THE ASIAN VOICE

Neighbours face tough challenge of building trust: China Daily columnist

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida (left) shakes hands with China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi at a meeting in Beijing, on April 30, 2016.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida (left) shakes hands with China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi at a meeting in Beijing, on April 30, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

China's relations with Japan have become increasingly complex over the past two decades, and there are many issues that the two countries have not resolved.

On Saturday (April 30), while Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida was visiting Beijing, Japan announced it was relaxing its multiple-entry visa requirements for Chinese citizens.

The new rules will extend the validity of multiple-entry visas for Chinese visiting Japan for business purposes and Chinese academics from 5 years to 10 years, and will encourage a larger influx of Chinese visitors.

Also, students from 75 Chinese higher learning institutions will find it easier to get a visa to go to Japan.

Japan's foreign ministry said the easing of restrictions is intended to further broaden people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.

The push for Chinese visitors is a part of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's growth strategy, which seeks to promote tourism as a source of economic stimulus.

But some Japanese internet users have expressed concern about the inflow of more Chinese into their country. 

China is already Japan's largest source of foreign tourists, and some of their Chinese counterparts said the visa relaxation won't induce them to visit Japan.

It is not difficult to see the dearth of trust on both sides.

Still, any efforts to promote mutual understanding are commendable as the deficit is a serious issue for the two neighbours.

Before his China trip, Kishida told business leaders in Tokyo that without support of their people relations between states are fragile.

In the first two decades after the normalisation of diplomatic ties in 1972, China and Japan prioritised building a friendly relationship by setting aside political and other differences.

But their relations have become volatile since the shift in the balance of power in East Asia.

Japan had long considered itself the only power in the region, however, as the Chinese economy has gained strength since 1992, when enormous foreign direct investment from all over the world starting to flow into China, the Japanese economy has stagnated because of its bubble economy burst in the early 1990s.

Against this background, the "China threat" theory emerged in Japan's political and business circles. Some people believed that Japanese aid, trade, investment and technological transfer would lead to the expansion of China's economic, political and military influence in the region and beyond in ways contrary to Japanese interests.

Lack of mutual trust and understanding persist. 

China's relations with Japan have become increasingly complex over the past two decades, and there are many issues that the two countries have not resolved. Bilateral ties have repeatedly been strained over political issues for many years.

A normal, if not friendly, relationship is easily influenced by domestic political and social factors in both countries.

Among others, the two countries have not fundamentally achieved a real postwar reconciliation even more than four decades after they normalised their diplomatic relations. 

Differences over issues related to wartime history that surfaced in the 1980s continue to haunt the relations.

During Kishida's stay in Beijing, China and Japan agreed to minimise confrontation and step up efforts to improve political relations.

Yet the two countries face a severe challenge of building mutual trust between their people and between their leaders.