After decades of ice between the two great powers in the East, it seems that relations have finally entered into a “melting” stage. On Sunday, top Chinese and Japanese officials met to discuss improving bilateral relations.
Japanese Prime minister Naoto Kan and President Hu Jintao met at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. The two sides said that they agreed to strengthen ties between the two countries.
“We confirmed that we will promote our strategic relationship of mutual benefit,” said Kan at a press conference Sunday. “I think we were able to bring the general direction to the time when I took office in June,” he added.
In a recent report by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there was a general sense of optimism. President Hu Jintao called for keeping relations with Japan “on a healthy and stable track”.
The most recent dispute between the two countries was a territorial one, when a Chinese fishing trawler was arrested by Japanese authorities near disputed islands in the East China Sea, known as Diaoyu. Mid-level diplomatic talks were suspended at the time.
The relationship between China and Japan has hardly been on a good foot. The 1930s and 1940s saw relations between Japan and China deteriorate. This period marked the Sino- Japanese War, or the Anti-Japanese War. Japan had occupied the North of China and created a state called Manchukoku (Manchukuo). The Japanese attacked and occupied other cities, including Shanghai and Nanking. It was during this time that atrocities such as the rape of Nanking and other cities took place.
These events among others have left a permanent scar on the Chinese people and their history. The events probably dictated the pace for relations between the two countries.
With the already existing tensions, any new problems become even more visible. This is the case with the Chinese fishing trawler. The incident was an occurrence that spoiled already strained relations. The collision, which occurred very close to the Diaoyu islands, triggered a diplomatic freeze and a chilling of the broader relationship between the two major trading partners.
With this in mind, it is clear that diplomatic talks between Japan and China are crucial. China Daily reported that during the twenty-two minute discussion last weekend, President Hu told Prime Minister Kan that it is in the interest of both peoples for China and Japan to follow a road of peace, friendship and cooperation.
Hu also pointed out that it is necessary for China and Japan to make joint efforts to consistently conduct cultural exchanges to boost mutual understanding and friendly feelings between the two nations.