At a time when bilateral relations between China and Japan remain fraught, personal relationships established by Chinese alumni of a Japanese government-backed exchange program have helped create ties that would not otherwise exist.

As the two nations celebrated the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties, former participants of the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme from China, who once worked as coordinators for international relations at municipalities in Japan, fondly recalled their "life-changing" experiences.

Although the program is not widely known in China, JET has a 30-year history in the country.