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Ties that Bind

Author: Sheila A. Smith, Senior Fellow for Japan Studies
May 16, 2008
Center for Strategic and International Studies

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China’s president and Japan’s prime minister have announced a new agenda for Sino-Japanese relations, ending the worst era of antagonism in their two countries’ relations since the end of the second world war. In the first state visit by a Chinese leader to Japan in a decade, Hu Jintao and Yasuo Fukuda put aside difficult years of deep confrontation between their two countries. Promising to promote “mutually strategic interests”, they committed to annual state visits and a new agenda of co-operation on issues such as global climate change and promoting peace on the Korean peninsula.

This new relationship was put to the test after Mr Hu left Tokyo, when China suffered its devastating earthquake. Mr Fukuda immediately sent his condolences, and ordered the formation of a taskforce on disaster relief assistance in case Beijing asked for its help. On May 13, Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura announced 500 million yen ($37HK million) in emergency aid and, two days later, the Chinese government announced it would welcome a Japanese disaster relief team into Sichuan .

When Mr Hu visited Tokyo, it was clear the Japanese public has warmed to the task of emphasising common interests. Japanese sensitivities towards China have been running high for some time. Then president Jiang Zemin’s trip to Tokyo in 1998, during which he publicly castigated Japan’s political leaders on their country’s wartime history, was perhaps the worst state visit in Japanese public memory.

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