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July 12, 2004

Toward Cooperative Development between Japan and China

Takashi INOGUCHI (Professor, University of Tokyo)

Bonding Economic Ties

The steady and solid economic relationship forged between Japan and China is one of the strong forces that facilitate cooperative development between the two countries. China's economic development since its accession to the World Trade Organization in 2002 and toward the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 has been very admirable. Japan's economic recovery and comeback to the center stage of the world economy is most reassuring to the continuing health and prosperity of the world economy. The mutually complementary economic relationship between the two countries that characterizes their bilateral economic relationship needs to be consolidated further. Trade and direct investment go both ways between the two, steadily building more horizontal ties.

It is remarkable that Japan and China have built such bonds in a relatively short time span of a decade. In 1991 when the Group of Seven restored its economic relationship to the level before economic sanctions were imposed upon China due to the Tiananmen incident of 1989, Japanese business firms were uniformly hesitant to investing directly in China. It was as if they knocked the bridge three times and yet did not pass it. Now in 2004 Japanese business firms are flocking into China. Automobiles are being manufactured in China in an increasingly big number. Disposable diapers targeted at young working nuclear families with a child permeates large urban centers such as those in Guanzhou, Shanghai and Beijing. Chinese firms are purchasing financially weak and technologically strong Japanese firms steadily. Cloths and food of all kinds produced in China are items indispensable to Japanese daily life.

Bridging Political Differences

One can argue that political differences remain no less lower now than before. Those issues of territory, history textboks, the Yasukuni shrine and official developmental assistance do often manifest themselves intermittently to crowd TV and newspaper headlines. Yet no one can deny that for the last few years these traditionally high priority issues of territory and history have been toned down at least at the inter-governmental level. The last peak of the high-pitched Chinese criticism of Japan about its history orientation came when President Jiang Zeming was visiting Japan in 1998. Not only Japan but also China have been arguably more accommodating each other for the last few years. One can point out some sticky differences. The Japanese government has been intermittently indicating its displeasure with China's very steady military buildup and illegal Chinese aliens's crime committed in Japan. The Chinese government has been no less clear about its displeasure with Prime Minister's visit to the Yasukuni shrine and Japan's steady reduction of official developmental assistance. China's anti-Japanese burst of action at the grass roots level and Japan's measures taken to curb the inflows of Chinese illegal aliens have been quite solid and steady. But these issues do not become highest priority items to either of the two governments.

Navigating among Market Globalization and United States Unipolarity

Both Japan and China have been admirably adapting to the tide of globalization. China's accession to the World Trade Organization in 2002 and Japan's accord with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2003 represent two of such adaptations. China of primitive labor intensive autarchy is no more. Nor is Japan of bureaucratic developmentalism. Both economies are increasingly penetrated by foreign capital, foreign technology, foreign companies, foreign professionals, let alone foreign money at a high level which would have been unthinkable 25 years ago. China's remarkable developmental record and Japan's comeback onto the right track in 2003 testify their success.

Likewise, both Japan and China have learned how to live with the United States unipolarity over the last decade. Japan agreed about the proposition that "Japan is primarily responsible for the defense of Japanese territories." This is registered in the Japan-United States Defense Guidelines of 1997 and represents a radical departure from the practice of Japan on the basis of what is called the Yoshida doctrine whereby Japan was to free-ride on the United States's provision of security. And in 2004 Japan has sent its Self Defense Forcs troops to Iraq where the pacification of occupied territories is far from perfect. China swallowed bitterness over the United States's misbombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in 1998. So did China over the espionage aircraft over the Hainan Island in 2000. Then came the September 11. Both Japan and China waved the flag of anti-terrorism since then, aligning themselves more or less with the United States.

Asking What Can We Do for the Rest of the World?

In 2004 the political scientist Samuel Huntington published the book entitled, Who are we? It is about how to retain sound national identity in the United States, resisting the following two cross-currents of the schism of the West as evidenced over the Iraq War of 2003 and of the steady expansion of the Spanish speaking population in the United States, a large bulk of whom do not subscrive to the spirit and practice of most previous immigrants into the United States. Both Japanese and Chinese do not need to ask the question, who are we? as their national identity is self-evident and strong. What needs to be asked by them is rather what can we do for the rest of the world? Endowed with the enormous amount of human resourcesand rich historical traditions, both Japan and China might as well envision the world in the year of 2025 jointly and multilaterally. This kind of exercise is a surest way of keeping both countries not waging war any more and seeking peace and prosperity for a long period of time to come.

(Originally presented at the Symposium on Japanese Chinese Relations in the New Century, Chuo University, May 24, 2004)

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