In 1978 after long and arduous negotiations, the China-Japan Peace and Friendship Treaty was ratified, setting a new tone of peaceful coexistence and mutually beneficial exchange of cultural ideas, economic goods, and technological advances between the two rivals, and simultaneously contributing to the security of the Asia-Pacific corridor.

After forty years of antagonism, China and Japan signed the China-Japan Peace and Friendship Treaty in Beijing on 12 August 1978. This treaty represented the turning point of Sino-Japanese relations, and its policies became the cornerstone of Chinese foreign policy.

Japan acknowledged the government in Beijing as China’s legitimate government in 1972 with the signing of the Sino-Japanese Joint Communiqué. Once diplomatic relations were therefore renewed, the path was opened for a treaty reflecting greater rapprochement, but it was not smooth going. Although negotiations began in November 1974, the treaty was not signed until four years later, in 1978.

The China-Japan Peace and Friendship Treaty actually addresses, to the greatest extent, political and economic relations, reflecting the principle of the Sino-Japanese Joint Communiqué and the essential principles of Chinese foreign policy. Article I of the peace treaty contains China’s Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence:

? mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity,

? mutual nonaggression,

? noninterference in each other’s internal affairs,

? equality and mutual benefit, and

? peaceful coexistence.

However, it does not address the two nations’ territorial dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

The China-Japan Peace and Friendship Treaty served to set the tone for friendly relations between China and Japan, to further cultural, economic, and technological exchange between the two nations, and to contribute the to overall security of the Asia-Pacific region. But many issues remain to be resolved in Sino-Japanese relations: territorial disputes (including the East China Sea dispute), visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, and differences in the recognition of history within junior high school history textbooks. The year 2008 represents the thirtieth anniversary of the China-Japan Peace and Friendship Treaty, and although issues between China and Japan flare up regularly, work continues on both sides to strengthen the Treaty and settle their cultural differences and differences in perspective.

Deng Xiaoping on the China-Japan Peace and Friendship Treaty

When Vice-Premier Deng Xiaoping visited Japan in October 1978 to attend the ratification ceremony of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship, he discussed the specific steps for implementing the Li-Komoto agreement in his meetings with Prime Minister Fukuda Takeo and other Japanese government and business leaders. At his Tokyo press conference, Deng declared:

We have signed a long-term trade agreement between the two countries. But just one such agreement is not enough. The total business turnover involved in this agreement is 20 billion U.S. dollars. It will be doubled or trebled. The road will be even broader when our country is developed. We have much to learn from Japan. There are many fields in which we can make use of Japanese scientific and technological achievements and even funds… It is only natural that with the conclusion and implementation of the China-Japan Peace and Friendship Treaty, cooperation between the two peoples will be strengthened. Cooperation between the two countries in political, economic, cultural and scientific fields will all be increased.

Source: Chai-Jin Lee.. (1984). China and Japan: New economic diplomacy. Stanford, CA: Hoover Press.

Further Reading

Suganuma, U. (2000). Sovereign right and territorial space in SinoJapanese relations. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Suganuma, U. (2007). The Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands: A hotbed for a hot war? In J. C. Hsiung (Ed.), China and Japan at odds: Deciphering the perpetual conflict for posterity. New York: Palgrave-Macmillan.

Suganuma, U. (2007). Rizhong Guanxi yu Lingtu Zhuquan [History of Sino-Japanese Relations: Sovereignty and Territory]. Tokyo: Nihon Kyohosha.

Whiting, A. S. (1989). China eyes Japan. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Source: Suganuma, Unryu (2009). China-Japan Peace and Friendship Treaty. In Linsun Cheng, et al. (Eds.), Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, pp. 346–347. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing.

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