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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Hu Jintao's visit to Japan: was it a success or failure?

China’s President Hu Jintao just finished his five day Japan visit to bolster the economic and political relationship between the two countries. How successful it was? Still now, the people of two countries are haunted by their war time history. In his statement, China’s President Hu Jintao said that people of the two countries suffered a lot because of the history. He also said that it is important to remember the past but that does not mean that people should hold grudges. The people should use history to look forward and think of future. As a sign of friendship, President Hu Jintao proposed to lease two Pandas. He also played ping pong with Ai Fukuhara, famous Japanese table tennis player, who is also quite popular in China. On his final day, President Hu Jintao visited Nara, Japan’s ancient capital, at the west of Tokyo. There he paid his respects at two Buddhist temples which was followed by a visit at the head quarter of Matsushita Electric Industrial Company (TYO:6752).

China has supplanted the USA as Japan’s largest trading partner. Currently, 20,000 Japanese companies are operating in China. Though Japan is still world’s second largest economy but China is observing a rapid economic growth and it has surpassed Japan in purchasing power. China will become the next major Asian economic power and Hu Jintao’s Japan visit also shows an acceptance of that trend.

The two countries are not without their own problems. For example, Japan’s low birth rate and increasing number of aging population is a big problem for the country’s economy. Because of this problem, many Japanese politicians think that Japan must cooperate with its ‘booming neighbor.’ In his speech at Waseda University, President Hu Jintao said that China is still the world’s largest developing country. Its population is large but basis is weak and development is unbalanced. In addition, heavy industrialization has led to serious environmental degradation all over China. In this regard, Japan’s technical know-how can be a major boost for the country.

To many people, the visit was not a successful one. It was a ‘carefully orchestrated visit’ or ‘ping pong’ diplomacy.

The leaders of the two countries did not actually discuss any of the major problems remaining between the two countries. In February, 175 Japanese people became sick eating Chinese made dumpling which led to boycott of China made food products. There is also disagreement between two countries regarding gas and oil exploration in the Eastern China sea bed. Issues like these were not highlighted in this visit. Hu Jintao and Yasuo Fukuda promised to hold summit once a year but the two leaders could not even agree over starting chartered flights between Tokyo and Beijing. As per the issue of East China, the two countries were close to finding agreement but did not reach any agreement.

From a layman’s point of view, I think that the bad relationship between these two countries will not change overnight. It will take lot more but this visit is a beginning of that effort. Now, the rest depends on the eagerness of the politicians of two countries.

Related articles:

Reuters

Washington Post

The Christian Science Monitor

Xinhua

Radio Australia

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