40 Years in Paradox: Post-normalisation Sino-Japanese Relations

Post-normalisation Sino-Japanese relations have been fraught with contradictions. In particular, three paradoxes stand out over the past 40 years. First, despite many shared geopolitical and economic interests, China and Japan have never developed genuine strategic cooperation, and since the 2000s have even evinced a trend towards thinly-veiled or open rivalry. Second, time, rather than healing the wounds of past wars, has since the mid-1980s yielded only a more vivid and bitter recollection of history that has bedevilled both official and popular relations. Third, diplomatic and commercial ties as well as “thick” societal contacts developed since normalisation have failed to bridge a significant gap in values. This article reviews Sino-Japanese relations since 1972, with a special focus on internal politics on both sides. It considers the influence of their conflicting historical narratives and political systems, and of the broader international geopolitical context, on the evolution of their delicate, paradoxical bilateral relationship. It concludes that a healthier bilateral relationship may depend on the development in both countries of a genuine, robust civil society that is relatively free from political interference.Suggested CitationYinan He. "40 Years in Paradox: Post-normalisation Sino-Japanese Relations" China Perspectives 4 (2013): 7-16