Can China-Japan relations return to ‘normal’?

Summitry and strategy in the shadow of a trade war

Stephen R Nagy

International relations, National security | Asia, East Asia, The World

22 October 2018

Beijing is trying to put out diplomatic fires in its neighbourhood so it can focus on a deteriorating relationship with the US, Stephen Nagy writes.

The first Sino-Japanese Summit since 2011 will be held later this month. Over the last seven years, President Xi Jinping has consolidated his position at the apex of power in China by ending term limits, installing Xi Jinping Thought into the CCP’s Constitution, and pushing forward with his signature policy, the Belt and Road Initiative.

Importantly, he has also placed himself at the head of the most important Leading Study Groups (LSG) and holds the key titles of Chairman of the Military Commission, the President of China and the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China.

In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has similarly consolidated his position by being elected for a third time as President of the Liberal Democratic Party. This has paved the way for him to become the longest-serving post-World War Two Japanese Prime Minister. Through his tenure, he has won four elections, passed a Collective Self Defense legislation and presided over a sustained economic growth cycle executed under the rubric of ‘Abenomics’.

Notwithstanding their consolidated political positions, Xi and Abe have been unable to return Sino-Japanese relations back to the level of the pre-nationalisation of the Senkaku Islands. In China, sustained anti-Japanese rhetoric, highly personalised attacks on Abe, and a narrative that Japan was part of a US-led containment strategy, have complicated efforts to return Sino-Japanese relations back to what Abe calls “their normal state”.

More on this: Japan’s ‘Pivot to Asia’

Similarly, regular incursions into Japanese controlled waters by Chinese naval and merchant vessels, island building and militarisation of those islands in the South China Sea (SCS), the unilateral declaration of an Air Defence Identification Zone, and the rejection of the July 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration’s decision, have only re-enforced views in Tokyo that China is a revisionist state bent on re-establishing a Sino-centric regional order.

For Beijing, the resurrection of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (also known as ‘the Quad’), Tokyo’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy, and the joint statement by the US, Japan and the EU on pushing back against non-market economies (read China), all are evidence that Japan and the West are attempting to keep China down. Beijing sees such actions as part of a strategy to prevent it from achieving its 2025 Made in China ambition, as well as its twin goals of ‘socialist modernisation’ by 2035, and by 2049 to have built “a modern socialist country that is strong, prosperous, democratic, culturally advanced, and harmonious”.

With these obvious deep chasms in their relationship, we need to ask: Is there really a process of reconciliation occurring? The answer to this question is nuanced and driven by a rapidly deteriorating Sino-US relationship.

On 12 September 2018, during his visit to Vladivostok for the Russian Federation to attend the Eastern Economic Forum, Abe held a Japan-China Summit Meeting with President Xi. During that meeting, Abe commented, “The Japan-China relationship has got back on to a normal track.”

What is unclear in that statement is whether Abe was referring to a return to the post-normalisation type of relationship, which was characterised by the separation of political and economic relations (known as Seikei Bunri/ 政経分離 in Japanese).

More on this: China declares ideological war

This ‘return to normal track’ has followed a yearlong effort in which both sides were attempting to lay the groundwork for a less conflictual relationship. For example, in September 2017, Abe paid a surprise visit to the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo marking China’s upcoming National Day as well as the 45th anniversary of the normalisation of Japan-China relations at the Chinese Embassy.

These have come at the same time as Japanese submarine vessels paid a port call to Vietnam’s Cam Ranh Bay on 17 September 2018, a day before the 87th anniversary of the Mukden Incident, which is largely seen in China as the beginnings of the Japanese invasion of China.

The shift in tone in Sino-Japanese relations has been chiefly driven by Beijing’s growing concern over Sino-US relations. Abe has stated on numerous occasions that Japan was ready to meet with Chinese counterparts at any time or place. These statements have been rebuked by Chinese counterparts, who claim that Japan and Abe in particular were insincere in their intentions towards China.

It wasn’t until Trump began to step up pressure on Beijing to press North Korea to denuclearise, and the beginning of the Sino-US trade war in July 2018, that Beijing understood the full scope of his administration’s determination and degree of unorthodoxy in policy approach to US-China relations.

Following the 19th Party Congress in October 2017, Beijing started to use expressions like a “new era” to describe both Sino-Japanese relations as well as South Korean-China relations. This was purposeful. Beijing was watching the Trump administration ramp up pressure on Pyongyang through a consolidated international campaign to put sanctions on the North.

