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


Japan and China were enemies caught up in wars long ago, during Japan`s imperialist past. China was a victim of wartime aggression at the hands of Japanese invasion forces. These wounds, while old, are still fresh in the memory of China and remain a thorn in bilateral relations.

The political comeback of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2012, followed by increased tensions in the territorial dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, further increased antagonism between the two nations. While reconciliation is still on the table, there are many indications that things are actually going in the opposite direction. It is in Japan`s own interest to push for reconciliation with China in order to create stability and expand its own power, but fear and mistrust hinder reconciliation. China creates a threat perception based on war atrocities at the hands of Japan, while Japan in return perceives China as a present threat in a broader sense. This mutual threat perception has prompted the two nations to demonize each other, and foster mutual hatred among their populations.

We conclude that the bilateral relationship between Japan and China is one of “love and hate,” but tilting much more toward hate. Historical issues are an obstacle in their bilateral relationship, yet recalling history is inevitable for reconciliation. Examining the internal and external factors through the perspective of classical realism, they hinder reconciliation between Japan and China. Old wounds, with the addition of current tensions, are clearly a source of future conflict.

Lanny Surya Alfiani is a research assistant at the School of International Relations at President University in West Java Province.

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