"My Personal Conviction regarding Japan-China Relations"
Your Excellency Mr. Hu Jintao, President of the People's Republic of China, The Honorable Mr. Song Jian, President of the China-Japan Friendship Association, Ladies and gentlemen,
Nimen hao! Wo shi Masheng Tailang. (Good afternoon. I am Taro Aso.)
A mere thirty years have passed; yet, as many as thirty years have passed.
These thirty years coincide with the path that I have walked down as a politician. As President Hu Jintao mentioned earlier, on October 23, 1978, Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda and Vice-Premier Deng Xiaoping, visiting Japan, exchanged instruments of ratification of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and the People's Republic of China.
I was first elected a member of the Japanese Diet the following year. That year, 1979, I visited China as a representative of the JCI-the Junior Chamber International Japan, or Japanese "Jaycees." I remember meeting the Honorable Mr. Hu Qili on that occasion as if it were only yesterday. He was at the time serving as the President of the All-China Youth Federation.
Thirty years have passed since that occasion, with Japan and China accumulating exchanges and cooperation over a wide range of areas. When I look back on days gone by, I of course become once again keenly aware that our favorable bilateral relations of the present day can be attributed to the invaluable efforts of a great number of people, including you all who have joined us here on this occasion.
It is difficult to name other countries as important to Japan as China is.
Thirty years ago there were approximately 40,000 people traveling between Japan and China annually, whereas last year that number surpassed five million. Some 14,000 people travel between our two countries each day. On the economic front, the total trade value between Japan and China came to roughly 240 billion US dollars last year, which is 50 times greater than the figure of 30 years ago.
The essence of Japan-China bilateral relations is that our two countries are mutually indispensable to each other.
President Hu Jintao has also stated this, saying that Japan and China acting in harmony benefits both countries, while rivalry between us undermines both countries' interests.
If we maintain this fundamental spirit, we will definitely be able to overcome any difficulties that might arise. My consistent calls for the importance of Japan and China benefiting together also have their roots in this thought.
We should not constrain ourselves in the name of friendship between Japan and China. Rather, sound competition and active cooperation will constitute a true "mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests." Confucius said, "At thirty, I stood firm." In the same way, Japan and China must now stand atop the international stage and work to spread to the rest of the world this spirit of benefiting together.
At the same time, when we look at public opinion surveys regarding Japan-China relations, I cannot help feeling a touch of concern. In both Japan and China, the percentage of people holding at least some degree of positive feelings towards the other country does not even reach 30%.
Even if we hold different views, at a minimum, we should always have a correct understanding of what the other is thinking. The important thing is to promote dialogue and exchanges at every possible level and thereby deepen our mutual understanding on a broad basis in society.
There can be no question of the essential role of youth exchanges in particular. "I had heard that Japan is becoming militaristic, but the entire time I was there I saw not a single person wearing military attire." "I had heard that in China there is strong anti-Japan sentiment, but in fact everyone I met was very kind." Every time I hear such frank impressions from high school students who have participated in these exchanges, it never fails to make me recognize the truly enormous potential that still exists in the area of mutual understanding between Japan and China.
I believe all young people possess sensibility that is both flexible and astute, as well as unlimited potential. With regard to Japan-China relations, I consider sincerely looking back on the past and then building the future together, as our present generation's mission to be carried out for the next generation.
The world is about to enter an era in which the future will be extremely difficult to foresee. The crises arising in the US and European financial systems are on the verge of spilling over to the real economy of each country, transgressing national borders.
In order to overcome the current situation and restore stability and prosperity to the global economy, it is vital for the international community to act in a coordinated manner. Earlier today President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao and I confirmed that both Japan and China would contribute to such international efforts.
There are a host of issues, from the environment and energy conservation to the reform of the United Nations, that Japan and China should engage in cooperatively, proactively sending a message from Asia to the world.
What is essential in the midst of this situation is that heads of state and government cultivate relationships in which they communicate as soon as possible by telephone or should some contingency arise. In developing Japan-China relations, what lies ahead are the stability and the prosperity of Asia and, indeed, the world. In that regard, we are looking towards the same future. I am convinced that we can have even more confidence in the latent power and vitality of the Japan-China bilateral relationship, as well as in the potential for cooperation between our two countries.
Japan and China will be neighbors into perpetuity-neighbors that cannot simply relocate. And, all of you are also participants in the magnificent joint project between Japan and China, namely, the creation of a "mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests."
Together Japan and China will make efforts, and together we will grow, leading to an Asia that is both open and increasingly vibrant. I as the Prime Minister of Japan am determined to foster such a bilateral relationship with the greatest possible enthusiasm and wisdom, together with President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.
I would be honored if you could regard these remarks as reflecting my personal conviction regarding Japan-China relations on the occasion of this milestone that we are commemorating.
In closing, I would like to offer my congratulations as I celebrate with you the thirtieth anniversary of the conclusion of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship Between Japan and the People's Republic of China and to express my sincere appreciation to everyone who has made efforts towards the development of Japan-China relations over the years.
Thank you for your kind attention.