Strengthening Democracy through Power of Words
2017 / 12 / 16
The 13th Tokyo-Beijing Forum kicked off its two days of high-level dialogue Dec. 16 in Beijing on the theme "Japan-China cooperation for a more open global economic order and peace in Asia." Jointly organized by the China International Publishing Group (CIPG) and The Genron NPO, 90 panelists from Japan and China convened in the Chinese capital to discuss not only deepening Japan-China relations, but peace and development in East Asia.
This year marks the 45th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties between Japan and China. The two countries face common issues, such as how to achieve regional peace and stability amid the North Korean crisis, and what the future holds for the global order and global economy in a world where unilateralism is gradually taking over. Former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said in his keynote address that the time has come for Japan and China to discuss concrete measures that will set in place the necessary principles and framework for building peace and prosperity in Asia, and the world.
At the start of the opening ceremony, CIPG President Zhou Mingwei said that Japan and China have been provided with three opportunities to improve their relationship. The fact that the wisdom and responsibility of our predecessors who realized the normalization of diplomatic ties 45 years ago are being appreciated today, that the concepts of "a new type of international relations" and "community of common destiny with mankind" were mentioned at the Chinese Communist Party Congress in October, and the recent exchanges between the Japanese and Chinese heads of state, all provide clues to the possibility of a new Japan-China relationship, as well as the direction this forum will take, Zhou said in his speech.
Reflecting on this year when the rise of anti-globalism has threatened economic order, and has increased the risks to national and regional security, Zhou said, "Sino-Japanese relations are still complex, but what is important is to push the relationship forward by understanding the big picture from the standpoint of fundamental benefits and joining hands to resolve international problems."
Zhou also mentioned a special session during the two-day forum on the modern-day significance of the normalization of diplomatic ties. The panelists will consist of witnesses of the days surrounding the historic event and citizens who have worked over the years to promote cultural exchanges between the people of the two countries. Zhou said the session was the result of intense discussions by the organizers of the forum. "The session should offer us an opportunity to learn from experiences that promoted friendship by not forgetting the original intentions and reflecting on history," Zhou said.
In closing, Zhou referred to the recently announced results of the Japan-China joint survey in which Japanese and Chinese people expressed their hopes for peaceful coexistence and joint development, and their wish that this forum will continue to serve as a platform for building such mutual consent.
Next, Yasushi Akashi, a former under secretary-general of the United Nations who heads the forum's Japanese executive committee, reflected on the significance of the forum. For the past 12 years, the Tokyo-Beijing Forum has sought to encourage and enhance government diplomacy by offering, at times, candid and constructive criticisms for a common future. The forum has established itself as serving the major function of pushing forward intellectual exchanges and mutual understanding between the two nations, Akashi said.
With 2017 marking the 45th anniversary of normalizing diplomatic relations and next year marking the 40th year since the Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Friendship was signed between the two countries, Akashi also emphasized the need to remember our original intentions. "There are complex and painful issues that exist between Japan and China, and we both suffered sacrifices in the past through unfortunate wars and conflicts. While we may feel familiarity as neighbors, there is also a tendency to see each other in stereotypes ... but we can't move away from each other and there is no other choice but to nurture our friendship," he said.
As someone who has spent his career as a U.N. diplomat, Akashi said, "The days when a single country, no matter how powerful, can rule the world are over. There is no path other than to cooperate in global governance." He concluded, "The areas of mutual benefit for Japan and China are expanding, and by taking advantage of the strengths of each other, the two countries can contribute to Asia and global peace."
From the Chinese government, Kong Xuanyou, an assistant minister of foreign affairs, took the podium to make his welcoming speech. Kong noted that since the normalization of diplomatic ties, the two countries have exchanged four political documents, all of which have contributed to deepening exchanges and cooperation in various fields, as well as to the stability of the region. He insisted that by adhering to the ground rule that "neither will become a threat to the other country," which has been clearly stated in these documents, and by expanding the scope of common understanding, the two countries should be able to recover the political trust that has been lost in recent years.
Kong also mentioned the blueprint for China's future economic society and regional diplomacy that Chinese President Xi Jinping presented at the party congress, saying this provides guidelines for promoting a new form of globalism that removes the obstacles that the current multinational trade order faces amid growing isolationism. Kong concluded his speech by mentioning how the forum was expected to play an active role in promoting mutual understanding between the people of Japan and China by guiding them through rational discussions of key issues. "What is fundamental to diplomacy is seeing the citizens of both nations interacting with affection. The media should report on the objective, life-size relationship between the two countries to create a positive atmosphere," Kong said.
Next, Japanese Ambassador to China Yutaka Yokoi spoke from the Japanese side. He said there was a need for bilateral relations to be "upgraded" to make them suitable for a new era, as values and behavior go through rapid changes. "While facing many difficulties, China is trying to create a structure to enrich people's lives. That is a form of social innovation and a vital new generation is common to both countries," Yokoi said, adding that the key to "cooperative development" was "an open framework based on a common vision, rules and transparency."
