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Beijing, Tokyo Commemorate 50 Years of Relations Amid Deepening Political Row

© XinhuaJapanese and Chinese flags
Japanese and Chinese flags - Sputnik International, 1920, 29.09.2022
Japan seized Taiwan from China as a war prize in 1895 and turned it into a sugar colony, and it was only returned to Beijing’s control after the Japanese surrender in 1945, at the end of World War II. Then just four years later, communist forces triumphed in the Chinese civil war, while nationalist forces retreated to Taiwan.
On Thursday, the governments of Japan and China commemorated half a century of diplomatic relations, albeit without the pomp and circumstance, due to their present strained relations.
On September 29, 1972, Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai signed a joint communique in which the two countries agreed to "establish relations of perpetual peace and friendship."

The agreement saw Tokyo end its relations with the so-called Republic of China, which only governed Taiwan, and recognize the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Beijing as the "sole legal government" of China. In the civil war 23 years earlier, communist forces overthrew the Republic and established a socialist government in Beijing, declaring the moment to be the end of a century of Chinese subservience to foreign imperialists.

Japan’s move came months after US President Richard Nixon traveled to Beijing to do much the same, pledging to work toward “mutual benefit and peaceful coexistence.” However, the US only made the formal switch from recognizing Taipei to recognizing Beijing in 1978.

‘Constructive and Stable’ Relations

Separate receptions were held in Beijing and Tokyo on Thursday to mark the anniversary. In Beijing, the reception was held at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse and attended by senior Chinese officials as well as Hideo Tarumi, Japan’s ambassador to Beijing.
“I would like to build constructive and stable Japan-China relations for the peace and prosperity of not only our two nations but also the region and the world,” Kishida said in his statement, warning that relations with China, “while possessing various possibilities, face many challenges and issues.”
Xi hailed the anniversary as an “opportunity” for the two nations to “work together to build a China-Japan relationship that meets the requirements of the new era.”
In Tokyo, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi attended an event hosted by the Japan Business Federation, a powerful lobby better known as the Keidanren.
At the event, Keidanren chairman Masakazu Tokura hailed Japan’s relationship with China as “one of the most important bilateral relationships."

"The flow of people between Japan and China has stalled against a backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, and international affairs have been getting more complex and opaque," he said, according to Kyodo News Agency. "Exactly because of such situations, however, proactive high-level exchanges, including those between leaders of the two nations, are needed.”

Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu, a two-time Olympic champion who is beloved in China as an athlete and cultural ambassador, also attended the Tokyo ceremony.
"Today is a memorable day, and I feel very glad," Hanyu said, adding that he hopes Japan and China will "build a better relationship because they are neighbors."
However, the feelings are different in the diplomatic sphere, where Japan has pulled closer to its chief ally, the United States, which declared in 2017 that “great power competition” with Russia and China was its new chief strategic concern.

Tensions and Trauma

Tensions remain between the two nations, though, rooted partly in present-day competing interests and claims, but also in historical trauma.
Under former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan began a turn sharply to the right, pursuing increasing militarization as Abe sought to amend a key clause of the Japanese constitution that mandates military neutrality. He also aroused fury in China and Korea by visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, a memorial to Japanese war heroes, including those accused of war crimes. Abe was assassinated earlier this year at a political rally after leaving office by a man with a personal grudge against him.
Between 1895 and 1945, the expanding Japanese Empire launched a series of wars against China, seizing increasingly large parts of its territory, including an all-out invasion in 1938 that penetrated deep into central China. At least 14 million Chinese were killed in the war, including in brutal massacres using chemical weapons and mass executions. While Tokyo has issued formal apologies for the war and its many crimes against humanity, it continues to honor many of the perpetrators of those crimes at the Yasukuni Shrine.
China and Japan also have competing claims over a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea that Japan calls the Senkakus and China calls Diaoyu Dao. The islets have great strategic value, sitting well offshore from mainland China and near the Miyako Strait and Japan’s Ryukyu Islands.
Still, the economic and cultural exchange between the two East Asian countries has been immense: China has become Japan’s largest trading partner, with bilateral trade in 2021 reaching a record $391.4 billion. Trendy Chinese brands dot Japanese storefronts and Chinese youth dine on classic Japanese foods.
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