Beijing would have to be enlisted as part of any real sanctions campaign, and the US knew that. With threats that Beijing could either help constructively with North Korea and the denuclearisation, or see the US deal with it on their own terms, Beijing felt pressured to step up to the plate and exert its influence over Pyongyang.

The threat of secondary sanctions on Chinese businesses and the possibility of unilateral military action to pressure Pyongyang has led China to rethink its regional relations, so that it can focus all its diplomatic energy on ensuring the Sino-US relationship does not spiral out of control.

More on this: Abe’s skilful Trump diplomacy

For Beijing, it made no strategic sense to allow both Sino-Japanese and South Korea-Chinese relations to worsen while Sino-US relations were entering the darkest period since the 1970s.

The upcoming bilateral meeting between Abe and Xi is not about reconciliation, nor a movement towards a cordial entente.

For Beijing, the meeting is about putting out diplomatic fires in its neighbourhood so that it can concentrate on worsening Sino-US relations. By offering economic carrots to Tokyo such as joint infrastructure projects, Beijing hopes to lower tensions, maximise economic cooperation, and drive a wedge between Japan and the US. Other examples of Beijing’s approach include pushing forward on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (which excludes the US) and accelerating trilateral free trade talks between Japan, China and South Korea.

Tokyo is realistic about the prospects for real progress in bilateral relations. Japan’s shelving approach to disputes in the East China Sea is no longer viable, as China is using lawfare tactics to erode away Japanese sovereignty claims over the Senkaku Islands.

Despite these security concerns, Japan’s return to economic growth has been in part fuelled by the growth of the Chinese economy. Any sustained economic growth in Japan will necessarily include more, not less trade and engagement with China. Abe’s administration understands this, and seeks to return Sino-Japanese relations to a recalibrated state – one which focuses on deepening economic exchanges while putting aside political problems.

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23 Responses

  1. Kurihara,T. says:

    Beijing’s commitment to neutralizing ties with neighboring states has been a reoccurring theme in International Relations. Having shared borders with 16 countries, international security with these 16 states remains a high priority for Beijing. Without this security, Beijing would be obstructed from achieving it’s many extra-regional goals.

    China-Japan relations would be very likely to mirror China-Russian in its strategy, objectives and key result. China-Japan relations may return to ‘normal’. However, weak interoperability, lack of trust, and poor diplomatic track-record suggests that this return to normal relations would not last for long. Tedious disputes in the region which requires far-sighted strategies are put aside for short-term strategies where returns of investment can be celebrated quickly.

  2. Helena Andre says:

    As a precision, I would like to mention that Sino is a vast term used to refer to China in general (culture of China, Chinese people, the ancient-to-modern history of China). It is really interesting to see the trade position that China is currently occupying. China is currently focusing on developing a relationship with Russia. The nature of this relationship might be questioned is it a union to fight together against the US? Since currently the US is working on its relationship with North Korea. From my perspective, on its side, Japan is not really looking to make an alliance with any particular country. However, Japan manifests its desire to take place at a higher scale in the international global market. Lastly, I was also wondering why Abe was elected a third time as the Prime Minister of Japan. Is it current for Japanese Prime Minister to be re-elected? Is Japan subject to corruption in the political field or other field in general?

  3. Lynnee ML says:

    This article was very interesting, but I’m confused about how Sino-US relations play into China’s relationship with North Korea. Could the US trade war and sanctions by the EU and other countries drive China to cut relations with the North? How and in what way is North Korea valuable as an ally to China?

  4. Saya Ishihara says:

    It seems that China came to more understand the advantage of cooperation in the region as the Sino-US relations get worse. It is interesting that, on one hand, the US is leaning toward more isolation, but on the other hand, China seems to prioritize mutual gains through improving relations with countries like Japan. It also seems that the policy based on the separation of political and economic relations (Seikei Bunri) may be the key to changing the global position of China and the US in the region. The former may be pursuing more policies of Seikei Bunri by, for instance, forming the bilateral economic bonds with Japan, but the latter might be lacking in this separation considering their America First policy that resulted in the Sino-US trade war. As the bilateral relations between Japan and China go back to “normal,” it is perhaps possible that the US’ regional power would recede.

