Regarding the opinion piece “The most dangerous problem in Asia: Japan-China relations” in the Sept. 3 edition, Japan-China relations have indeed had its tumultuous phases since the second half of the 19th century.

But contrary to professor Kerry Brown’s sweeping assertion that both countries have not been able to exist harmoniously for the last millennium, it may be recalled that from the founding of China’s Ming Dynasty in 1368 until the late 19th century, Japan-China relations were stable.

This long period of peace was disturbed on only one major occasion: Japan’s invasion of Korea and attempted conquest of the Ming in 1592 instigated by the megalomaniac warlord Hideyoshi. After this, it was not until the 19th century when Western imperial powers (notably the British) began their carving up of China and the East Asia region that the stable and peaceful international order between the three countries of Japan, China and Korea began to unravel and eventually collapse.

Brown also asserts that with competing and incompatible visions for the region, the relationship between China and Japan poses the most worrying problems for the future. Really? If so, how does this square with the recent action of the Japanese government in relaxing, rather than strengthening, visa requirements, leading to a record number of Chinese tourists visiting Japan. Or that despite political tensions the number of Chinese students who come to Japan for study continue to rise. Or the fact that Japanese who visit China for short stays of up to 15 days still do not (unlike for Americans and the British) need visas?

Far from having “incompatible visions” of who gets to be on top, such actions seem to suggest instead the existence of a commonly held vision that seeks mutual prosperity and peace through economic, social and educational interdependence.


The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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