Japan & China Relations in 2014

Japan and China have long been in conflict owing to various unresolved political issues. Although they continue to maintain economic ties up to this day, the political tensions have created a sour relationship between the two Asian nations. It is sad to think that a country’s economic and cultural ties with another nation can easily be so threatened due to politics, territorial issues and the desire to be a military super power in the region.

Among the notable disputes the two countries are involved in for years now pertain to the ownership of the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in East China Sea. While the area is nearer Japan’s southernmost portion, China has been claiming it to be theirs adding that it has been long been used as a fishing ground of the Chinese since the ancient times.

Japan’s wartime history has also been strongly criticized by China particularly its role in the Nanking massacre 1937 that killed hundreds of thousands of refugees.

Owing to these disputes, tensions between the two nations have been high in recent years. In a recent security forum in Singapore wherein Chinese Lieutenant General Wang Guanzhong, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the People’s Liberation army accused Japan and the U.S. for criticizing China in their speeches. Japan answered back and through Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, denied the allegation stressing that it was in fact China that defamed Japan by making erroneous claims.

Amid their conflicts, though, there are signs that prove both Asian nations still want to maintain their economic ties. In recent months, delegations from each country have made efforts towards meeting with government officials to discuss various important issues.

Japan’s Move

In May this year, a Japanese delegation went to Beijing to renew ties with China. The delegation composed of senior lawmakers from Japan headed to China for a three-day visit.
The main purpose of the visit was to arrange a summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe which failed to push through earlier due to the territorial disputes involving the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. The members of the delegation also met with other important government officials.

China’s Move

For its part, China may still be angered by Japan’s past and wartime blunders but analysts see hope that the two nations will be able to rescue their ties in the future. The signs are there that it’s still not too late to improve their relationship.

Proof of this is the visit to Tokyo last April by Hu Deping who is the son of the late Hu Yaobang and close confidante of President Xi Jinping. Hu met with Japan’s Foreign Ministry officials and Prime Minister Abe Shinzo although in an informal meeting. He also echoed his late father’s urgent call for improved ties between Japan and China during their talks.
Another meeting took place in the same month but between Tokyo’s governor and Beijing’s mayor. The talk centered on managing the Olympic Games and solving air pollution. In November last year, China declared an air defense zone over the Senkaku islands insisting that aircrafts flying there should ask permission first.

Incidentally, 2014 marks the 120th anniversary of China’s defeat by Japan in the First Sino-Japanese War. The war was to gain control over Korea.

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