Hu Jintao’s Visit to Japan and a New Japan–China Joint Declaration


According to media reports, Hu Jintao, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China and President—the Paramount Leader—will visit Japan in April, and on that occasion the Chinese side will request the conclusion of a new Japan–China Joint Declaration. In my experience to date, the success or failure of the visit to Japan of the Paramount Leader of China, and the subsequent ups and downs in Japan–China relations, will be determined according to how the joint declaration is put together.

Japan and China have to date concluded three joint documents. These are: the 1972 “Joint Communiqué of the Government of Japan and the Government of the People’s Republic of China”at the time of the resumption of diplomatic relations; the “Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and the People’s Republic of China”, which the late former-Prime Minster Fukuda, the father of the current-Prime Minister Fukuda, concluded with the Chinese in 1978; and the “Japan–China Joint Declaration on Building a Partnership of Friendship and Cooperation for Peace and Development”, which President Jiang Zemin, visiting Japan, concluded with Prime Minister Obuchi in 1998.

The third, the joint declaration, was created at the time of the visit to Japan of the then Paramount Leader of China. As is widely known, Jiang Zemin was strongly dissatisfied with this joint declaration, and with that as the cause a signing ceremony was not held, and the leaders’ signatures were also not placed on any document by Jiang Zemin and Mr. Obuchi. Jiang Zemin’s visit to Japan failed, and it was again also the backdrop for the reverse and worsening of Japan–China relations lasting ten years.

This is a matter most likely due to the past experience of such failures. Many of the Japanese learned people with whom the author has come into contact, regardless of whether left- or right-wing, expressed a position of not agreeing with the conclusion of a new joint declaration. The Japanese government is confronted with a dilemma. While they don’t want to create a new joint declaration, they also can’t say no faced with the “ardor” of the Chinese. Regarding the situation now in February, the flow seems to be turning in the direction of creating one.

Why will the Chinese adhere to the conclusion of a joint declaration to this degree? Although there is probably also the wish for progress in Japan–China relations, etc., the part that is of a political character, as the Paramount Leader of China, is large as well. The Paramount Leader of China is not someone who serves in turns like the Prime Minister in Japan, but is the “Great Leader” who rules and represents the Chinese nation and people. Because of what the Great Leader does, naturally great outcomes follow. That is, for the Chinese side a visit to Japan of the Paramount Leader which is not accompanied by the conclusion of a joint declaration is beyond imagination from the outset.

Then what kind of joint declaration should be created?

The failure of Jiang Zemin’s visit to Japan ten years ago had as its cause the phrasing regarding the problem of interpretation of history within the joint declaration. The “Japan–Republic of Korea Joint Declaration” which Prime Minister Obuchi concluded with ROK President Kim Dae-jung visiting in October 1998 used the word “apology”, yet in the “Japan–China Joint Declaration” of one month later in November with Jiang Zemin, they obstinately refused the use of the word “apology” and only repeated the word “remorse,” which has been used to this day. Jiang Zemin was livid at this.

The difficulty of tackling the problem of the interpretation of history lies in the need for the right- and left-wing inside Japan to be satisfied, and not only the other countries of China and the ROK. Over the last ten years, however, amid the clashes among Japan, China and the ROK, various “results” have been created, and these, as “precedents”, can also be alternatives today.

Among the various precedents, the “Jakarta Speech of Prime Minister Koizumi” (22 April 2005) is probably the easiest one to use. Mr. Koizumi used the following words regarding the problem of the interpretation of history in his speech:

In the past, Japan, through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations. Japan squarely faces these facts of history in a spirit of humility. And with feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology always engraved in mind, Japan has resolutely maintained, consistently since the end of World War II, never turning into a military power but an economic power, its principle of resolving all matters by peaceful means, without recourse to use of force.

It would be good to use the above “Koizumi Jakarta Speech” for a new Japan–China Joint Declaration.

First, this statement is the most recent and thorough statement of apology among past prime ministers.

Second, this statement is the first statement of apology officially made by a Japanese prime minister at a large international summit, and is of the character of a public pledge to the world. This summit was the Asian-African Summit held in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Bandung Conference, and the heads of state and political leaders of 106 nations attended.

Further, regarding this “Koizumi Jakarta Speech”, not only China and the ROK and Japan’s Left had to give it the nod, but it was also difficult for various members of Japan’s Right to criticize it. For the members of Japan’s Right, Koizumi has been a veteran right-winger from the Seirankai group on, and on top of that is their leader who has firmly faced China.

The administrators in China and Japan tackling the preparations for the visit to Japan of Hu Jintao should use the opportunity from Mr. Koizumi well. In contrast to Mr. Koizumi being most disliked by China, he is most loved by Japan’s Right, yet ironically, if China and Japan use the “Koizumi Jakarta Speech” as a springboard, it would probably make it easier to gain a consensus.

[Translated by ERINA]