  5. Vladimir Mozebakh says:

    I think that what China is seeking right now is to achieve some sort of a ‘united front’ against the American coercive practices in the Asia-Pacific. I would like to outline some examples first.

    Many things have changed since D.Trump came to office, among them are discussions concerning ‘equal burden sharing’ and ‘fair trade’ that have evoked certain disappoinment in Japan. Japan, already struggling to strike the right balance between popular concerns about Okinawan US bases and US military interests in Okinawa, was pushed to recalibrate the TPP project it had been championing for a long time and also to draw more attention to RCEP. On top of that Japanese allies got some good old claims (dating back to 1980s) about fair trade and lack of contribution to the alliance. I would presume that this kind of dissatisfaction that Japan cannot express directly (refer to Prof. Nagy’s article “Speak soflty and carry economic gifts”) might well be converted into Japan’s support for Chinese attempts of achieving a thaw in relations.

    Next, China cannot have ignored the fact of India’s buying the state-of-the-art S-400 missile systems from Russia. Even though the US threatened India with sanctions in conformity with the CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) and related documents, India did not cancel the deal. However, sanctions against India are very unlikely to be laid, for S-400 for India are a tool of containment, and the object of that is not Pakistan, but it is, obviously, China. If the US is to lay sanctions on India, this will mean that America does not support containment of China.

    Concerning the issues in the Korean peninsula, China takes nearly the same approach it has always taken. China supports the communist DPRK and is unambiguously wary of the US military presence in the RoC. The US played a good trick by enforcing sactions against DPRK with China’s participation. Against the background of the Sino-American relations of that period, becoming an international pariah by dealing a blow to the UN sanction project was not a favourable option. However, now that the DPRK is actively engaging in diplomatic actions (set aside the real sincerity or productivity of the process), there is no need to pursue the sanction policy that diligently, so in my perspective, China might now use its vote in the UN as an instrument of influence on the Sino-American relations, should they get worse or achieve the ‘nothing-to-lose’ point.

    Still, it is even more evident for Japan than for me that China’s stance is deteriorating, so Japan might also attempt to get as much as possible from China’s pursuit of reconciliation. And, getting back to the question that we have in the title of the article, this is what might hinder Sino-Japanese reconciliation. China is considered to be a revisionist state, and ideas of Chinese nationalism are also rather strong, which means that in territorial disputes China is extremely reluctant to give in or seek compromise other than in its own favour. Thus, the issue of Senkaku islands is likely to remain a disruptive factor. Next, there is a US grip on Japan. The United States keep a watchful eye on Japanese foreign policy initiatives and, most probably, will not have Japan strike any significant deal with China, with the logic being very simple: how can a military ally make, say, peace with the country the US is in conflict with? Moreover, the issue of Japan’s depencence on China does not seem that importamt for me. I would say that even though Japan is able to derive incentives for economic growth from improved ties with China, this is not Japan’s last resort. For Abe, there is still room for implementing reforms, which is widely anticipated by the Japanese public and thus extremely important for Abe in terms of LDP’s performance in the upcoming elections.

    To give an answer to the question, I would say, “No, they cannot return to ‘normal’. At least, not in the short-term perspective”.

  6. Yui says:

    China fears American secondary economic sanctions. So while having doubts on the political attitude of Japan to China, Beijing would like to take the direction to normalize the Japan-China relationship. Japan also understands that the current economic growth of its own country is greatly influenced by the rise of the Chinese economy and even if political problems such as the Senkaku Islands are set aside, Japan should return the relationship with China to the normal state. China is paying attention to the US how to interpret its movements and what kind of political policy US will take against China. Amidst the intersection of the two major powers of China and the US, what kind of relationship Japan will take with China is a very interesting topic. From an economic point of view, Japan wants to return a normal relationship with China, but given the political factors and US-Japan relationship, it is quite difficult for Japan to return normal relationship. In the international community, the speculation of each country is working in various scenes, and I felt again that the position in one country’s international society will change significantly depending on what kind of policy is taken.

  7. Victor B. Lebrun says:

    Making the relations ‘return to normal’ is certainly an important and difficult step, but it also makes me wonder if China could -and would- get even closer to Japan. There clearly have been some impediments in the relationship between Japan and the US recently, starting with the US leaving the TPP. Even if the unpredictable policy of the current administration may be to blame for that, it still sends a bad message to Japan as it tends to show that Washington is maybe not as reliable an ally as in the past.