The opening speeches were followed by the keynote address by the Chinese and Japanese representatives. Jiang Jianguo, director of China's State Council Information Office, emphasized the significance of the meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Vietnam, where they agreed to promote peace, friendship and cooperation between the two countries.
Jiang also asserted that with the new appointments of its senior leadership committee, the journey to build a new socialist nation that was open and democratic has commenced. He said China will "deepen comprehensive reform and expand its energy" to continue this journey, and that his country will support the promotion of a mutual strategy for a comprehensive win-win situation with Japan. "Japan has always participated in opening China, and has received the benefits of an open China," Jiang said, and urged Japan to participate in China's One Belt, One Road economic initiative, which calls for massive investment in and development of trade routes in Asia.
Jiang listed four points regarding Japan-China relations: 1) Never forget the original intentions. Learn from the political wisdom of our predecessors and look into the distant future. 2) Increase mutual trust and protect the foundation of mutual political trust. 3) Strengthen the economic cooperation that is the driving force of a win-win situation. Promote the integration of the regional economy by taking advantage of the merits of mutual compensation, continue experimenting with the One Belt, One Road initiative, and promote an open global economy. 4) Make a firm resolution to maintain friendship between the citizens of Japan and China for generations to come.
With regard to the fourth point, Jiang did not fail to add that "a good future will unfold by acknowledging history." Mentioning the ceremony commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre, Jiang explained that the event was a call for peace, not hatred. "China will continue to adhere to the peaceful development that Mao Zedong sought, and will not seek hegemony or engage in expansion. We will sincerely face history, avoid repeating the tragedies (of the past) and continue friendly relationships," Jiang said.
Jiang went on to explain the roles of the media, think tanks, corporations and the younger generation in making governments and the authorities take action to build a future of friendship between the two nations. He urged the media to shape public opinion in a healthy manner. The media should focus on important issues, report rational opinions and turn this strategic consensus of not viewing each other as a threat into a widespread social consensus. Jiang urged the think tanks to continue frank and sincere exchanges of ideas in order to come up with policy recommendations that will help Sino-Japanese relations move forward steadily.
Jiang also encouraged the business world to work together to create more opportunities for a win-win situation. Corporations should strengthen mutual cooperation for the development of Asia and the rest of the world by compensating each other's weaknesses with each other's strengths, Jiang said. They should interact in various different sectors, such as biotechnology, manufacturing, new materials, business targeting the aging market, even medicine, and ultimately join forces to make forays into other foreign markets, he said.
Last, Jiang said the younger generation should have an unwavering vision. They should exchange philosophies, learn from each other, become friends for life and realistically understand the other country in its entirety in order to pass down the friendship to later generations. "China and Japan have weathered the storm and that brought great prosperity to their people," Jiang said. He wrapped up his speech by reminding the audience once again the importance of never forgetting the original intentions of building a healthy relationship between the two countries.
The final speaker at the opening ceremony was former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, also the top advisor to the forum from the Japanese side. In his keynote speech, Fukuda said the world stood at a historic crossroads due primarily to the change in the economic might of East Asia. At the center of this change is the rise of China. This region has obtained an economic scale equivalent to the United States with just Japan, China and South Korea. Japan and China, both of which enjoy a relatively stable political base, "are being provided with a chance to further strengthen the economy, the most important factor of our bilateral relations, from a global perspective," Fukuda said.
Fukuda expressed support for President Xi's guidelines announced during the party congress, saying that "China's dream cannot be realized without a peaceful global environment and a stable global order," as well as "the creation of a new global relationship of mutual respect, fairness, justice and cooperative reciprocity with the cooperation of different countries." The former Japanese prime minister said, "The world is facing a major turning point, and the time has come for Japan and China to think together as Asian nations about the future of the world as a whole. The time has come for Japan and China to sincerely and constructively debate the principles and methods for achieving the big visions and plans to bring peace and prosperity to Asia, and the world."
In closing, Fukuda described what he believed was a common vision his father, former Japanese Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda, and Chinese President Xi shared. It was the concept of "Heart to Heart," expressed in Takeo Fukuda's foreign policy, known as the "Fukuda Doctrine."
In 1977, when the Asian community felt threatened by a Japan that was enjoying rapid economic growth and prosperity, then Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda made a speech in which he pledged that Japan was committed to peace and would never become a military power, and that Japan would nurture a "heart-to-heart relationship of mutual trust." His son was pleasantly surprised to find that the same expression of "heart-to-heart" was used in Xi's speech before the Chinese Communist Party in October.
Fukuda said the relationship between the governments of both nations is finally starting to show some signs of progress, and expressed hope that the forum will see further constructive debate that will contribute to a bright future for Japan and China.
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