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Editorial: Rules should lay foundation for Japan-China relations

Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councillor Wang Yi recently visited Japan and held talks with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi. It was the first time since March, when the novel coronavirus began to spread extensively in Japan, that a high-ranking Chinese official visited the country.

    In the meeting between Wang and Motegi, the two officials affirmed the importance of the Japan-China relationship. Taking into consideration a significantly changed international environment due to the coronavirus pandemic and tensions between China and the United States, we would like for a relationship that would lead to benefits for the public to be built between China and Japan.

    The meetings focused on practical issues, with the two parties agreeing to resume business travel between Japan and China within the month of November, and to creating an arrangement in which to engage in talks toward the abolition of import restrictions on Fukushima-grown food products and other goods.

    Japan and China also agreed to cooperate on preventing global warming, as well as on next year's Tokyo Summer Games and on Beijing's Winter Games in 2022. They also confirmed that they would aim to establish a hotline between their respective defense authorities before the end of the year.

    The two countries likely hoped to give off the image of a good bilateral relationship through their first dialogue in a long time. There also was a sense that China wanted to strengthen its ties with Japan ahead of the launch of the Joe Biden administration in the U.S.

    Meanwhile, some concerns do remain: the coronavirus pandemic, activities by Chinese government vessels around the Senkaku Islands, and the Japanese public's chilly sentiment toward China as a result of the government's crackdown on Hong Kong's democratic forces.

    According to a survey by the think tank Genron NPO, those that said that their impression of China is "not good" went up compared to last year, to nearly 90%.

    But that does not mean that all people are completely critical of China. Over 60% of people surveyed by Genron NPO said that Japan-China economic cooperation is necessary for Japan's future.

    About half of respondents also said that Japan should take the side of neither China nor the U.S., and put its efforts into advancing world cooperation. This is a level-headed judgment that takes into consideration Japan's position.

    The support of the public is indispensable in stabilizing Japan-China relations. If China were to practice self-restraint on matters such as its maritime expansion and human rights, it would likely lead to improved public opinion.

    Solving issues pertaining to questions of territory can be difficult, but it is possible to mitigate friction. Wang sought that both China and Japan avoid moves that would complicate the territorial issue. We hope China will take the lead.

    Increasing fields in which the two countries cooperate is also effective. There are more than a few people who, for the sake of improving Japan-China relations, seek such things as the promotion of a free-trade arrangement and multilateral international cooperation that are based on rules. Abiding by rules is a key condition for countries with differing values to coexist with one another.

    We hope that mutual confidence will rise, and that this will lead to the creation of an environment in which dialogue at the level of summit meetings can be held continuously.

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