Japan-China Relations: Three Things to Know

Japan-China Relations: Three Things to Know

November 18, 2014 7:28 pm (EST)

Japan-China Relations: Three Things to Know
Explainer Video

Territorial disputes, economic rivalry, and wartime history continue to thwart diplomatic progress between Japan and China. But the easing of relations between Asia’s two biggest economies is essential to securing the future prosperity of the region. Sheila Smith, CFR’s Senior Fellow for Japan Studies and author of Intimate Rivals: Japanese Domestic Politics and a Rising China, offers three things to know about Japan-China relations:

More From Our Experts
  • Changing Politics: Japan must adjust to China’s growing economic power. “Japanese attitudes towards China are hardening, largely due to recurring policy differences that the governments cannot resolve through negotiation,” Smith says. In China, territorial disputes and wartime histories have combined to bring “a new round of…demonstrations against Japan,” she adds.
  • Hard Work Ahead: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping recently met at the APEC summit in Beijing. The meeting, while a good first step “on the road back to a more predictable relationship,” still highlights the fraught relationship between the two countries and the diplomatic challenges that lie ahead.
  • Chance to Prosper: “Economically and politically, the Asia-Pacific [region] will prosper only if Japan and China can find a way forward that manages their differences peacefully,” Smith says. The United States should continue supporting efforts toward reconciliatory diplomacy and easing military tensions between Tokyo and Beijing.

Top Stories on CFR

Climate Change

The UN climate summit delivered on a loss and damage fund, but it fell short on goals to reduce emissions and avoid the worst consequences of climate change.


Malaysia's voters delivered an inconclusive message in the general election, leading to a hung parliament.


Despite limits to their political and social power, Iranian women are leading protests that could jeopardize the regime.