For many years, Japan and China have been known to be opposite to each other and have terms different from each other. However, the two countries do not allow their different views on politics and interaction to affect their economic progress negatively. They are always working closely to create space for cooperation in all sectors. Meanwhile, according to a world service poll carried out by BBC in the year 2014, about 5% of the Chinese people and 3% of the Japanese have a favorable view of each other’s nation (Foot & Goh, 2018). Thus, it is interesting to investigate how the two nations manage their modern economic interdependence and political disagreement, given a complex history of cultural and military interactions.
Japan and China have had difficulties in coexisting peacefully over many years. In particular, military buildup and the assertiveness of Japan in the East and in the south seas have caused tension among the Chinese. Japan is also willing to develop cruise missiles to reach the Chinese grounds. Tokyo also led the formation of a quadrilateral security dialogue involving Canberra and New Delhi to address the Chinese unethical behavior in the region. Consequently, Japan and China’s history of cultural connections goes back years ago, but their relationship is still strained. During World War II, Japan’s brutal occupation of China left China wounded since then (Foot & Goh, 2018). Despite not having built an image of the aggressor, Japan minimized the impact of political oppression on economic relations with the important Asian market. Thus, a unique paradox of interaction between the two powers has developed at different levels.
In the sixth century, Japan adopted the aspects of Chinese civilization. They copied their way of life, and the Chinese greatly influenced most Japanese activities in many fields. This went on until the late 20th century, when China opened its economy to market and, in specific ways, shifted its political agenda towards more capitalistic values. The countries maintained deep cultural connections, but Japan was still on the fringes of development for a long time compared to neighboring China. However, the Sino-Japanese War of 1895 radically changed positions, giving the Japanese power over the conquered territories, the pride of victory, and a dominant role in Asia. Obviously, later this severely affected the subsequent economic relations and greatly limited the movement of people between countries (Foot & Goh, 2018). The tension was finally discharged only when Deng Xiaoping, the president of China, allowed free trade to boost economic prosperity for both states. Thus, the China-Japan bilateral trade drastically improved the status of affairs between 1979 and 1999. By 1992, Japan’s fifth-largest trade partner was the People’s Republic of China (Foot & Goh, 2018). This implied that it was crucial for Japan, despite the political disagreement, to ensure that other kinds of interactions were kept strong.
After signing a Sino-Japanese peace treaty in 1978, China and Japan developed and deepened bilateral contacts in politics, economy, and culture over the subsequent decades. Both sides benefited from promoting Japanese goods and capital to the vast Chinese market. In 1979, during a visit to Beijing by Japanese Prime Minister M. Ohira, China was granted a loan of 350 billion yen to carry out economic reforms (Arnold, 2019). Since then, Japan has become a long-term Chinese financial donor. One of the results of this was the expansion of the flow of Japanese private investment and the activation of Japanese corporations in the Chinese market. Japanese researcher Keiji Ide notes that since China did not have a foreign exchange reserve and its own base for economic development, Japan’s financial assistance played a crucial role in further development (Li & Liu, 2019). From this perspective, the two nations shared mutually beneficial objectives and interests.
Nevertheless, despite the favorable economic situation, the state of Sino-Japanese relations was negatively influenced by several external factors and dissatisfaction with each other’s domestic policies. This hindered the progressive development of bilateral ties. The issue of Japanese war crimes during World War II is a constant irritant in Sino-Japanese relations. The Yasukuni Shrine, founded in 1869, became a primary target of Chinese criticism when the ashes of 14 Japanese war criminals, including Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, were transferred to its territory in 1978 (Li & Liu, 2019). Visits by Japanese leaders to Yasukuni Shrine to commemorate those killed in wars have invariably led to protests in China, turning these events into politically significant events and sparking a nationalist wave in neighboring countries (Li & Liu, 2019). Indeed, this influenced international tensions but did not severely damage the financial interactions between the nations.
By the end of the last century, Japan, for the first time, began to raise the topic of stopping support for the Chinese economy. In 2004, the Japanese prime minister announced the full completion of investment programs in China. Beijing responded almost instantly, noting that the Chinese could independently develop their economy (Arnold, 2019). A new round of close cooperation between the countries came already in 2011. After Fukushima 1, the Japanese realized that it would be difficult to recover without the support of neighboring countries (Li & Liu, 2019). It should be noted that the successive prime ministers of Japan were not concerned with building stable partnerships with China.
Overall, the economic dependence of Japan and China is driven primarily by geopolitical and national interests. Being the closest neighbors and at the same time sharing the cultural heritage, the countries are forced to periodically look for common ground despite the bloody and sometimes contradictory history. These trends continue to this day, bringing Japan and China closer together in the economic arena but separating them in political polemics and instability in international relations.
Arnold, W. (2019). Japan and China. In Japan’s Foreign Relations (pp. 102-116). Routledge.
Foot, R., & Goh, E. (2018). The international relations of East Asia: A new research prospectus. International Studies Review, 21(3), 398-423. Web.
Li, X., & Liu, A. Y. (2019). Business as usual? Economic responses to political tensions between China and Japan. International Relations of the Asia-Pacific, 19(2), 213-236.