    In these circumstances, it only seems natural that Japan would consider associating more and more with the other big power of the region. This may also secure a good situation in the future, in an Asia Pacific where the US is showing some signs of weakness.
    I don’t think it would be a fast or easy process, as Japan and China have a lot of unresolved contentions, be it the Senkaku islands or their common history. But I do believe that if the US doesn’t find a way to reconsolidate its relationship with Japan, Japan may be interested in finding alternatives. And now that China itself is ready to compromise in order to make allies and isolate the US, cooperation agreements could probably be reached more regularly.

    In short, to say it in a slightly provocative way, should we even consider the possibility of a sino-japanese alliance to the expense of the US? or are the rivalries and distrust between Tokyo and Beijing so strong that it makes it, at best, a ‘black swan’?

  8. INMTYK says:

    Japan would mainly depend on United States unless PM Abe makes a big step in the use of LDP. Changing the article 9 or the US military status in Okinawa could change the power balance of US-Japan in the security relationship, however, the alliance would not be broken down easily. On the other hand, In the realm of economic relationship, Japan would be more close to China in the near future by seeing the trade wars of various countries with United States. As in the article, Japan sees the important role of China for its economic growth, as well as the timing to be engaged with Chinese expansion of economic power across continents. I am curious how the economic tie among China,Japan, and South Korea could strength Chinese anti-US leading power in the international world.

  9. Shek Tin Lok says:

    One thing China may possible to obtain in normalizing Sino-Japan relations is the core technology such as semiconducter. Right now China still rely on US on high tech product due to the difference in technology level.The main semiconductor manufacture in the world are US, taiwan, japan and EU. The forced technology share imposed on foreign firm is no longer working due to the fear of foreign country. With the potential of TPP to link Japan and Europe , I do not think Japan will risk their biggest advantage and friendship of US for a place in the AIIB or BRI.

  10. yt says:

    I think that Japan’s Seikei Bunri policy against China would not be a certain choice. As long as both China and Japan have several disputes on the territorial issues and historical views, Japan’s Seikei Bunri is a just stopgap solution. I highly evaluate Seikei Bunri policy’s realistic aspect, but diplomatic friction between China and Japan is the remaining risk to Japan ’s economic activities in China. Therefore, Tokyo should try to find political solutions on diplomatic issues with Beijing to not to bother economic activities, one that Tokyo sees as a key.

  11. Takahiro Sano says:

    Currently Japan and China are fixing their relations to get closer. This is because China is suffering from economic sanctions by U.S. The sanctions have huge influence on Chinese economy, according to Professor Nagy and Laura Tyson, U.S is trying to put pressure on “Made in China 2025”. However, I doubt this China’s aproach toward Japan really means getting closer of Sino-Japanese relations because I think China is just trying to keep its diplomatic balance through Japan. The reason why I think so is China’s approach is similar to Russian approach after the Russia Gate Case. Russia lost its reputation in Europe because of Ukraine Crisis and criticized by EU countries. Regarding the relation wuth China, Russia wants to keep balance because of high reliance on China in terms of economy. Furhtermore, because of Russia Gate Case, Russia failed to fix relation woth U.S and it will last for a while. Based on these cases, Russia is tring to find breakthrough by fixing the relation with Japan that has srong tie with U.S.
    Applyig this to China’s approach toward Japan means that China is also wants to keep its diplomatic relations by fixing the relation with Japan. China is now facing huge challenge against its economiy from outsde. This means China cannot get along with U.S for a while (Until president of U.S changed). Russia also wants to avoid too much reliance on China.
    Furthermore, Japan and China have territorial disputes. I think this is big obstacles for Sino-Japanese relationse and also it cannot be solved unless China and Japan get closer based on diplomatic balancing strategy because its poit is sovereingty, not diplomatic issue.
    Based on these, I wonder China and Japan really can get close in terms of politics?

