In line with the demand of a new era, the China-Japan Strategic Dialogue concluded on Saturday with the two sides reaching a consensus on strengthening bilateral relations. Held after a gap of seven years, the dialogue was marked by candid exchanges on bilateral ties, and regional and international issues.
Started in May 2005, the China-Japan Strategic Dialogue is aimed at helping the two sides better understand each other's policies to expand cooperation and sound out each other on conflicting interests. The dialogue therefore lays more emphasis on genuine discussions than on specific agreements, although the possibility of such deals being reached cannot be ruled out.
No wonder the dialogue was more symbolic than substantive. Despite that, the two sides decided to propel bilateral ties forward and create the needed atmosphere for President Xi Jinping's proposed visit to Japan next spring. This is of great significance and reflects the changing international landscape and the two sides' developing relationship. More important, building a bilateral relationship in line with the demands of the new era and the two sides' commitment to developing bilateral ties at the dialogue are expected to be the theme of Xi's proposed visit.
A number of structural contradictions such as historical and territorial issues and inherent military distrust have troubled the two neighbors for decades, and they are expected to do so in the foreseeable future. Yet it is unwise for the two sides to be obsessed with these differences and lose sight of the opportunities of fruitful cooperation and mutual progress.
The 21st century is fundamentally different from the 20th century when people had to endure the two world wars and many a local war which claimed millions of lives and destroyed many economies. Peace and development are the trend of the 21st century, and China and Japan have to heed the call of the times and find new channels to meet the demand of the Chinese and Japanese peoples for development and common prosperity. To make that possible, new paths to improve Sino-Japanese ties need to be explored.
First, the structural problems and contradictions that cannot be resolved in the short term should be shelved to prevent them from impeding the development of bilateral ties.
The two neighbors have no choice but to devise a more harmonious way of coexisting peacefully despite their differences. Since it is a waste of time and resources to resort to confrontation, the two sides should prevent problems from holding bilateral ties to ransom and obstruct the development of bilateral ties.
Second, Sino-Japanese cooperation should be deepened to enlarge the highest common factor of collaboration. And intensifying trade and economic cooperation through more open bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements is the most effective way they can stimulate the regional economy as well as boost regional economies' development.
Therefore, China and Japan must make greater efforts to finalize the China-Japan-Republic of Korea free trade agreement which would deepen the integration of the three countries' markets. Also, China and Japan should try to work out a bilateral free trade agreement if the trilateral accord cannot be finalized in the short term owing to the trade conflict between Tokyo and Seoul.
It is hoped the two countries would seize the good momentum provided by the latest Sino-Japanese dialogue to substantially improve bilateral relations. They should also focus on tangible trade and economic cooperation, instead of general political and security strategies, to strengthen a mutually beneficial relationship, as that is the right way to continuously improve bilateral ties.
The author is a professor at and deputy director of the Center of Japanese Research, China Foreign Affairs University. The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.