Sino-Japanese relations have seen remarkable improvement over the past year.
The biggest breakthrough came in May this year, when Chinese Premier Li Keqiang paid an official visit to Japan, putting an end to the cessation of high-level dialogue between leaders of the two countries.
In the meantime, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe is working aggressively to secure his visit to Beijing in October this year in order to further consolidate the warming Sino-Japanese relations.
We believe there are strong economic and diplomatic grounds for the two East Asian powers to set aside their differences, at least for now, so as to serve their present common interests and deal with the new challenges arising from the rapidly changing state of international affairs.
Chief among these new challenges is the ongoing unilateralist approach to trade and diplomacy adopted by US President Donald Trump.
Under his slogan “America First”, Trump has declared trade wars on almost all of the major trading partners of the United States in recent months.
While China is the first target of Washington’s economic onslaughts, Japan has also found itself at the receiving end in an indirect way, given the symbiotic economic relationship between Beijing and Tokyo.
Japanese companies have become an indispensable part of the manufacturing and supply chain of the entire Asia-Pacific region, including China.
As such, if the Sino-US trade war continues to escalate, it will take a heavy toll on the Japanese economy as well.
Given this, there is definitely an urgent need for Japan and China to enhance mutual communication and cooperation in order to maintain the viability of the global trade system amid the rising tide of protectionism.
Geopolitically speaking, as the framework of the initial six-party talks over the North Korean nuclear crisis no longer exists in the wake of the Trump-Kim summit in June, Japan has found itself getting increasingly marginalized over the Korean peninsula issue.
In order to regain his country’s influence on the issue, Abe is well aware that he needs the help of another power that has substantial say in how the saga on the Korean peninsula would play out, i.e. China.
True, it would be unrealistic for anyone to expect that China and Japan can completely settle their decades-long bad blood in the short run.
Nevertheless, if Beijing and Tokyo can join forces for the time being, they can at least serve as a powerful stabilizing force in the Asia-Pacific region in the face of global economic and political volatility in the days ahead.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug 18
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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