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Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping agreed to deepen “mutually beneficial strategic relations” between their countries in a meeting last Monday in Tokyo. Although Mr. Xi’s exceptional audience with the Emperor later that day caused controversy, Japan should use his visit to fully consider the kind of bilateral relations the two nations should build.

In his meeting with Mr. Xi, regarded as heir apparent to President Hu Jintao, Mr. Hatoyama urged China to offer a positive message on the joint development of gas fields in the East China Sea and on the transparency of China’s defense buildup. Shortly before visiting Japan, Mr. Xi had said in Beijing that China would abide by the bilateral agreement on gas-field development and strive to increase the transparency of its military.

As Japan’s biggest trade partner that offers opportunities for Japanese enterprises, China is economically important to Japan. It is also politically important to the Hatoyama administration as the latter pursues the idea of an East Asia Community. But if Japan and China wish to coexist under conditions of mutual prosperity, they have to establish a relationship in which they can freely express their opinions and complaints, and work to resolve bilateral problems in a practical manner.

At a democracy forum in Bali, Indonesia, earlier this month, Mr. Hatoyama expressed the hope that China will make progress as a “responsible big nation” with regard to democracy and human rights. It is significant that he clearly emphasized that China should uphold the principle of democracy.

China, a nation of one-party dictatorship, should realize that its democratization efforts will contribute to the stabilization and development of Asia and the rest of the world.

The Japanese government accepted China’s request for Mr. Xi’s exceptional audience with the Emperor, thinking it would contribute to better relations between Japan and China. It is hoped that China will show reciprocity in its overall dealings with Japan.

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