The Economist Intelligence Unit briefing: China and Japan

Despite warming relations, rivalry and suspicion persist

China and Japan have issued a joint communique emphasising their intention to take a forward-looking and constructive approach to bilateral relations. As a symbol of warming ties between the two countries, the communique is significant in its own right, as indeed is the state visit to Japan of China's president, Hu Jintao, during which the joint statement was released. Relations between China and Japan have undoubtedly improved compared with just a few years ago. Yet while both governments recognise the strategic benefits of a stronger friendship, fundamental tensions and areas of strategic rivalry remain.

At one level, Mr Hu's visit and the joint statement he signed with the Japanese prime minister, Yasuo Fukuda, on May 7th are proof positive of the "warm spring" in relations that the two governments have recently claimed is occurring. Mr Hu's visit is the first to Japan by a Chinese head of state since 1998, and would not have been possible without an improvement on the situation that has prevailed for much of the intervening period. Not only was the previous visit to Japan by a Chinese president, Jiang Zemin, a diplomatic disaster (Tokyo took offence when Mr Jiang demanded a stronger Japanese apology for prewar and wartime atrocities in China), but relations between the two countries were also badly strained by Junichiro Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo during his five-year tenure as Japanese prime minister from 2001 to 2006. ...


[Source: The Economist: News analysis

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