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China's friendship dance

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There is perhaps no country which is more clever in exerting its soft power than China.  And there is perhaps no country which it can tease with its dance of friendship more than Japan.

China stokes up anti-Japanese public opinion as a tool of nationalism.  It blocks Japan’s wish to have a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.  It harasses the Japanese navy in the East China sea border.  It is undertaking a massive military buildup.  And it competes very actively with Japan for influence with their South East Asian neighbours.

And then, in April 2007, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao made a great speech of friendship to the Japanese Diet.  While mentioning Japan’s war of aggression against China, he highlights Japan’s path of peaceful development since the war.  Just read some of main points.

“I wish to express my heartfelt thanks and pay high tribute to the Japanese …I have come for friendship and cooperation. …

In the course of over 2,000 years of interactions, the Chinese nation and the Japanese nation have promoted their respective development and progress by drawing on each other's strengths. 

Beginning with the Qin and Han dynasties, Chinese technologies like rice growing, mulberry growing, silkworm rearing, textile making and smelting were introduced to Japan, so was Chinese culture, including Chinese characters, Confucianism, Buddhism, and Chinese decrees and institutions and art….As the Chinese culture was introduced to Japan, the Japanese people made many innovations while maintaining the traditional Japanese culture.  

After the Meiji Restoration, Japan experienced rapid economic and social development. A large number of Chinese students came to Japan to study modern science and technology and democratic and progressive thoughts in search of a way to revitalize China. This promoted China's development and progress….

To consolidate our friendship and cooperation, we need to draw lessons from the unfortunate days of the past. As we all know, the over 2,000 years of friendly contacts between the Chinese and Japanese peoples were once interrupted by a traumatic and unfortunate period of over 50 years in modern times. The war of aggression against China launched by Japan inflicted untold sufferings on the Chinese people, causing tremendous loss of life and property.  The trauma it caused to the Chinese people was beyond description. This war was also a devastating and painful experience to the Japanese people, and it is still fresh in the memory of the elderly people.  As we review the past, we are keenly aware that peace and friendship between China and Japan are vital for our countries and the well-being of our peoples….

The older generation of Chinese leaders stated on many occasions that it was a handful of militarists who were responsible for that war of aggression. The Japanese people were also victims of the war, and the Chinese people should live in friendship with them….  

We, the Chinese Government and people, have all along taken a forward-looking approach…. Since the normalization of diplomatic ties between China and Japan, the Japanese Government and leaders have on many occasions stated their position on the historical issue, admitted that Japan had committed aggression and expressed deep remorse and apology to the victimized countries. The Chinese Government and people appreciate the position they have taken. We sincerely hope that the Japanese side will act as it has stated and honor its commitment….

After the war, Japan embarked on the path of peaceful development, and became a leading economic power and influential member in the international community. As a friendly neighbor of Japan, the Chinese people support the Japanese people in their continued pursuit of peaceful development.

To enhance friendship and cooperation, we need to steer China-Japan relations on a correct course. This year marks the 35th anniversary of normalization of China-Japan diplomatic ties. Thanks to our joint efforts, great progress has been made in China-Japan relations. Two-way trade rose to US$207.3 billion in 2006 from US$1.1 billion in the year of normalization of diplomatic ties. There are now 233 pairs of sister cities, and over 4.8 million mutual visits were made in 2006. The growth of China-Japan friendly relations has brought great benefit to our peoples. China has received support and assistance from the Japanese Government and people in its reform, opening-up and modernization drive….

In a new historical period, China and Japan both share increasing common interests and face major challenges. With this in mind, we the leaders of the two countries have reached agreement on building a strategic relationship of mutual benefit….

Our goal is to follow the trend of the times and popular aspirations, lift China-Japan relations to a new historical stage…To achieve this goal, it is important that we adhere to the following principles:

First, increase mutual trust and honor commitment…. It is hoped that Japan will appreciate the highly sensitive nature of the Taiwan issue, honor its commitment and handle this issue prudently.

Second, seek common ground while shelving differences and uphold the larger interests of the two countries…. With regard to the issue of the East China Sea, our two countries should follow the principle of shelving differences and seeking joint development, and conduct active consultation so as to make substantive progress towards peaceful settlement of the differences and make the East China Sea a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation.

Third, promote common development based on equality and mutual benefit.

Fourth, strengthen exchanges with an eye on the future.

Fifth, respond to challenges through close consultation…. we should maintain close coordination and cooperation, make joint effort to uphold peace and stability in Northeast Asia and promote East Asia regional cooperation, thus contributing to the invigoration of Asia…. China appreciates Japan's desire to play a bigger role in international affairs and is ready to strengthen dialogue and consultation with Japan on major regional and international issues, including the reform of the United Nations….

Great achievements have been made in China's economic and social development since the country embarked on the reform and opening-up program 29 years ago. However, with a huge population, weak foundation and imbalances in regional development, China remains a developing country.  China has a long way to go before it can realize modernization. We in China now have two major tasks: Focusing on boosting social productive forces and promoting social fairness and justice….

We are pursuing scientific, harmonious and peaceful development and striving to turn China into a prosperous, democratic, culturally-advanced, harmonious and modernized country….

I can tell you in a responsible way that China will remain unchanged in its determination to pursue peace, development and cooperation, a path of peaceful development and the building of a harmonious world….

Despite twists and turns and setbacks in China-Japan relations, the foundation of the friendship between the Chinese and Japanese peoples remains as unshakable as Mount Tai and the Fuji Mountain.”

Wen Jiabao’s speech was truly brilliant.  But what does it mean?  Was it a case of the Chinese dragon playing ‘cat-and-mouse’ with Japan?  Was it truly sincere?  Or was it both?



Speech by Premier Wen Jiabao of the State Council of The People's Republic of China at the Japanese Diet, Tokyo, Japan, 12 April 2007