Gulf News

A thawing between China and Japan

The two powerhouse­s of the Far East have a mutual need — increased trade

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One of the most pivotal relationsh­ips of this century will be that between Beijing and Tokyo. This is why the visit by Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to Tokyo, the first by a Chinese premier for seven years, is more than just a diplomatic goodwill trip. The trouble for Chinese leaders in dealing with Japan, the old joke goes, is that the normal shelf life of a Japanese leader is 18 months, while the normal shelf life of a Chinese leader is 18 years. Add to this the ancient bitterness between the two countries as well as growing Japanese nationalis­m and commercial rivalries and you have a relationsh­ip under immense strain.

These are the burdens that the two leaders must overcome which is why the meeting is taking place in April before Japanese Prime Minister Shenzo Abe is pressured to visit the controvers­ial war shrine of Yasakuni in August.

If Abe decides to visit the shrine it will be impossible for a Chinese leader to meet him. This meeting is crucial if a working relationsh­ip is to be developed where each leader gives an assurance not to do anything that antagonise­s the other. If this meeting fails, we will be in for another hot August.

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