BEIJING – It's been eight years since China surpassed Japan as the world's second largest economy. Nonetheless, the Japanese government continued to provide development assistance to China, which was normally reserved for poorer countries. Until now.
In Beijing, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe confirmed China's economic dominance for the first official visit by a Japanese leader since 2011, announcing an end to aid. Instead, he committed to deeper economic and political cooperation, which was widely seen as a hedge against President Trump's volatile US policy.
The announcement ̵
"We are neighbors, we are partners who cooperate with each other instead of threatening each other." Abe said.
The Japanese leader, who had long sought an official visit to the Chinese capital, was accompanied by foreign and Japanese politicians, trade minister and more than 1,000 businessmen, who, he said, had come to discuss common infrastructure and other projects to discuss in countries of the region.
This signaled a greater focus on trade and investment and a departure from the 40-year Chinese Development Program. Many saw the relief program, which began in 1978 as a new relationship with their relationships, as a form of atonement for Japan's brutal invasion of China in 1937, which set the scene for World War II.
completed a historic mission "to help China financially, Abe said at a reception after his arrival on Thursday night. "Now Japan and China are playing an indispensable role in economic growth not only in Asia, but also around the world," he said. Li said on Friday that relations are "back to normal".
"I hope for even more progress," he said, naming President Jin Jinping's signature program "One Belt, One Road" for infrastructure investment and other projects in Eurasia. Japan has explicitly refused to acknowledge the initiative, which is growing skeptical in some countries.
But Abe signaled the willingness to support new joint projects as long as China leads them to international standards of transparency, environmental protection and economics An important indication of closer economic cooperation: the central banks of both countries also agreed to 200 billion yuan or 3.2 trillion yen – equivalent to $ 29 billion – for exchanging emergencies in times of financial crisis. Other agreements covered the protection of intellectual property and the environment.
Few expect the two countries to overcome their divisions easily or quickly. During his meetings on Friday, Mr. Abe addressed the issues of human rights and security, especially with regard to the islands in the East China Sea, which both countries claim, a spokesman, Takeshi Osuga, told reporters later.
"Without stability in the East China Sea, there can be no real improvement in the relationship," he said, paraphrasing Mr. Abe.
Mr. Abe was in China four times, meeting with Xi on the sidelines of various international meetings, but this was the first invitation to an official bilateral meeting. Mr Osuga turned down a question about the role Trump's policy played in bringing the two countries into closer cooperation.
In the nearly 40 years since Japan started to channel overseas aid to China, it has provided 3.65 trillion yen to support the infrastructure. humanitarian projects and environmental protection.
Analysts from both countries said the decision to end help is meaningful in today's context.
"So far, the relationship between Japan and China has been that Japan's modernized, developed country was China in its modernization," said Akio Takahara, a professor at Tokyo University who specializes in Chinese politics.
China is traditionally reluctant to acknowledge the extent of Japanese aid, except to suggest that Japan offers it out of responsibility
Yu Tiejun, vice president of the Institute for International and Strategic Studies at Peking University and a member of the University of Beijing visiting scholars at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said many Chinese did not know much about the aid – "China has not said much about Japanese aid to its people," he said – but it was thought to have had a positive impact over the years [Howeverheadded"Chinashouldhavegraduatedalongtime"
Bonnie S. Glaser, Senior Advisor for Asia and China – International Studies expert in Washington said the aid had "made a tremendous contribution" to China's economic transformation over the past four decades.
"Japan has played a major role in this, but Japan has received very little recognition for it," she said
Japan never officially stated that the aid, which was largely in the form of loans, set ten years ago were any kind of war reparations. But analysts in Japan say that this has played a role, at least at the beginning of the program, and that many people saw it that way.
"That was what the Japanese politicians who have started Overseas Development Aid had in mind, Mr. Takahara said, adding that it is difficult for official apologies to openly declare that, given the political sensitivities in Japan Help is nothing but economic help for a developing neighbor.
Some historians dispute the idea that aid is a form of atonement
"One could imagine other reasons why Japan would have an incentive to be particularly generous with Helping them who have absolutely nothing to do with a historical guilt feeling, "said Jennifer Lind, an associate professor at Dartmouth College and a specialist in Japanese wartime memory
Japan" provided a lot of money to China to help with the environment, "said Ms. Lind." But Japan is worried about the weather that the Pollution caused by China to Japan. So they had a great incentive to help China figure out how to clean its air. "
In 2007, Japan ended its yen lending program, which accounted for about three-quarters of its aid to China, leaving only small grants to local communities for individual projects.
Now, Japan suggests that The advantage for Japan is that it can steer itself away from direct competition with China in such projects and into a cooperation program that allows Japan to dictate some of the environmental and labor standards.
I think it's a smart framework from Japan should try to use this as an opportunity to take another path with China, "said Kristi Govella, Assistant Professor of Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii in Manoa." Of course they can Do not just say they stop helping because that would be a negative thing on the 40th anniversary of Sino-Japanese friendship. "