Thirty years ago, Japan was in a similar position as China is now, perceived as the biggest threat to the economic supremacy of the United States. Japan’s economy eventually faltered, and rapidly growing China surpassed it.
Japan took advantage of the opportunities China offered, and trade and investment flourished. But a longstanding maritime dispute over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea and other arguments dating to World War II raised tensions.
Those problems have not gone away, but their management has improved as both sides have found mutual interests. That process took off in earnest when Abe and Xi awkwardly met in Beijing in 2014, just ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit that China hosted.
The leaders will also be celebrating the 40th anniversary of a peace and friendship treaty — but how long the current detente can last is an open question.
Fundamentally, China sees itself as Asia’s leader with Japan in systemic decline, Eurasia Group said.
“Japan takes issue with this narrative, and this clash of basic views and interests will continue to make managing the bilateral relationship very challenging,” it said.