  12. Garrett Chun says:

    In short, the answer to the question “Can China-Japan relations return to ‘normal’?” is yes. Although contrary to the views of many, Japan holds significant negotiation leverage and should not be concerned about being left in the dust by some bilateral agreement between the US and North Korea. Despite its unexpected exclusion from the North Korea – US summit, Japan will continue to be a major presence in the Asia-Pacific region. This confidence stems from the fact that it is a strong ally no matter what side it chooses. Even though public opinion and all other signs point to a continuation of cordial relations with the United States, Japan does have the option of strengthening ties with China once more, and by doing so would retain the support of a global hegemon. Since the United States’ break-off from the TPP and the increase in executive decisions made, there has been a growing fear that it is not as committed to Asia-Pacific issues as it once was. This has planted a seed of doubt within the minds of several nations (namely Japan) about the how reliable the US is as a global partner and left them unsure about how to handle situations such as Pyongyang denuclearization, which was initially intended to be a united front approach. Furthermore, there is incentive for China to want to strengthen its relations with Japan as that would throw an even bigger wedge in US presence in the Asia-Pacific. As a result, it seems natural that Japan would explore a scenario where Sino – Japan relations are bolstered so that Japan can maintain its position as a key world player. After all, countries are rational actors and will do what they must in order to ensure their survival.

  13. BrittanyA says:

    I think the title of this article introduces the fact that there really is no ‘normal’ regarding China-Japan relations. With the election of Trump, China is capitalizing on the fact that they are now dealing with a U.S. President that is more easily manipulated than past ones. With this, they are using their position to manipulate Prime Minister Abe with economic incentives in order to drive a wedge between Japan and the United States. If Prime Minister Abe complies, which he will due to wanting to strengthen the economic partnership between the two countries, Japan’s relations with the United States will evolve from one of a current “tomodachi” state to one of a mere transactional nature. Beijing seems to be pushing the idea of an “Asian Union”, modeled after the European Union, and working to strengthen the ties between the three Asian powerhouses to chip away at the hegemonic power Washington DC currently holds.

  14. Hasumi Tani says:

    I think it’s clear that Trump and Xi are encountering both political and economic turmoils from since Trump’s presidency. During the midst of worsening Sino-US relations, it is interesting seeing China reconsolidating the relationship with its East Asian counterparts. Although not directly aimed at the expansion in East Asia, China’s intention with BRI is quite clear, it wants to expand its economic and regional influence in the Eastern hemisphere of the globe. Including this, in recent years, the increasing dynamism in East Asia resulting from integration and cooperation among the countries has become visible and multidimensional. And this inclination is no coincidence.

    Japan understands that even if US-Japan political ties are crucial to its political standing, it heavily relies on its relationship with China in the economic factor. I think both parties (China and Japan) understand that although there are historical and territorial disagreements, they should focus on the mutual (economic) benefits. In terms of its recent “coalition” with its east asian counterparts, I do believe it has something to do with fighting against U.S. recent coercive measure in the region.

    A simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ cannot answer the question “Can China and Japan return to normal”. Can it ever? I think yes, from a very long-term perspective this is possible, but in the short term, considering it’s path dependency, it will be difficult.

  15. Loc Nguyen says:

    I think the relations between Japan and China will remain tense because Japan is a part of USA coalition aiming to constrain China. At the moment, USA is attacking China in terms of economics, while Japan is expanding its support for Southeast states, which have overlapping territorial claims with China. Thus, it is unlikely to both states to normalize its relations.

  16. Lucas W says:

    What I am left wondering after reading this article is, is it really that easy for China to “put out political fires in its neighborhood”? In the past century, relations between China and Japan have been strained to say the least. Even if the Chinese and Japanese governments realize the benefits of improved relations, I believe it will take a long time to convince the populous. While it’s true that the government can achieve a fair amount with out the full support of it’s people, I believe that if relations between China and Japan were to truly improve it would have start with the common people.
    There has been a century of harsh rhetoric on both sides, and this is what several generations have grown up hearing and believing. The rhetoric must change soon to start shifting public opinion in favor of improved relations. While high level talks between the two government may be a good start, I don’t think enough real benefits will come from them unless there is a long-term change in the rhetoric and public opinion.

  17. Hanh says:

    I agree with the conclusion that Japan-China relations are less likely to return to normal state, since China considers the Senkaku Islands as their core interest and they wouldn’t abadon it, unless they want to face a nationalistic backlash at home. I think Japan is also aware of this. Japan wants to improve relations with China, but it will be prepared for another cycle of bad relations with China.

