Chinese Officials Highlight Importance of ‘Mutually Beneficial’ Relations with Japan; Former Ambassador Shares Recent Diplomatic Breakthrough

Former Japanese Ambassador to China, Hideo Tarumi, shared in an exclusive interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun in Tokyo on Wednesday that the reaffirmation of a “mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests” agreed at the Japan-China summit meeting in November was prompted by a signal from a senior Chinese diplomat sent to the Japanese side earlier this year.

Tarumi disclosed that the Chinese diplomat in question was Wang Yi, a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Politburo and China’s foreign minister. This revelation comes at a time when the Japanese government had positioned China as “the greatest strategic challenge it has ever faced” at the end of 2022. It is believed that Wang’s intention was to encourage Japan to not overly emphasize the Chinese threat.

The concept of a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests was originally introduced by Tarumi and agreed upon by the leaders of Japan and China in 2006. Tarumi revealed that Wang had “sent a message to Japan” earlier in the year to reaffirm this concept, and it was subsequently brought up during a meeting with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo, where the need to rebuild strategic relations was approved.

During an event in October commemorating the 45th anniversary of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and China in Beijing, Tarumi emphasized the necessity for strategic thinking between the two countries in a speech. Wang, present at the venue, commended the speech and expressed the need to rebuild the mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests.

In early November, Takeo Akiba, secretary general of the National Security Secretariat, hastily visited China to meet with Wang and finalize arrangements for a Japan-China summit meeting in the United States. Tarumi reflected, “The Chinese side was busy preparing for the U.S.-China summit, and I think, initially, they had no intention of holding a Japan-China summit meeting. That was just in time.”

The mutually beneficial relationship concept aims to establish a relationship in which the two countries collaborate to expand their common interests in both politics and economics. The concept was formally put in writing in the 2008 Joint Statement between Japan and China. This revelation sheds new light on the behind-the-scenes efforts leading up to the reaffirmation of the mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests between Japan and China, and the pivotal role played by senior diplomats from both sides to bring about this development.

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