations about the maritime liaison between defense authorities.
Zhao Qizheng, former minister of the State Council Information Office, said the 10-year history of the forum has nurtured “a strong trust among the dialogue partners”, and the policy advisers should be confident about the power of dialogue in helping the relationship.
“The colder the strong wind comes against us, the warmer our hearts should be,” Zhao told China Daily.
Panelists summarized their consensus by calling for a pragmatic approach from both governments to boost contacts over cooperative and security agendas.
Toshiro Mutoh, chairman of the Daiwa Institute of Research and former vice-president of the Bank of Japan, said both governments face challenges and chances from an aging population, currency policies, domestic economic restructuring and foreign investment.
Mutoh said the two largest Asian economies “are expected to take responsible actions for the orderliness of the region’s economy”, and public diplomacy and intergovernmental liaisons are vital.