In September 2012, when the editorial works of three volumes of The History of Japan–China Relations 1972–2012 were nearing completion, anti-Japanese demonstrations triggered by the nationalization of the Senkaku Islands swept across China. Consequently, our publication project faced several challenges. In particular, we wanted to include the explanation of the complicated chain of events in our works since we had witnessed that domestic politics regarding the nationalization of the Senkaku Islands in Japan had stimulated Chinese public sentiments, which eventually affected the economic relationship between China and Japan. Then, what type of mechanism is responsible for maintaining Sino–Japanese relations, and how has this mechanism changed over time? The events that occurred in 2012 posed these fundamental questions to us while we were separately editing the three volumes on politics, economy, and culture and society.
Ten years later, we decided to publish a new book on Sino–Japanese relations to reflect half a century of history since the normalization of diplomatic relations. We attempted to focus on the 21st century because we recognized that the relationship between Japan and China prior to and after the start of the 21st century differed in nature. Before this publication project began, Professor Takahara, one of our editors, had initiated a KAKENHI project, focusing on four factors (politics, economics, emotions/cognition, international environment/security) constituting bilateral relations to compare the bilateral relations between China and other Asian countries. Four papers on case studies (Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, and Indonesia) were published in 2021 in the Journal of Contemporary East Asia Studies, vol. 10, no. 2; however, the case on Japan was missing.
The book publication project of Japan–China Relations 2001–2022 was managed as a project of the Sasakawa Japan–China Friendship Program in 2022. By interpreting Sino–Japanese relations as an interaction of the four factors mentioned above, we divided the 21st century into three periods (2001–2009, 2010–2019, and after 2020) to observe the synergy among them. Three editors, except Professor Takahara, were in charge of writing chapters on each time period in Part I. Then, we invited contributors, with a rich experience in analyzing Japan–China relations from a particular perspective, to write their own interpretation of the 20-year history of Japan–China relations in Part III. We added our roundtable sessions in Parts II and IV. Therefore, readers can choose the order of the chapters according to their interests.
Through numerous editorial works, I realized that the bilateral relationship between Japan and China is rather complex and multifaceted, and its evaluation will change depending on when and from which perspectives it is being considered. At the beginning of the 21st century, economic factors played a key role, but recently, the international environment and security have come to play a bigger role in Japan–China relations. In the field of economy, a reversal of power dynamics between Japan and China has taken place while the basic pattern of human mobility from China to Japan has not changed over time. I hope that many readers will read this book to “experience” the complicated relationship between the two nations at a time when oversimplified arguments dominate our cyberspace.
(Written by SONODA Shigeto, Professor, Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia / 2023)
the Sasakawa Peace Foundation 2nd Mar. 2023
GAS Book Talk 1 “Japan-China Relations 2001-2022” (GAS | Global Asian Studies 5th Jul. 2023)