TOKYO — Premier Li Keqiang arrived for an official visit to Japan on May 8, the first of its kind in eight years and also a determined effort by Beijing to bring bilateral ties back on track.
Relations between the two neighbors suffered a nose-dive during the opening years of this decade, due to Tokyo’s provocative moves on territorial and historical issues. Not until late 2014, when the two countries reached a four-point agreement on handling bilateral ties, did the downward trend begin to reverse.
Bilateral interaction has since been gathering steam, with Japan sending positive signals and China still committed to working with a sober Tokyo to cultivate a healthy relationship for the benefit of both nations and the broader region.
Given the upward trajectory, and as this year marks the 40th anniversary of the signing of the China-Japan Treaty of Peace and Friendship, the trip provides a perfect opportunity for the two countries to review the past and chart the future course of bilateral relations.
China and Japan are close neighbors with a long history of friendly exchanges and communication. They share a wide range of common interests, their economies are highly complementary, and they should and can be partners of win-win cooperation.
After China opened its door to the outside world in 1978, Japan was among the first to engage and benefit. It shared with the Chinese people its experience in science, technology and business, and offered financial assistance. In return, it gained access to a huge overseas market, and many well-known Japanese brands became household names.
Eight years ago, China overtook Japan as the world’s second-largest economy. In 2017, the Chinese economy was nearly 2.5 times the size of Japan’s.
But that does not mean that the room for bilateral cooperation is shrinking. On the contrary, that means the cake of cooperation is growing even bigger.
China can continue to learn from Japan in developing its financial sector, in innovation and in advanced technology. Japan can tap deeper into China’s enormous market as the latter opens its door wider.
In addition, Tokyo has recently expressed its openness to Beijing-proposed Belt and Road Initiative. That has opened a new promising prospect for bilateral cooperation, as many Japanese companies have long been looking forward to sharing the vast opportunities created by the Chinese vision.
The new positive momentum should by no means be squandered. It is high time that Japan realized that its relationship with China is for the long term and joined hands with China to advance bilateral relations in the right direction.