  18. SH says:

    Although it seems that Japan and China are beginning to somewhat warm up to each other, it also seems to very much just be a facade. These warming up actions are driven by each of these countries own desires, as the US-China relations are worsening, China doesn’t want to have to worry about it’s other relations with the other Asian countries pitting against them. Japan seems to be willing to open up to China’s call as they will be benefiting from working with China for trilateral free trade for example. Because of pressures from the United States, China is trying to consolidate their position and maintain better relations with it’s neighbors, which for the Asia- Pacific region is a good thing. I think because of the pressures from the United States, it may make China stronger but of course it depends on the relationships that the region really has. The relationship between China and Japan are quite fragile. Although they are trying to work together, there’s so much history and animosity between the two that it will be difficult to see true peace and improvements between the two of them. Seeing that Japan is willing to put aside the East China Sea disputes right now, it could mean that there is a silver lining up ahead, even if the relationship between the two is fragile. It means that there may be hope for the “normal relations”.

  19. Ksenia B says:

    Considering the history of China and Japan and their alternation of undermining one another, turning their relationship back to “normal” is a funny statement in itself, historically speaking, but I think it is possible and also favourable for both countries to get their relationship to a smooth, tensionless and economically stable one.
    It will take a lot of work and there will never be the level of trust as in countries like France and Germany for example, but it should be manageable.
    I also think that lowering tensions and becoming “friends” with Japan, China might try to drive a wedge between the US and Japan is a very interesting thought, we will see how it plays out in the future.

  20. Bigmouth007 says:

    The status and direction of Sino-Japanese relations is in part due to the stable longevity of the terms of both nations’ leaders, Shinzo Abe, who has been Japan’s Prime Minister since December 2012 and will be probably until 2021, and Xi Jinping, who has been China’s president since 2013 and has recently abolished term limits. Because their positions are relatively stable, these two leaders can afford to confidently commit to change for their national interests.

    Then there is idealism vs reality. Japan wants to remain aligned with the US and stand separate from China as a sovereign power; meanwhile, China wishes to be the paramount power both in East Asia and worldwide above not just Japan but also the US. However, Donald Trump and his unexpected moves on the foreign stage have reshuffled regional and respective national priorities in order to survive trade wars and prepare to stand alone. Thus, China and Japan have made efforts to look past previous squabbles and look towards a more positive relationship.

    I predict because of Trump weakening after the midterm elections, however, that previous conventions might start to return, thus negating any long-term positive benefits from better Japan-China relations. However, this all depends on how Trump’s weakened political position would affect East Asian foreign policy, how weakened Trump would be, how North Korean affairs would change or not change, and whether leadership stability for China and Japan could soften the potential of big changes in East Asian international affairs.

  21. Keita Ishizuka says:

    China’s intention to get along with Japan is that China is eager to create safety net for China-US relation in my idea.

    Like recently, if relation among East-Asia including China, Japan and Korea Peninsula is stable, peace in East-Asia is maintained. Thus there is no excuse for US to intervene with them unless US decide to attack directly on China. In fact, China welcomes Japan and Korea Peninsula to participate in BRI since China considers economic prosperity leads East-Asia to stable status.

    However, if the relation among three states are going bad, it can be the excuse that US aim the target to China. In this way, for China stabilizing Sino-Japan relation means restraint for US not to intervene with East Asia.

    Viewing this fact from Japan’s government, the key will be the national for Japan. To maintain both regional peace and the tie with US. Japan should face with the difficult dilemma between China and US. The government is required to show the priority, which decision base is the definition of national profit.

  22. Akinori Asano says:

    I also think that the relation between Japan and China would not be normal easily. There are economic cooperation and confrontation, and opposition in foreign policy such as Senkaku. However, it seems that the both country can compromise partly when both countries demands are filled up.

  23. SheilaKW says:

    I think China-Japan relations has to return to “normal” state, considering the strong economic connection between the two. As said in the article, the growth of Japanese and Chinese economy has mutually a lot to do with the growth of the other country’s economy. For the sustained prosperity, it would be a wise move for both Abe’s administration and Beijing to put aside political problems and just focus on deepening economic exchanges. Although I know that this is equivalent to a procrastination of solving the long-standing political issues such as Senkaku island or SCS issues, I believe there is no such thing as a silver bullet in the field of international relations. What needed for both administrations is to take time to build a relationship which is decent enough to maintain the active economic exchanges between the two. To answer the question, yes, Japan and China may be able to get back to the normal state but my sense is that that won’t happen anytime soon.

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