Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, and Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi meet in Tokyo, Japan, April 16, 2018. The momentum of improvement in Japan-China bilateral ties has been gathering steam recently following a number of high-level talks between officials of the two countries. (PHOTO / XINHUA)
TOKYO – Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday wrapped up a three-day official visit to Japan, during which he co-chaired the fourth high-level economic dialogue between China and Japan with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono.
Wang's visit as well as the dialogue, which was held after an eight-year hiatus, are expected to further consolidate the warming of bilateral relations and open up new space for cooperation, experts said.
As the United States, under US President Donald Trump, is very unstable, I believe that China-Japan economic and political relationships will become all the more important.
Dr Shin Chiba, Professor, International Christian University
"The momentum of improvement in Japan-China bilateral ties has been gathering steam recently following a number of high-level talks, and we are really pleased to see that," said Kaoru Imori, a senior research fellow at a private university in Tokyo.
The meeting between Wang and Kono was the latest in the high-level talks, he added.
China-Japan relations have gone through some twists and turns in recent years, affecting bilateral communication and cooperation in various areas.
Since last year, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has sent positive messages on a number of occasions on enhancing bilateral relationship, which have been welcomed by China.
Thanks to joint efforts, bilateral relationship has showed signs of recovery. Bilateral trade rallied to some US$300 billion in 2017, and the number of tourists going to Japan from Chinese mainland reached 7.3 million, up 15 percent year-on-year.
"The improvement in ties, marked by Wang's visit, is in the interests of both China and Japan who are close economic partners, and will also have a positive impact on the region's stability and prosperity," said Imori.
Jin Jianmin, a senior fellow at Fujitsu Research Institute in Tokyo, said that the improvement is particularly significant under the current circumstances with turbulence continuing and trade protectionism on the rise worldwide.
Dr Shin Chiba, a professor specializing in political theory at International Christian University, said that "strengthening the current Japan-China bilateral ties is indeed good for both countries not only in terms of economic relationships but also other aspects, including political relations, for the present and the future."
Echoing him, Liu Di, a professor at Kyorin University in Tokyo, said enhancing ties with China at such a time also has political significance for Japan.
"With destabilizing factors and uncertainties in the world, the Japanese government and the public have increasingly realized the importance of having a good relationship with China in order to adapt to the new circumstances," he said.
NEW HISTORICAL OPPORTUNITIES
The warming of bilateral ties will also open up a new scope for bilateral and multilateral cooperation, especially with China's plans to expand reform and opening up and its Belt and Road Initiative, experts pointed out.
Chinese President Xi Jinping announced new measures for expanding China's reform and opening-up at the 2018 annual conference of Boao Forum for Asia, which will surely provide new opportunities for cooperation between China and Japan, according to experts.
The Japanese economic circle, meanwhile, has also been stepping up calls for joining China's Belt and Road Initiative to share China's development fruits.
Jin said China and Japan reaffirmed in the economic dialogue the importance of free trade under the multilateral framework of World Trade Organization (WTO), discussed issues about Belt and Road cooperation as well as efforts to promote regional free trade such as the building of China-Japan-South Korea Free Trade Area (FTA).
"As the United States, under US President Donald Trump, is very unstable, I believe that China-Japan economic and political relationships will become all the more important," said Chiba.
Jin said the two countries pledged to expand cooperation in new economic areas, such as the sharing economy, medical and elderly care, which will bring bilateral economic cooperation to a higher level.
"The economic dialogue, covering not only bilateral economic ties, but also Asian economic integration and world free trade, will set a positive example for maintaining and developing global economic order," said Liu.
FURTHER EFFORTS NEEDED
Experts also noted that current China-Japan ties are still disturbed by various complicated and sensitive factors, including historical and territorial issues.
During his visit, Wang called on the Japanese side to work with China to strictly abide by the principles established in the four important political documents between China and Japan.
The two sides should properly handle sensitive issues related to the political foundation of bilateral relations, and fully implement the consensus of treating each other as a cooperative partner, Wang said.
Hiroshi Onishi, a professor of economics at Keio University in Tokyo, called for more people-to-people and cultural exchanges to promote mutual trust and understanding.