Reconciliation at the crossroads: Hindering factors Sino-Japanese relations
January-March 2018
By: Lanny Surya Alfiani and Anak Agung Banyu Perwita

How power relates to reconciliation

In classical realism, nations seek to increase and maintain power. It is the main and crucial interest of a nation-state and, in this regard, we argue that it is in the economic, political and indirect cultural interests of Japan to reconcile with China. The many dimensions and levels of reconciliation support stability, as there would be no held grudges, confrontations or public protests. This applies to the government-to-government and people-to-people levels. Peace can heal old wounds and grudges. After all, the longstanding goal of reconciliation itself is to create perpetual peace and prevent future conflicts.

Looking at Germany`s reconciliation with the victims of its aggression, reconciliation indeed supports power in the sense that it can create peace and stability, giving a nation the chance to gain more power. Therefore, reconciliation is a form of strong power; making reparations for conflicts also shapes a nation`s image. However, in the case of Japan, despite the imperative interest to reconcile with China, the process has been difficult. Historical issues and memories between Japan and its neighbors are still raw, particularly with China. In addition, as much as reconciliation and cooperation can be hoped for, realists see interactions between nations as still taking place inside an anarchical system.

Therefore, reconciliation between Japan and China is not an easy task, as trust is lacking. The absence of an authority or mediator beyond the nations hampers dispute settlement. The “self-help” principle in classical realism prompts nations to always try to defend themselves at any cost. Even though there might be cooperation, there is no guarantee that it will remain stable. The essence of reconciliation includes elements to overcome fear and mistrust, and to heal old wounds by letting go of painful memories from past conflicts. In the bilateral relationship between Japan and China, the deep-rooted memories of the past have only encouraged mutual mistrust and outrage.

Human nature

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