Interviewers: Seiichiro Takeuchi of the General Bureau of China and Sayaka Nambu of the International News Department
In an interview with the Yomiuri Shimbun on June 18, Chinese Ambassador to Japan Kong Xuanyou emphasized that he wants to build “relations for a new era,” in which Japan and China strengthen their collaboration and cooperation by expanding the common benefits, such as practical cooperation in the areas of technological innovation, energy saving, and measures to deal with aging societies with fewer children.
Yomiuri Shimbun: What does China expect from Japan’s chairmanship of the Group of 20 summit meeting?
Ambassador Kong: Disagreements need to be properly addressed amid a situation where some countries are escalating trade frictions. I hope Japan, as the chair, will lead the way to safeguarding the multilateral trade system with the World Trade Organization at its core and building an open global economy.
Yomiuri: How has Premier Xi Jinping’s visit to Japan as a “state guest” been coordinated?
Ambassador Kong: Japan and China are closely communicating about an important diplomatic schedule of the next stage. The two countries have agreed to make joint efforts in order to create an atmosphere advantageous to realizing reciprocal visits by the two countries’ leaders.
We still have many problems to deal with, such as the maritime issue which involves sovereignty and (the Japanese government’s de facto elimination of products made by) major Chinese communications equipment maker Huawei Technologies (from its procurement). We are informally expressing our concerns to the Japanese government. We hope Japan will not go against the current trend of improvement in bilateral ties.
We are also being tested on how we can establish rational perceptions of each other. We will be tested on how we can transform the extremely positive common awareness between the governments into a broad consensus of society.
Yomiuri: What is your take on the trade frictions between the U.S. and China?
Ambassador Kong: Since President Donald Trump launched his administration, the U.S. has been targeting China and escalating trade frictions. It is obvious that such an approach is not only harmful to China but also disadvantageous to Japan, the region, and the world.
A trade agreement should be equal and rational. We can never concede on critical principles that affect China’s core interests. The resolution of the trade frictions is premised on the U.S.’s abolition of all tariff measures (punitive duties).
Yomiuri: You have mentioned the “Japan-China relations for a new era.” What will the relationship be like?
Ambassador Kong: China is celebrating the 70th anniversary of its founding this year and Japan also ushered in its new Reiwa era. We are standing at a new starting line in history.
Japan and China should deepen the integration of benefits by continually promoting practical and mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields, such as technological innovation, measures against a declining birthrate and aging population, energy conservation, environmental protection, pensions, health care, fiscal and monetary policy, disaster prevention, and agriculture. (Japan) has been accumulating experience and technology as an advanced nation. We are facing problems that Japan has experienced. We can learn from each other in individual areas, such as the sharing economy.
Japan is a powerful neighbor of China and has significant influence. We would like to continue placing priority on our relations with Japan. We are well aware that Japan is vital to solving all the issues of this region.
Yomiuri: China has been sending public vessels to the waters off the Senkaku Islands for two months.
Ambassador Kong: From our point of view, the activities of the Chinese public vessels are justifiable and legitimate. At the same time, we are maintaining appropriate self-restraint. We (Japan and China) have agreed that we should properly manage the situation by strengthening dialogue and cooperation.
Yomiuri: How will China support dialogue between Japan and North Korea?
Ambassador Kong: Recently, peace negotiations on the Korean Peninsula are temporarily facing resistance and running into difficulties. China announced on June 17 that President Xi Jinping will officially visit North Korea on June 20 and 21. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he is ready to talk with North Korea without preconditions. We would like to provide as much cooperation and support as possible.
There is a plan for President Xi and Abe to meet in Osaka (where the G20 summit will be held). I am sure the two leaders will talk about President Xi’s visit to North Korea. They will be able to exchange opinions on various aspects.