Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi has arrived in Tokyo to meet with Japanese leaders. As Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono visited China in January of this year, Wang's visit means the foreign ministers of both countries have made mutual visits for the first time in nine years. A high-level economic dialogue between Japanese and Chinese ministers has also resumed for the first time in eight years.
We can say that the relationship between our two countries, which deteriorated after the Japanese central government nationalized the Senkaku Islands -- called the Diaoyu Islands in China -- by purchasing the islands from their owner in 2012, is finally on a path toward improvement. There are plans for Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to come to Japan in May. Let's hope that these moves will lead to the building of a relationship of mutual trust.
Japan and China have been meeting on the sidelines of multilateral conferences, but the environment was not ripe for either side to propose new collaboration. However, with the drastic changes occurring in the international landscape, a world order led by the United States is in upheaval.
Exasperated by the U.S. trade deficit with China, U.S. President Donald Trump announced trade sanctions against the Asian giant. The two countries appear to be on the brink of a trade war. Meanwhile, there are signs that the situation surrounding North Korea will see a dramatic shift, now that a meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, as well as one between Kim and Trump, are scheduled to take place in the coming months.
At the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) that took place last year, and at the 13th National People's Congress that was held in March of this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping cemented his power over the country for the long-term. It appears that Xi has begun to realize that for China to continue its economic development and vie squarely with the U.S. as equals, it needs stable relationships with Japan and other neighboring countries.
In an effort to alleviate tensions with the U.S., President Xi has hammered out measures including relaxing regulations on foreign capital trying to enter the Chinese market, protecting intellectual property and lowering tariffs. If this pans out, it will also bring about great opportunities for Japanese corporations.
Wang called his visit to Japan "an important opportunity for the improvement of bilateral relations and development," and called for collaboration in areas such as technological innovation and finance. Cooperation with Japan is crucial if China is to aim for greater sophistication in its industrial structure.
Kono and Wang exchanged views on China's "One Belt, One Road" initiative, and the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy advocated by Japan and the U.S., among others. Aiming for synergy, rather than conflict, is what brings benefits to the international community.
If China avoids resistance to the current world order and seeks peace in its surrounding environment, mutual prosperity for Japan and China will be possible. This will depend on whether China practices self-restraint in the South China Sea and the East China Sea. The two countries are poised to agree on the pending matter of setting up an air-sea contact mechanism when Li visits Tokyo, which could be a step toward a relationship of mutual trust.
We must realize Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to China and President Xi's visit to Japan increase methods of cooperation that benefit both parties, and rectify public sentiment that has become damaged.